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Barbara Meek is best known to television viewers for playing the character of Ellen Canby for three seasons on Archie Bunker's Place. Since 1968, Meek has been an active member of the Trinity Repertory Company in Providence, Rhode Island, and has appeared in more than 100 Trinity Rep stage productions.
She was born in Detroit, Michigan, to Juanita (née Coleman) and Harold Meek, the granddaughter of the Reverend Horatius "H.H." Coleman, pastor of the Greater Macedonia Baptist Church. She is a graduate of Northwestern High School, and as an undergraduate was asked to join Wayne State University's graduate theater program. Meek was a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority while attending college. In 1965, Meek toured with the United Services Organization, performing for wounded soldiers on Okinawa and other U.S. Army bases. In 1968, she joined the Trinity Repertory Company with her husband, Martin Molson (1928–1980), where they debuted together in Brother to Dragons.
Career at Trinity
Highlights of Meek's stage career at Trinity include leading roles in the August Wilson plays Fences and Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, James Purdy's Eustace Chisholm and the Works, Athol Fugard's Boesman and Lena, Peer Gynt, The Threepenny Opera, Tartuffe, The Visit, Fires in the Mirror, Adrian Hall and Robert Cumming's adaptation of A Christmas Carol (including the role of "Ebenezer Scrooge"), Terrence McNally's Master Class, Henry IV, Tennessee Williams' Suddenly Last Summer and, more recently, Lorraine Hansberry's Raisin in the Sun and Oscar Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest. Meek also appeared in the Broadway production of Wilson in the Promised Land.
In 2008, Meek appeared in Blithe Spirit at Trinity Rep, and Curt Columbus' adaptation of Antigone. She was in Camelot, The Crucible and Steel Magnolias during the 2010-2011 season, and Sparrow Grass in the 2011-2012 season.
Other stage performances
Meek played the role of Sadie in Having Our Say at Trinity Rep, a role she reprised for the play's European premiere at Vienna's English Theatre. In 1996, Meek appeared in the world premiere of A Lesson Before Dying by Romulus Linney at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. Meek has also performed at Hilberry Repertory Theatre, the Dallas Theater Center, the Cleveland Play House, The Repertory Theater of St. Louis, the Hampton Playhouse, The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center and the Brandeis University Theatre.
Meek's other television roles include Adrian Hall's adaptations of Robert Penn Warren's Brother to Dragons, Edith Wharton's The House of Mirth, and Harriet Beecher Stowe's Life Among the Lowly, all broadcast on PBS; Melba, starring Melba Moore, on ABC; and Big Brother Jake, starring Jake Steinfeld, on The Family Channel. Meek was also featured in the Emmy Award-winning television movie See How She Runs with Joanne Woodward, and the television movie Jimmy B. and Andre, starring Susan Clark and Alex Karras.
Ms. Meek has received an Honorary Doctor of Arts Degree from the University of Rhode Island, and the 2004 Pell Award for Excellence in the Arts. She also been received the Foundation for Repertory Theatre Award, the Wayne State University Arts Achievement Award in Theatre, and the Norton Prize for Sustained Excellence.
In 2006, she was awarded the Edward Bannister and Christiana Bannister History Makers Award from the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society.
She has one child. Meek's hobbies include crossword puzzles and witty repartee. She is an aficionado of jazz, opera, and Akvavit.