Marilyn Sokol is an actress, comedienne and singer of many moods, sharing her talents in virtually every performing arts medium – from the Broadway stage to Hollywood films, and from primetime TV and an Emmy Award to Off Broadway and an Obie Award. Critics have called her “A Marvel” (NY Times), “Hilarious” (LA Times) “Absolutely Brilliant” (NY Post and Daily News), and “A powerhouse of a performer” (SF Examiner).
In 1966 Marilyn made her professional debut as The Belly Dancer in the 1st National Company of MAN OF LA MANCHA, with Jose Ferrer and later Richard Kiley. She then joined the revolutionary theatre group, THE SAN FRANCISCO MIME TROUPE, touring nationally, culminating in her NYC Off Broadway debut.
She sang the lead role of Rosalinda in The Circle Repertory Theatre’s workshop of DIE FLEDERMAUS, and then appeared in two Off Broadway productions: Eric Bentley’s THE RED, THE WHITE AND THE BLACK and Rochelle Owen’s ISTANBUL. In 1969 she was featured in Lincoln Center’s production of John Ford Noonan’s highly acclaimed THE YEAR BOSTON WON THE PENNANT. After the curtain came down, Marilyn was moonlighting downtown, performing at The Bitter End and The Improv with the comedy improvisation group The Ace Trucking Company, which led to several TV appearances with them, including THE TONIGHT SHOW and THE MIKE DOUGLAS SHOW.
During this time she shot her first TV commercial, which was for Sanka. Since then she has done countless on camera and radio commercials, the most memorable being for York Peppermint Patties, Tender Vittels, Nathan’s Hotdogs, and most recently for Crest, with Emeril Lagasse. After joining the ranks of Jim Henson’s Muppets in 1971, she recorded many singing and speaking voices for SESAME STREET over the next 10 years. Working closely with Jim Henson and Joe Raposo, she also recorded for Muppets’ toys and TV specials, including the role of Ma Otter in EMMET OTTER’S JUGBAND CHRISTMAS, an ABC and HBO annual program. Muppet fans can now hear Marilyn’s performance in the re-release of that special on DVD.
Marilyn received the 1972 OBIE AWARD for her portrayal of Lucy Lockit in The Chelsea Theatre’s production of THE BEGGAR’S OPERA. Her Broadway debut followed with two critically acclaimed roles in The New Phoenix Repertory’s productions of Eugene’s O’Neill’s THE GREAT GOD BROWN, directed by Harold Price, and Moliere’s DON JUAN, directed by Stephen Porter. She then joined Joseph Papp’s New York Shakespeare Festival, performing the role of Mistress Quickly in THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR. (She had the great pleasure of revisiting Mistress Quickly in 1990 with Washington D.C.’s Folger Shakespeare Theatre in their production of that play.)
She made her nightclub debut in 1973, entertaining audiences with her comedy and singing at the chic New York boite RENO SWEENEY’S, followed by appearances across the nation, leading to a 3-month long engagement atTHE BALLROOM in NYC’s trendy Soho. This fabulously successful run lead to Hollywood – TV and films soon followed.
Her film career had an auspicious beginning, sharing a scene with Woody Allen in THE FRONT, directed by Martin Ritt. FOUL PLAY, with Goldie Hawn and Chevy Chase, quickly followed, firmly establishing Marilyn as a film actress. This led to two co-starring roles: Universal’s THE LAST MARRIED COUPLE IN AMERICA, with Natalie Wood and George Segal, and AIP’sSOMETHING SHORT OF PARADISE, with Susan Sarandon and David Steinberg.
Television audiences in the 70’s recall her as the comic “best friend” on ABC’sLOLA FALANA SPECIALS and as “Mrs. Bright” opposite Dick Van Dyke on NBC’s VAN DYKE AND COMPANY. She went on to guest star on BARNEY MILLER as a “sex surrogate,” and knocked ’em dead as an Arab oil magnate, Sheik Farrah Abuban, on Norman Lear’s hilarious ALL THAT GLITTERS. Her appearance on THE DAVID SUSSKIND SHOW about women in comedy helped to make that episode a classic. Marilyn was invited on all the talk shows, becoming one of Johnny Carson’s most popular guests on THE TONIGHT SHOW. She was also a favorite on THE MERV GRIFFIN SHOW, being held over for an unprecedented 45-minute segment during her first appearance.
