Peggy Feury

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Peggy Feury
Peggy Feury, actress.jpg
Peggy Feury, acting a part
Margaret Feury

(1924-06-30)June 30, 1924
DiedNovember 20, 1985(1985-11-20) (aged 61)
Other namesPeg Feury, Margaret Traylor
Occupation(s)Actress, teacher
Years active1948–1985
(m. 1952; div. 1961)

(m. 1961)
Children2, including Susan Traylor

Peggy Feury (born Margaret Feury; June 30, 1924 – November 20, 1985)[1] was an American actress on Broadway, in films, and on television. She became a highly regarded acting teacher in New York and then in Los Angeles. Throughout her career, she taught many notable students.


Feury was born in Jersey City, New Jersey. Her father was Richard Feury; her mother, born in Ireland, was also Margaret Feury; and her younger sister was Elinor Feury.[2] She graduated from Barnard College, then attended the Yale School of Drama, later studying with Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio, and with Sanford Meisner at the Neighborhood Playhouse.[3][4]

While at Yale, Feury met and then married her first husband, playwright Louis S. Peterson.[5][a] Less than a decade later, following their divorce and Feury's remarriage, Peterson's semi-autobiographical play Entertain a Ghost was produced, chronicling a deteriorating marriage between a fictional playwright and actress with obvious parallels to Peterson and Feury.[6] The play received from the Village Voice a positive and detailed review that expressed the feeling that the production should have run longer. It described it as "a daring and deeply exploratory new play, the best damned failure I've seen in years".[7][8]


As Margaret Feury she appeared on Broadway in Me and Molly;[9][10] Sunday Breakfast (staged by noted acting teacher Stella Adler);[11][12] Enter Laughing; Peer Gynt, starring John Garfield, Mildred Dunnock, and Karl Malden, directed by Lee Strasberg;[13] The Grass Harp, directed by Actors Studio co-founder Robert Lewis; The Lady of the Camellias, directed by Franco Zeffirelli,[14] Chekov's Three Sisters, directed by Strasberg (with Feury eventually replacing Geraldine Page as Olga),[15] and The Turn of the Screw.[16][17][18] Off-Broadway she starred in Frank Wedekind's Earth Spirit at the Provincetown Playhouse.[19]

Between 1956 and 1969, the Actors Studio undertook a project to record and archive work that was being done there, including performances of scenes from dramatic literature. These recordings have been archived as part of the University of Wisconsin Digital Collections.[20] Feury participated in this project from its inception until her relocation to Los Angeles in December 1968.[21]

Feury appeared in a number of television dramas beginning in the Golden Age of Television,[22] including, in 1961, a significant role she played in “Murder is a Face I Know”, an episode from The Naked City, which can be found on the internet.[23][24]

In November 1961, an early draft of the first scene of Edward Albee’s play, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? was presented on the public television program Playwright at Work. The characters George and Martha – which would later be originated on stage by Arthur Hill and Uta Hagen, and on screen by Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor – were portrayed by Shepperd Strudwick and Feury.[25][26]

On October 2, 1977, Feury appeared in Iowa, the second season premiere of Visions, PBS's Peabody Award-winning dramatic anthology series; it was directed by Lloyd Richards, and was playwright Murray Mednick's television debut.[27] The critical reaction was disappointment,[28][29] but the actors fared better, Feury in particular. As the unwilling nursing home resident whose disjointed recollections provide her granddaughter an invaluable connection to her Iowa roots, Feury's portrayal was judged "[b]y far the best acting performance" by The Hartford Courant.[30] Her performance, as the character veers "from family feeling to suspicion to self-absorbed recollection" – was noted by The Boston Globe,[31] with The Los Angeles Times citing her "almost effortless grace" and "marvelous ferocity."[32] Critic James Wolcott writes:

One scene teems with unruly life: Eileen visits her grandmother (Peggy Feury) in the nursing home, and the grandma's semi-senile outbursts have a crazy, cawing theatricality. "This is a cattle yard," says Feury's crone as the camera stares down the discarded people. "Bellowing, constant bellowing." Another patient – babbling "Operator, operator, operator" – is wheeled across the screen and grandma, like an Alice-in-Wonderland queen, issues a command: "Choke her!" This disreputably funny scene is capped when a nurse happens by and – perfect joke – turns out to be a Lily Tomlin lookalike.[28]

In 1982, Feury appeared as "Colonel Buckholtz," a perfectionist colonel who inspects Margaret Houlihan and the nurses in "Hey, Look Me Over," the opening episode of M*A*S*H Season 11.

