Frances Foster; Actress and Director


Frances Foster, a character actress and director who was a founding member of the Negro Ensemble Company in New York, has died in a hospital in Fairfax, Va. She was 73.

Friends said she died June 17 of a cerebral hemorrhage. A native of New York, she was stricken while in Virginia to attend a stepgrandson’s high school graduation.

Foster made her stage debut in “The Wisteria Trees” in New York in 1955. She helped found the Negro Ensemble Company in 1967 and established herself as a major force on the New York stage for the 19 next years in the more than 25 productions she appeared in with the group.


She won an Obie Award in 1985 for sustained excellence of performance.

Foster also received the company’s Adolph Caesar award in 1987 and two of the annual Audelco Awards, which recognize achievement in black theater--in 1978 for best actress for her role in “Do Lord Remember Me” and a 1983 best director honor for “Hospice.”

Praising her role as a Mississippi grandmother in the 1990 play “Ground People,” a New York Times reviewer wrote of Foster: “Just sitting in her kitchen, lining the thin soles of her shoes with paper while telling tales of her midwifery, Ms. Foster is a moving presence, as she has been in many other plays.”

She recently appeared at Los Angeles’ Mark Taper Forum in a production of “Having Our Say.”

Foster also worked in television, appearing in the daytime dramas “One Life to Live,” “Ryan’s Hope” and “All My Children.”

She appeared in films, including three of Spike Lee’s movies: “Malcolm X” in 1992, “Crooklyn” in 1994 and “Clockers” in 1995. She also was in “The Juror” in 1996, “The Distinguished Gentleman” in 1992, “Through an Open Window” in 1991 and “James Baldwin: The Price of the Ticket” in 1989.

She is survived by her husband, Morton Goldsen; son Terrell Foster; three stepchildren; a sister and six stepgrandchildren.