Joan Van Ark, just out of high school, was the second youngest student to attend the Yale School of Drama on a scholarship. The youngest was Julie Harris. It was the beginning of a lifelong friendship. Years later, they would co-star on the CBS Television series, "Knots Landing." Van Ark began her professional career at the Minneapolis Guthrie Theater in Moliere's "The Miser," opposite Hume Cronyn and Zoe Caldwell. More here. That was followed by "Death of a Salesman" at the Guthrie with both Cronyn and Jessica Tandy. After a season at the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., Joan was cast in the national touring company of "Barefoot in the Park" directed by Mike Nichols. She recreated the role in the critically acclaimed London Company and later on Broadway. She earned a Tony nomination for her performance in "The School for Wives," and she won the Theater World Award for "The Rules of the Game."
Van Ark also appeared off-Broadway opposite John Rubenstein in "Love Letters." More recently, she co-starred in the New York production of Edward Albee's Pulitzer Prize winning play "Three Tall Women." Her Los Angeles theater credits include "Cyrano de Bergerac," playing Roxanne opposite Richard Chamberlain's Cyrano, "Ring Around the Moon" with Michael York and Glynis Johns, "Chemin de Fer," 'Heartbreak House" and "As You Like It," for which she won a Los Angeles Drama Critics Award. She also appeared as Lady Macbeth in the Grove Shakespeare Festival's production of "Macbeth."
Van Ark has also starred in the Williamstown Theater Festival productions of "Night of the Iguana," "The Legend of Oedipus" and the festival's 40th anniversary production of Steven Sondheim's "A Little Night Music."
She is perhaps best known for her role as Valene Ewing beginning on "Dallas" and then on the spin-off series, "Knots Landing." During the 13 seasons as Val, she earned six nominations and two Soap Opera Digest Awards for Best Actress. Joan also starred in the TV comedies, "Temperature Rising" and "We've Got Each Other." In May 1997, she reprieved her role of Valene in the CBS mini-series, "Knots Landing Reunion: Back to the Cul-de-sac," and again, in December of 2005, Joan appeared in a second reunion with the other cast members of the long running CBS Television hit. For more information, please click here. In 2008, Joan and other Knots Landing cast members reunited on NBC's Today Show. Click here to see the segment. Joan also joined Michele Lee and Kevin Dobson on "The Early Show" on CBS in 2009. Click here to see this reunion. In 1998, she guest starred in an episode of "The Nanny," which was specially written for her. In 2004,she played a regular role for much of the year on CBS Television's "The Young and the Restless." In February, 2009, Joan guest starred on NBC's "My Name is Earl." Here's an interview she did at the time. Joan recently made two special appearances on "Nip/Tuck" on FX. Click here for more.
Van Ark's television movie credits include "When the Darkman Calls," "Moments of Truth: a Mother's Deception," "In the Shadows: Someone's Watching" (actor/producer), "Boys Will Be Boys" (actor/director, Humanitas nomintion), "Terror on Track 9," "Tainted Blood," "Menu for Murder," "Always Remember I Love You," "My First Love" and "Shakedown on Sunset Strip."
She was also one of the voices for CBS-TV's Saturday morning cartoon series "Santo Bugito," and she provided the voice of "Spider Woman," another Saturday morning series. In 1997, Joan directed a short documentary on homelessness and domestic violence for the Directors Guild of America, which was nominated for an Emmy.
She appeared in the feature film, "Held for Ransom," with Dennis Hopper and Debi Mazar. Joan was also featured in the film, "Up, Michigan!", which was entered in the New York Independent Film Festival. According to Film Festival representatives, the screening of "Up, Michigan!" elicited more favorable audience response than any other film throughout the one week event. Joan also starred as the Vice President of the United States in the FOX Family telefilm, "Loyal Opposition." She played Camille in Tennessee Williams' "Camino Real" at the Folger Shakespeare Theater in Washington, D.C. She appeared in "Twice in a Lifetime," filmed in Toronto. She also was featured in "Son of the Beach" for the FX Network. Joan's career was featured on the biographical program, "Intimate Portrait," on the Lifetime Channel for Women. She also played two cameo roles in the independent feature films, "Net Games" and the soon to be released "The Icemakers" with Tippi Hedren.
Joan was featured in "The Vagina Monologues" at the Canon Theater in Beverly Hills. She also opened the national tour of "The Vagina Monologues" in Denver's Center for the Performing Arts.
In May, 2003, she was a celebrity guest actor in the Los Angeles production of "Blackout" at the McCadden Theater in Hollywood. She also appeared in the off-Broadway production of "The Exonerated" at the Bleeker Street Theater in New York. Joan appeared in 2004 at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., where she originated the role of Mrs. Fenway in "Escape," part of a world premier of "Five by Tenn," a collection of newly-found Tennessee Williams one-act plays. Click the link to see the Associated Press and TheaterMania.com reviews. The production was part of the Kennedy Center's festival of Tennessee Williams' works with Kathleen Chalfant, Patricia Clarkson and Sally Field.
In 2005, Joan performed in the world premier of Mark O'Donnell's new adaptation of "Private Fittings" by Georges Feydeau at the La Jolla Playhouse near San Diego. The production was directed by Des McAnuff, winner of two Tony Awards. Click these underlined links to see reviews in Daily Variety, the Los Angeles Times, the San Diego Union-Tribune and San Diego City Beat. She is also spotlighted by TheaterMania.com.
In 2006, Joan returned to the stage in Tennessee Williams' "A Lovely Sunday for Creve Coeur" at the Hartford Stage. Click here for more on Joan in Hartford. A rave review. And another. And even more here.
Joan is still married to her high school sweetheart, John Marshall, an award winning TV newsman, who now heads an online news service, eNewswires.com. Their daughter, Vanessa, is also an accomplished actress, director and comedian.