Feury's film credits include Matt Cimber's The Witch Who Came from the Sea (1976),[4] Richard C. Sarafian's The Next Man (1976) starring Sean Connery, Elia Kazan's film of The Last Tycoon (1976), starring Robert De Niro,[3] Carl Reiner's All of Me (1984), starring Steve Martin and Lily Tomlin, Ken Russell's Crimes of Passion (1984), and Feury's final screen performance, in 1918 (1985), written by Horton Foote.[33][34][35] A brief appearance in Donald Shebib's Heartaches (1981) was singled out by New York Times critic Vincent Canby: "That very fine actress Peggy Feury appears in a tiny but important scene as the doctor who advises Bonnie about a possible abortion."[36]

By far Feury's most substantial film role (in terms of both sheer size and importance to a film's narrative) came in a little seen low-budget psychological horror film – John Ballard's Friday the 13th: The Orphan (1979), based on the short story Sredni Vashtar by Saki.[37] In Nightmare USA (his 2007 study of lesser-known American exploitation filmmakers), Stephen Thrower writes:

Then there's Peggy Feury, a skilled and thoughtful actress who demonstrates here how she came to be one of the leading lights in her profession. (She taught acting at the Actors Studio, alongside Lee Strasberg.) The role of Aunt Martha is already well-written, but Feury brings her own amazingly subtle shadings to the part.[38]


Feury was a charter member of the Actors Studio[3] and frequently led sessions there when Lee Strasberg was unavailable.[39][40] She also taught her own classes in the same building where Strasberg taught, behind Carnegie Hall.[41]

In December 1968, at Strasberg's suggestion, Feury moved to Los Angeles with her husband William Traylor and their two daughters.[42] After a brief stint teaching at Jack Garfein's Actors and Directors Lab,[43] Feury helped establish the west coast branch of the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute, where she would double as instructor and artistic director [44] until 1973, when she and Traylor started their own acting school, the Loft Studio, on LaBrea Avenue.[4][45]

Sean Penn was 18 when he arrived at the Loft;[46] he remained for two years, attending class twenty-five hours a week.[45] Feury's "very gentle," "very personal" approach quickly won over the fiercely independent young actor, as did her emphasis on discovering "how [to] bring yourself to the material rather than the material to you."[46] To Anjelica Huston, who began her studies in 1981 at age 30,[47][48] Feury was "a revelation," with "a vast knowledge of playwrights" and "an extraordinary gift for making one feel understood."[49] Huston describes her teacher as "beautiful," " quite small and delicate," with a "half way to heaven look." On the other hand, notes Huston, Feury was "extremely intelligent and mordant, Irish, with certain very visceral preferences", and yet had "a way of commenting on a scene that was never destructive. [Even when] you knew she thought it was pretty terrible, she had a way of translating it positively to actors – her process was very reinforcing, I think."[47]

Feury was occasionally called upon to coach an individual actor in a role, as she did Michelle Pfeiffer in Brian De Palma's Scarface (1983)[50] and Lily Tomlin in her one-woman stage show The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe.[51][52] The evolution of Tomlin's show formed the basis of a 1986 documentary in which Feury appeared posthumously;[53] Tomlin dedicated the film to her memory.[51]

From the mid 1970s [54][55] until her death, Feury and her students frequently showcased the work of playwright Horton Foote, presenting four of his plays in their entirety[33][55][56] plus a number of individual scenes from Foote's The Orphans' Home Cycle.[33] In 1984, in her final film role, Feury was cast in the film version of Foote’s 1918, the seventh of The Orphans' Home Cycle's nine plays.[34][57]

Notable students[edit]

Illness and death[edit]

Feury struggled with narcolepsy. When she would come out of one of its spells she could be lucid as though she had been alert during the episode.[101] She died Wednesday, November 20, 1985 in a car accident, a head-on collision, in West Los Angeles.[61]

Stage credits (partial listing)[edit]

These are acting credits except where otherwise indicated.

