Danitra Vance; Obie-Winning Actress, Performance Artist and Comedian

Danitra Vance, actress and performance artist whose work ranged from “Saturday Night Live” to successful off-Broadway plays, has died. She was 35.

Ms. Vance died Sunday of breast cancer at her grandfather’s home in Markham, Ill.

When the cancer was discovered, the experienced actress and comedienne created a performance piece she titled “The Radical Girl’s Guide to Radical Mastectomy.”

A native of Chicago, Ms. Vance studied at the National College of Education, Roosevelt College and the Webber-Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art in London before beginning her career with Chicago’s Second City comedy group.

She moved to New York in 1981, where she eventually staged a highly praised off-Broadway revue, “Danitra Vance and the Mell-o White Boys.”


In 1985, Ms. Vance became the first black woman to join the regular cast for the popular television comedy show “Saturday Night Live.”

Ms. Vance also appeared in motion pictures including “Little Man Tate” and “The War of the Roses.”

On stage, she was best known for her work in two off-Broadway plays for playwright and director George C. Wolfe, producer of the New York Shakespeare Festival--"Spunk” and “The Colored Museum.”

She earned an Obie award for “Spunk,” in which she portrayed three women of widely ranging emotions.

Ms. Vance appeared at Los Angeles’ Mark Taper Forum in 1988 in “The Colored Museum” and in 1991 in “Spunk.”