Melissa Yandell Smith, ‘Nomadland’ actress, dead at 64

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She is survived by her husband, actor Warren David Keith, whom she met while both attended Yale; son Owen; and other family members

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Melissa Yandel Smith, who helped run San Francisco’s prestigious American Conservatory Theater for 25 years and embarked on a remarkable late career in the Oscar-nominated 2020 film alongside her longtime friend Frances McDormand. “nomadic land” He died of cancer on September 7 at his home in San Francisco. She was 64 years old.

His death was announced earlier this month by ACT. had done

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Smith, whose lifelong friendship with McDormand began when she was a classmate at the Yale School of Drama in the late 1970s, played “Nomadlands” Dolly, sister of McDormand’s character Fern. In the film, she provides a line of dialogue to McDormand as she moves on, saying: “You could see me when I was hiding from everyone. Sometimes you could see me before I could see myself.” . I needed this in my life.”

Smith served as Conservatory Director at the ACT from 1995 until his departure in December 2020 due to declining health. During his tenure at ACT, he redesigned and maintained the Conservatory’s internationally recognized Master of Fine Arts program.

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Before relocating from New York to San Francisco to accept an ACT position, Smith taught at the Honolulu Youth Theater in Hawaii and at SUNY, Purchase Youth Theater in Purchase, New York. After guest-starring at Princeton University, she accepted a position with that university in 1989 to pursue her program in theater and dance. After leaving program direction in 1993, he continued to teach at Princeton, and also taught at Manhattan’s Michael Patton Studios. During the summer he taught at the La Pietra campus of New York University in Florence, Italy, and at the Primo del Teatro in San Miniato, Italy.

While enrolled at the Yale School of Drama, Smith co-starred with Glenn Close in the Yale Repertory Theatre’s production of “Uncle Vanya” and continued to act on regional stages throughout his career at ACT.

Smith’s family consists of her husband, actor Warren David Keith, whom she met while both attended Yale; son Owen; and other family members.


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