Opened Closed Title Writer(s) Company and/or Venue Director(s) Role
Feb 26, 1948
Jul 10, 1948
Me and Molly Gertrude Berg
Music arr. – Lehman Engel
Belasco Theatre Ezra Stone Vera Wertheimer (as Margaret Feury)
Feb 26, 1949
Feb 26, 1949
Cock-a-Doodle-Do [102] Iris Tree
Music – Ned Rorem
Lenox Hill Playhouse Margaret Barker Norah (as Margaret Feury)
Nov 14, 1949
The Closing Door [103] Alexander Knox Wilbur Theatre Lee Strasberg NA (as Margaret Feury)
Jun 6, 1950
Earth Spirit [104] Frank Wedekind Studio 7
Provincetown Playhouse
John Stix Lulu (as Margaret Feury)
Jan 28, 1951
Feb 24, 1951
Peer Gynt Henrik Ibsen
Adaptation – Paul Green
Incidental music – Lan Adomian
ANTA Playhouse Lee Strasberg Ensemble (as Margaret Feury)
Mar 13, 1952
The Grass Harp [105] Truman Capote
Music – Virgil Thomson
Colonial Theatre Robert Lewis Choir Mistress (as Margaret Feury)
May 28, 1952
June 8, 1952
Sunday Breakfast Emilio Rubio and Miriam Balf Coronet Theatre Stella Adler Martha Decker (as Margaret Feury)
Aug 23, 1953
Aug 28, 1953
Make Momma Happy [106][107] George Baxt Laketside Theatre (in Lake Hopatcong Landing) NA Norma Talmadge Greenwald (as Margaret Feury)
Nov 18, 1953
Nov 22, 1953
Make Momma Happy [108] George Baxt Parsons Theatre (in Hartford, CT) NA Norma Talmadge Greenwald (as Margaret Feury)
Nov 24, 1953
Dec 6, 1953
Make Momma Happy [109] George Baxt Walnut Street Theatre NA Norma Talmadge Greenwald (as Margaret Feury)
Summer 1954
Summer 1954
(Five performances)
A Hatful of Rain [110][111][112] Michael V. Gazzo The Actors Studio Frank Corsaro Putski
Jun 19, 1955
Three Players of a Summer Game [113] Tennessee Williams White Barn Theatre Henry Hewes NA (as Peg Feury)
May 21, 1956
The Man With the Golden Arm Jack Kirkland Cherry Lane Theatre Louis MacMillan Zosh
July 8, 1957
Volpone [114] Ben Jonson
Stefan Zweig – Adaptation
Boston Summer Theater
New England Mutual Hall
Gene Frankel Canina
Mar 17, 1958
Mar 29, 1958
Picnic [115] William Inge Coconut Grove Playhouse Albert Lipton NA
Apr 20, 1959
The Innocents [116] William Archibald
Henry James – Novel
Alex North – Music
Gramercy Arts Theatre Harvey Cort Miss Giddens
Aug 30, 1961
Sep 11, 1961
Sweet Bird of Youth [117][118] Tennessee Williams Gateway Playhouse David Sheldon Alexandra Del Lago, the Princess Kosmonopolis (as Peg Feury)
Mar 20, 1963
Mar 30, 1963
The Lady of the Camellias Giles Cooper
Adaptation – Terrence McNally
Novel – Alexandre Dumas, fils
Music – Ned Rorem
Winter Garden Theater Franco Zeffirelli Jeanne
Jun 13, 1963
Antony and Cleopatra William Shakespeare
Music – David Amram
New York Shakespeare Festival
Delacorte Theatre
Joseph Papp Octavia
Jun 22, 1964
Oct 3, 1964
The Three Sisters Anton Chekhov
Randall Jarrell – English version
The Actors Studio Theatre
Morosco Theatre
Lee Strasberg Olga (Replacement for Geraldine Page)
May 17, 1967
Jul 16, 1967
Drums in the Night Bertolt Brecht
Translation – Frank Jones
Circle in the Square Downtown Theodore Mann Emily Balicke
Apr 24, 1968
Apr 27, 1968
The Exercise Lewis John Carlino John Golden Theatre Alfred Ryder The Actress (Standby for Anne Jackson)
Jan 25, 1974
Jan 27, 1974
La boheme[119] Libretto - Luigi Illica and Giuseppe Giacosa
Music – Giacomo Puccini
Lyric Opera Assn. of Orange County
Forum Theater
Peggy Feury Directed by
1975 or 1976
Old Man [120] Horton Foote – adaptation
William Faulkner – Story
Loft Studio Theatre (in Los Angeles) Peggy Feury Directed by
Jun __, 1980
Jul 6, 1980
Totem Pole (World Premiere)[121] Paul Smith Los Angeles Actors' Theater Gennaro Montanino Mrs. Goss
___ __, 1981
The Man Who Climbed the Pecan Trees (World Premiere)[56] Horton Foote Loft Studio Theatre (in Los Angeles, CA) William Traylor Mrs. Campbell
___ __, 1981
Blind Date (World Premiere)[56] Horton Foote Loft Studio Theatre (in Los Angeles, CA) Peggy Feury Directed by
Apr 13, 1984
Cousins (World Premiere)[122][123] Horton Foote Loft Studio (in Los Angeles, CA) William Traylor
Peggy Feury
Corella Davenport (and Directed by)


