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Joan Roberts

Joan Roberts, a true American talent, wore many hats in Hollywood. From lighting up TV screens with her guest appearances in classics like "Designing Women" and "Three's Company" to sharing her storytelling skills through writing, she's left her mark. Not just an actress, she's penned scripts and columns, even co-authoring her husband's autobiography.


  • Josephine Rose Seagrist was born on July 15, 1917, in Manhattan, New York. 
  • Joan Roberts discovered her love for the stage at a young age. Even as a child, she displayed a natural affinity for performing, making her debut on stage at the tender age of 6.
  • Roberts honed her acting skills and gained valuable experience in dramatic productions while attending St. Patrick's Cathedral High School
  • She further sharpened her singing abilities under the tutelage of Estelle Liebling, a renowned voice teacher who had also mentored the legendary Beverly Sills.


Roberts's talent and hard work opened doors for her in radio, theatre, film, and TV, among other places. She found early success as a regular on The Texaco Summer Theatre on CBS from July to December 1943. Originally intended as a summer replacement for The Fred Allen Show, the program was extended due to Roberts' remarkable performances.

Her breakthrough came when she was cast in the original Broadway production of Oklahoma! in 1943. Although Roberts initially auditioned for the role of Ado Annie, the show's librettist, Oscar Hammerstein, recognized her exceptional talent and selected her to portray the lead character, Laurey. This decision proved to be a turning point in her career. Roberts' portrayal of Laurey established her as a Broadway luminary and earned her widespread acclaim.

Throughout her illustrious career, Joan Roberts graced the Broadway stage in various productions. After Oklahoma!, she starred in Marinka in 1945 and Are You with It? from 1945 to 1946. Her next significant role came in High Button Shoes, where she played the character of Sara Longstreet from 1947 to 1949. Roberts' talent and versatility were evident as she transitioned between different roles and genres effortlessly.

In addition to her acting career, Roberts dedicated herself to teaching voice lessons and conducting workshops on singing and voice projection. Her commitment to sharing her knowledge and nurturing aspiring performers demonstrated her passion for the craft and her desire to inspire future generations.

Joan Roberts' impact on the world of theatre extended beyond her performances. In 2011, she and her fellow Oklahoma attended a production of the musical at the University of North Carolina's School of the Arts. The production aimed to faithfully replicate the original Broadway staging, paying homage to the show that solidified Roberts' place in theatrical history.

Even during her retirement on Long Island, New York, Joan Roberts couldn't resist the allure of the stage. In 2001, she made a remarkable return, captivating audiences once again in the Broadway revival of Stephen Sondheim's Follies, where she portrayed Heidi Schiller. 

Beyond the stage, Joan Roberts appeared on television, including a production of Jack and the Beanstalk in 1966 and an Emergency episode in 1977. These small screen moments they were allowed her to reach a wider audience and showcase her versatility as an actress.

Personal life


In her personal life, Roberts was married to Dr. John J. Donlon. They had a son named John J. Don lon, Jr. Sadly, her husband passed away in 1965. 

Joan Roberts persevered, channeling her strength and passion into her career, leaving an enduring legacy for generations to come.

Death and Legacy

On August 13, 2012, the lights on Broadway dimmed a little as we bid farewell to Joan Roberts. She passed away in Stamford, CT, at the age of 95, leaving behind a legacy that will echo through the ages. Joan's voice may have been silenced, but her spirit will continue to inspire generations of performers to come. Rest easy, Joan—you'll forever hold a special place in our hearts. 

  • Her son confirmed the news of her death, marking the end of an era in the world of theatre. 
  • Her passing came just a month after the death of her fellow Oklahoma! cast member, Celeste Holm, who played Ado Annie in the same production. 
  • Their deaths served as poignant reminders of the fleeting nature of life and the profound impact they had on the theatrical landscape.

Joan Roberts


Joan Roberts' contributions to the arts will forever be cherished. Her groundbreaking portrayal of Laurey in Oklahoma! set the stage for future generations of performers, demonstrating the power of talent, dedication, and the ability to bring characters to life. Her performances on Broadway, in films like The Model and the Marriage Broker (1951) and Lovely to Look at (1952), and on television exemplified her versatility as an actress.

Today, Joan Roberts' name remains synonymous with the magic of Broadway. Her performances continue to inspire and captivate audiences, serving as a testament to her enduring legacy. 

As we remember the remarkable career of Joan Roberts, let us celebrate her contributions to the world of theater and her unwavering commitment to her craft. Her spirit lives on through the timeless performances she graced us with, reminding us of the transformative power of the stage and the lasting impact of a true artist. In the world of performing arts, Joan Roberts will always be remembered as a leader, an icon, and a source of inspiration.

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