Throughout most of the 1980’s she devoted her time to theatre in NYC and across the country, most notably starring Off Broadway in two roles in the whimsical musical TRIXIE TRUE, TEEN DETECTIVE (“Sokol is Absolutely Brilliant” – NY Daily News), playing the role of Mrs. Van Daan in the Philadelphia Drama Guild’s production of THE DIARY OF ANNE FRANK, acquiring another set of rave notices for her double-role performance in the musical THE RISE OF DAVID LEVINSKY at The American Jewish Theatre, playing Gittel Mosca in TWO FOR THE SEESAW at the same theatre, performing at Chicago’s Goodman Theatre in the role of The Old Woman inCANDIDE, and in 1988, making her Broadway musical debut starring in Cy Coleman and A.E. Hotchner’s WELCOME TO THE CLUB, which had previewed at The White Barn Theatre in Connecticut and The Coconut Grove Playhouse in Florida.
For her highly successful 1988 engagement at The Ballroom in NYC, Marilyn won the prestigious BISTRO AWARD for excellence in cabaret performance. In the summer of ’89, she co-starred with one of her big idols in SID CAESAR AND COMPANY at The Village Gate. She was also featured in Sidney Lumet’s film FAMILY BUSINESS, with Dustin Hoffman and Sean Connery.
She received rave reviews for her own solo musical, GUILT WITHOUT SEX, which ran Off Broadway from 1990-1992. She stopped production when she was offered the beautiful role of Hannah deh Blindeh in CONVERSATIONS WITH MY FATHER, Herb Gardner’s hit Broadway play starring Judd Hirsch. It was during this time that she guest starred on LAW AND ORDER. She also received a1992 EMMY AWARD for her performance in a series of comedy programs, entitled SNEAK PEEK, for ABC-TV in Washington D.C.
After over a year on Broadway in CONVERSATIONS WITH MY FATHER, Marilyn played Golde to Theodore Bikel’s Tevye in a tour of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF, performing at The St. Louis MUNY, Houston’s Theatre Under the Stars, The Music Hall in the Park in Dallas, and the historic Fox Theatre in Atlanta. Upon her return to NYC, she presented the second installment of her solo musical, GUILT WITHOUT SEX, PART II.
The Klezmer musical SHLEMIEL THE FIRST at Harvard’s American Repertory Theatre (ART) came next. SHLEMIEL was an adaptation, by Robert Brustein, of Isaac Bashevis Singer’s folk tales of Chelm. Stunning critics and audiences alike with her triple-role/tour de force performance (“clever and caterwalling… Sokol doesn’t miss a laugh” – John Lahr, The New Yorker), during 1994-95 Marilyn toured from Cambridge to Philadelphia, NYC (Lincoln Center’s Serious Fun), many cities throughout Southeast Florida, and back to Cambridge.
She had the pleasure of working with Leonardo Di Caprio in 1995 when she was featured in the film BASKETBALL DIARIES. This was followed by her portrayal of Gorgeous in SISTERS ROSENSWEIG at The Alliance Theatre in Atlanta, and her return to Broadway as Miss Lynch in GREASE! She then headlined at Caroline’s Comedy Club where she has appeared many times since.
In the summer of 1997 Marilyn returned to The St. Louis MUNY to have some fun as The Wicked Witch of the West in THE WIZARD OF OZ. After “melting” in Oz, she went on to direct and star in two one-acts at Montauk Theatre Productions: MRS DALLY HAS A LOVER, a 2-character piece, and GUILT: THE BREAKFAST OF CHAMPIONS, a 4-character play which she also wrote. That fall she returned to The American Jewish Theatre for a 2-character play,SAM AND ITKEH.
Marilyn is a lifetime member of The Actors Studio, where in 1998 she performed in THE MACHINAL. That same year she filmed a pilot for CBS, entitled SECOND OPINION, with Robert Loggia and Jill Clayburgh, as well as another episode of LAW AND ORDER. GUILT WITHOUT SEX: PART III at The Soho Playhouse came next, marking the end of that solo piece.
In 1999 she was featured in Milos Foreman’s film MAN ON THE MOON, starring Jim Carrey and Danny DeVito. She starred in the Naked Angels’ Off Broadway workshop of SHYSTER, with Fisher Stevens and Annabella Sciorra, and in IF MEMORY SERVES at the Pasadena Playhouse. The play, and Marilyn, received brilliant reviews, leading to a NYC production with Elizabeth Ashley at The Promenade Theatre.