  1. ^ Peterson first came to prominence in 1953 with the production of his play, the coming-of-age tale, Take a Giant Step. Peterson would go on to write scripts for TV and film.[5]


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  13. ^ Francis, Bob. The Billboard. February 10, 1951. "Broadway Openings: Peer Gynt"
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  30. ^ McNally, Owen. "TV: New 'Iowa' Taps Roots Theme". The Hartford Courant. October 1, 1977. "By far the best acting performance is turned in by Peggy Feury as the grandmother. She makes the old woman's recollections of Iowa credible and displays a fine, irascible edge whenever she comes on strong like a harridan or a Hamlet feigning madness."
  31. ^ Henry 3rd, William A.. "'Iowa' Play Leads Series". The Boston Globe. October 1, 1977. "If, as Yeats once suggested, every play is written for the sake of a single scene, 'Iowa' was written for the tender scene between a sensitive girl recovering from a breakdown and her tough, addled grandmother. The old woman veers from family feeling to suspicion to self-absorbed recollection of her girlhood - recollection from which the granddaughter somehow draws a sense of her own continuity and place. [...] The performances, however, are remarkable, particularly by Carol Fox as the girl and Peggy Feury as the grandmother."
  32. ^ Smith, Cecil. "Dramas Mark the Greene-ing of Sunday Eve". The Los Angeles Times. September 28, 1977. pp. "Under Rick Benewitz's direction, it is performed with an almost effortless grace, most memorably in the fury of Peggy Feury. [...] Grandma's not dead; she's been moved to a rest home, where she lives amid other blank-eyed old people waiting for death. She's played with marvelous ferocity by Peggy Feury, a snarling whirlwind of an old woman with an Irish brogue in a wheelchair, hiding the chocolates she lives on under her shawl."
  33. ^ a b c Watson, Charles S. (2003). "The Orphans' Home Cycle, Part 2". Horton Foote: A Literary Biography. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. p. 189. ISBN 0-292-79160-7.
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  42. ^ Oakley, James. "Susan Traylor's LA Story". Interview Magazine. July 11, 2012. "So after my dad came to Los Angeles, Lee suggested she go out too, because he wanted to open a teaching studio there. She brought us out and surprised my dad. [...] It was Christmastime, and we were so sad because there was no snow. My sister and I took soap and put it all over the Christmas tree. Susan Strasberg was living in the Colony, but she was going to Italy to make a movie, so she let us stay in her house while she was away." See also:
    • Strasberg, Susan. "Part Four". Bittersweet. New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons. pp. 250-251. ISBN 0-399-12447-0. "When I returned to Los Angeles, I found a home in Malibu Colony, a private group of about seventy-five houses. [...] No sooner had we settled into this paradise than I was offered not one but two films in Europe; one to be shot in Italy, the other in France. [...] Two old friends, Peggy and Bill Trayler [sic], had decided to come to California with their daughters, Susan and Stephanie. They needed a place to stay, so I sublet my home to them. [...] The film, The Sisters, was about two siblings, very melodramatic and Italian, but I enjoyed the work in spite of the plot."
