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Tyne Daly on her life and career

Tony-winning actress will visit BU to open exhibition of her papers

Tyne Daly visits BU next week to celebrate an exhibit about her work.

Emmy and Tony award winning actress Tyne Daly, well-known for her role as Detective Mary Beth Lacey in the long-running television series Cagney & Lacey, is accustomed to being in the spotlight. On Tuesday, April 25, Daly will speak about her career at the unveiling of an exhibition at the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center (HGARC) that highlights the inner workings of her life as an entertainer. The exhibition, Tyne Daly on Stage, is part of a larger archive of Daly’s personal and professional memorabilia at the center.

Acting seemed a natural vocation for Daly. Both her father and her brother were successful actors, and Daly earned her own Actors’ Equity card at age 15. As a teenager, she acted in many television shows and by age 20 she was on Broadway. In 1981, Daly landed her career-making part in Cagney & Lacey, picking up four Emmys during the show’s eight-year run. In 1990, she won a Tony for her performance as Mama Rose in the Broadway musical Gypsy. Her recent work includes two television series, Christy and Judging Amy; she earned an Emmy for each. This February Daly returned to Broadway, starring opposite Cynthia Nixon in Rabbit Hole.

Last year, Vita Paladino, managing director of the Gotlieb Center, approached Daly about donating her papers to its collection of 2,000 important figures. Daly agreed, and since September 2005 she has sent more than 40 boxes of writings, scripts, photographs, and other memorabilia for inclusion in the archive. The exhibition, which opens with Daly’s talk, fills six display cases and will be on view on the main floor of Mugar Memorial Library from April 26 to June 30.

“Through this exhibition, you not only get an insight into the culture of the business, but also the actual process of the actress as well,” says Perry Barton, HGARC exhibition coordinator. “The Tyne Daly archive offers us a glimpse into the life of a dynamic, intelligent woman, a woman who has spent decades in show business maintaining and stretching her talent in a career that has embraced the stage, television, and film.”

Among the items being shown are a favorable New York Times review of her 1966 Broadway debut in a revival of George S. Kaufman’s The Butter and Egg Man, annotated pages from a Cagney & Lacey script and behind-the-scenes photographs of the show, and pages from the pilot episode of Judging Amy, as well as letters from costars like Amy Brenneman. One of Daly’s greatest achievements, her Tony for best lead actress in a musical for Gypsy, is commemorated through congratulatory letters from notable figures such as Angela Lansbury, who starred in an earlier revival of the work, screenwriter and film producer Nora Ephron, and former President George H. W. Bush (Hon.’89). Also on display will be annotated pages from her script of Gypsy and a multipage letter from director Arthur Laurents, giving the actress pointers prior to the show’s New York City opening.

“Discovering the elements of someone’s life and career is always an enriching experience,” says Barton, who designed the exhibition. “I just try and do a good job of presenting a clear picture of the person being represented. The picture that emerges of Tyne Daly from her archive is that of a committed and talented artist, who shares the respect of her colleagues and friends and continues to make a contribution to the entertainment field.”

Daly’s speech, which will be followed by a question-and-answer period, is part of the Friends of the Libraries at Boston University Friends Speaker Series. It begins at 6 p.m. on April 25 in the Metcalf Ballroom of the George Sherman Union. Admission is free for students and $25 for all others. For tickets, call 617-353-1218 by April 20.