She began 2000 in New Jersey as Helga Ten Dorp in The Paper Mill Playhouse’s production of DEATHTRAP, and then she reprised her role of Miss Lynch in GREASE! at The St. Louis MUNY. A joyful 2001 return to The Alliance Theatre followed, playing Stella in Moss Hart’s LIGHT UP THE SKY. That fall she shared the stage with Clive Revill in SCENERY, a 2-hander presented at East Hampton’s John Drew Theatre.
SEX AND THE CITY, and the part of the sex therapist, Velma Rudin, was Marilyn’s next project. Audiences recall her response when Samantha (Kim Cattrall) complained about her boyfriend’s “prowess.” “I hear that,” was her droll retort. Then, on Comedy Central, she guest starred on Denis Leary’s pilot,THE LENNY AND ADAM SHOW.
In the spring of 2004 Marilyn concertized at Hofstra University and The Rockland County Arts Center, performing ME AND MY FANNY prior to its Off Broadway run. That summer she played Bea in Nicky Silver’s THE FOOD CHAIN at The Old Globe Theatre in San Diego, and came back to NYC to join the 10-minute Play Festival at HB (Herbert Berghof Studio) Foundation. The fall of 2004 saw Marilyn starring in YARDBIRD at The Bank Street Theatre, receiving terrific notices yet again.
For several years Marilyn has participated in Food For Thought, the very popular play-reading series presented at The Paley Centre for Media. She is also a frequent participant at Naked Angels’ Tuesdays@9, another play-reading series, where she is developing her memoir.
In 2006 Marilyn starred Off Broadway with Peter Scolari in IN THE WINGS at The Promenade Theatre, receiving brilliant notices, including “Sokol is… hilarious” (NYTImes) “a true gem” (Showbusinessweekly.com), “Perfect” (Theatermania.com) “a riot” (CurtainUp.com) “real and touching” (Backstage.com)…”Her skill is something to admire” (NYTimes).
Next, Florida audiences saw her at The Parker Playhouse in Ft. Lauderdale inME AND MY FANNY, Marilyn’s Tribute to Fanny Brice. When this solo musical was produced in a limited run Off Broadway, The NYTimes said “Ferociously Zany… Sokol channels Brice’s Antic Spirit.” In 2007, NY Artists Unlimited presented her with The Golden Pineapple for Lifetime Achievement in the Performing Arts.
In 2008 and 2010 Marilyn co-hosted THE BISTRO AWARDS. She was featured in the film of the Broadway hit THE PRODUCERS and, most recently, in LUCKY DAYS, produced by Paul Newman, starring Angelica Torn, and winner of several film festival awards across the country, including “Best Feature” at The Coney Island Film Festival.
Marilyn began teaching in 1968 at The 3rd Street Music Settlement House in NYC. Since then she has taught many courses, from Acting and Comedy to Theatre Games and Song Interpretation, privately and at various institutions, including: Sarah Lawrence, Princeton, NYU, Montana State University at Bozeman, The Actors Studio Drama School at The New School, and Lehman College, where she completed her 9th year as a Distinguished Lecturer in the Theatre program. THE WORKING PROFESSIONAL, her ongoing interview series at Lehman since 2004, has included many illustrious guests, including: TV/film stars Peter Scolari (BOSOM BUDDIES, HONEY I SHRUNK THE KIDS) and Polly Holiday (ALICE), Broadway producer Pat Addiss (PROMISES PROMISES), Broadway stars Lewis Stadlen and Brad Oscar (both in THE PRODUCERS) and Billie Allen (RAISIN IN THE SUN), and Sherry Eaker, Editor, Backstage Magazine.
Some of Marilyn’s Dial-A-Jokes are enshrined in The Smithsonian Institution. She grew up in the Bronx and Washington D.C., where she studied dance at The Washington School of the Ballet and acting at Catholic University’s High School Drama Lab. She went on to receive a BA from NYU, majoring in Theatre Arts, Spanish Literature, and Art History.
GQ, December 1984 – I Wonder Who’s Kissing Me Now?
Hamptons Magazine, July 1989 – Guilt Without Sex
Theatre Week, April 1993 – Tales from The Merry Wives of Windsor