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  48. ^ Huston, Anjelica. "The Big Fabulous". Vanity Fair. December 2014. "Eventually I began working with Peggy Feury, of the Loft Studio. I was, at 30, the oldest person in her novice class. For the next couple of years, every day, five days a week, I drove from my house to her studio on La Brea."
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  103. ^ "Music and Theatre: Due Here Soon". The Boston Globe. Nov 6, 1949.
  104. ^ Calta, Louis. "The Theatre: In Symbolic Style". The New York Times. June 7, 1950.
  105. ^ Taylor, Bob. "Out-of-Town Reviews: 'The Grass Harp'". Billboard. March 22, 1952.
  106. ^ "News of the Mahopacs: Catholic Bazaar in Mahopac". The Putnam County Courier. June 11, 1953.
  107. ^ Blum, Daniel (1954). Theatre World: Season 1953–1954. New York: Crown Publishers. p. 166. Cast: Norma Talmadge Greenwald - Peg Feury, Mrs. Greenwald - Molly Picon, Alfred Greenwald - Jacob Kalich, Jackie Coogan Greenwald - Mark Rydell, Becky Moscowitz - Dolores Sutton, Tessie Moskowitz - Dorie Warren, Mrs. Moskowitz - Anna Appel
  108. ^ Newspaper ad: "Molly Picon in the Hilarious Comedy, 'Make Momma Happy'". The Boston Globe. November 22, 1953.
  109. ^ "Mask and Wig, Molly Picon Set for Philadelphia Openings". The Wilmington Sunday Star. November 22, 1953.
  110. ^ Hirsch, Foster (1984). "The Actors Studio on Stage and Film". A Method to Their Madness: The History of The Actors Studio. New York: Da Capo Press. p. 253. ISBN 0-306-80268-6. In the summer of 1954, A Hatful of Rain was presented at the Studio for five performances.
  111. ^ Calta, Louis. "RIDGEFIELD WINS GRANT FOR PLAYS; Chicago Author Garners First Annual $1,000 Prize Offered by American Productions". The New York Times. February 8, 1955. "The script had its beginnings with the Actors Studio, which presented it for five performances with a cast including Mr. Gazzara, Frank Silvera, Paul Richards, Peggy Feury, Anthony Franciosa, Carroll Baker and Henry Silva.."
  112. ^ Lyons, Leonard. "The Lyons Den". The Reading Eagle. March 11, 1958. "'A Hatful of Rain' was done originally at the Actors Studio, with Carroll Baker playing the wife."
  113. ^ Gelb, Arthur. "La Ronde to Open On Stage June 27; Jottings". The New York Times. June 13, 1955.
  114. ^ Durgin, Cyrus. "Boston Summer Theater: 'Volpone' Romping Fun". The Boston Daily Globe. July 9, 1957.
  115. ^ "'Picnic' Time: Granger and Sandra Church at Coconut Grove Playhouse; Supporting Cast". The Miami News. March 16, 1958.
  116. ^ Calta, Louis. "Theatre: 'The Innocents'". The New York Times. April 21, 1959.
  117. ^ "Straw Hat Circuit: Summer Season Begins to Fade". Newsday. August 28, 1961. Retrieved 2013-01-16.
  118. ^ Original playbill.
  119. ^ "Lyric Opera Assn. Will Open Season on Friday"
  120. ^ Cast for the Woodland Hills Community Theatre's production of Horton Foote's 'The Chase'. "His association with playwright Horton Foote goes back to the mid seventies when he appeared in a special adaptation of William Faulkner’s short story Old Man that Mr. Foote reworked from his own Playhouse 90 TV Screenplay of the same title. The local production was produced at the Loft Studio under the direction of legendary acting teacher, the late Peggy Feury."
  121. ^ Drake, Syvie. "'Totem Pole' at L.A. Actors' Theater". The Los Angeles Times. June 18, 1980.
  122. ^ Christon, Lawrence. "Writer Who Takes Work Home". The Los Angeles Times. April 3, 1984.
  123. ^ Sullivan, Dan. "Stage Review". The Los Angeles Times. April 17, 1984.

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