An American actress with extensive theater credits, Joan Van Ark is best remembered for her role as the long-suffering Valene Ewing on “Dallas” (1978-1981) and the widely known spin-off show “Knots Landing” (1979-1993), where she was handed two Soap Opera Digest Awards. She recreated the role on the CBS mini-series “Knots Landing Reunion: Back to the Cul-de-sac” (1997). The tall, leggy, blonde beauty also played regular roles in shows like “Temperatures Rising” (1972-1973), “We've Got Each Other” (1977) and “The Young and the Restless” (2004-2005), and has acted in numerous TV films, including “Red Flag: The Ultimate Game” (1981), “Menu for Murder” (1990), “In the Shadows, Someone's Watching” (1993, also an executive producer) and “Tornado Warning” (2002), as well as appeared as a guest star in a number of TV series, most notably “M*A*S*H” (1973) and “Rhoda” (1975). Thanks to her velvet voice, she has become a busy actor on TV, radio commercials and animated projects. Her movie credits include “Held for Ransom” (2000), “IceMaker,” “Net Games” (both 2003), “Diamond Zero” (2007) and the upcoming “Channels” (2007).
As a successful stage performer, Van Ark first gained fame with the idealistic, free-spirited female lead of Neil Simon's “Barefoot in the Park” (1965) on Broadway and on tour before taking home a Best Featured Actress Tony nomination in “The School for Wives” (1971). Later, she won a Theater World Award in “The Rules of the Game” and a Los Angeles Drama Critics Award for her work in “As You Like It.” Other plays she has acted in include Edward Albee's Pulitzer Prize winning play “Three Tall Women,” “Macbeth,” “Blackout,” “The Vagina Monologues” and “Private Fittings.
Outside the limelight, Van Ark is still married to her high school sweetheart, John Marshall. Her husband is an ex-award winning TV newsman who now leads an on-line news service. The couple's only daughter, Vanessa, is also a gifted voice actress/performer, comedian and director. Joan is the friend of Jane Kaczmarek and Asaad Kelada and has a lifelong friendship with Julie Harris, her costar in “Knots Landing.”
Childhood and Family:
Daughter of Dorothy Jean Hemenway and Carroll Van Ark, Joan Van Ark was born on June 16, 1943, in New York, New York. Her father was originally from Holland, Michigan, and worked in advertising and public relations. Gradus, Joan's great-grandfather, was an immigrant from the Netherlands. She was named after legend Joan of Arc because her parents were sure that she would become renowned.
Joan was raised in Boulder, Colorado, and has two brothers, Dexter and Mark, and a younger sister named Carol. After high school, she attended the Yale School of Drama in New Haven, Connecticut, on a scholarship and became the second youngest student to attend the university. The youngest was Julie Harris. Joan and Julia are lifelong friends.
In 1966, Joan married John Marshall. She gave birth to a baby girl named Vanessa Marshall on October 19, 1969.
The School for Wives
Reportedly one of Yale School of Drama's youngest students ever, Joan Van Ark started her career on stage by joining the famed Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis after graduating from the prestigious drama school. She made her stage debut in the Guthrie production of Molière's “The Miser,” alongside Hume Cronyn and Zoe Caldwell, and then appeared in “Death of a Salesman,” apposite Jessica Tandy and again Cronyn. Following a season at the Arena Stage in Washington, D.C., Van Ark received a huge break when she was chosen to replace Elizabeth Ashley in the role of the free-spirited female lead in Neil Simon's “Barefoot in the Park.” She reprised the role for the critically acclaimed London Company and later on Broadway (in 1965).
Van Ark went on to make a string of TV appearances, including an episodic turn in season two of the western series “The Guns of Will Sonnett” (1969, as Laurie) and a regular gig on the primetime soap “Peyton Place” (1968, as Nurse Paula). A talented stage performer, Van Ark gained her next stage victory in 1971 when she was nominated for a Tony for her fine supporting performance in the drama “The School for Wives.” She later nabbed a Theater World award for her work in “The Rules of the Game.” Van Ark's success on stage led her to relocate to Los Angeles, though she sporadically returned east to perform on stage.
From 1972 to 1973, Van Ark could be seen as a sexy nurse, Annie Carlisle, on the first season of the ABC hospital sitcom “Temperatures Rising.” Also in 1972, she made her TV movie debut in “The Judge and Jake Wyler” and appeared in her first feature film, “Frogs,” directed by George McCowan. Throughout the 70s, Van Ark kept busy on television by working in the short-lived CBS sitcom “We've Got Each Other” (1977) and the syndicated miniseries “Testimony of Two Men” (1977), as well as made countless guest appearances in series like “M*A*S*H” (1973), as Erika, a nurse working with Captain Hawkeye Pierce (played by Alan Alda), and “Rhoda” (1975), playing the first wife of Rhoda's husband. She also recreated her award winning turn as Silvia Gala in “The Rules of the Game” for the 1975 TV movie version of the same name, had recurring roles in “Cannon” (1971-1974), “Medical Center” (1971-1975), “The Six Million Dollar Man” (1976), “The Rockford Files” (1974-1977), and others, and provided the voice of Roxane in an episode of ABC's “Cyrano” (1974), Moray in NBC's “Tarzan and the Super 7” (1978) and the titular character in “Spider-Woman” (1979).
Van Ark landed the recurring role of the delicate Valene Ewing, the wife of black sheep Gary Ewing (played by Ted Shackelford), on the CBS primetime series “Dallas” (1978), which soon became her signature role. The characters were spun off in 1979 in “Knots Landing,” which went on to become a popular night time soap opera. During her tenure on the show (from 1979 to 1993), the actress collected six nominations and took home two Soap Opera Digest awards for Outstanding Actress in a Leading Role on a Prime Time Serial (1986 and 1989). She also had the opportunity to work with her idol, Julie Harris, who portrayed her mother, and a rising actor, Alec Baldwin, who was cast as her brother, as well as direct two episodes of “ Knots Landing” titled “Letting Go” (1992) and “Hints and Evasions” (1993).
While starring on “Knots Landing,” Van Ark also added numerous TV film credits to her resume, including portraying the wife of test pilot Barry Bostwick in the CBS movie “Red Flag: The Ultimate Game” (1981), a popular '40s Hollywood madam named Brenda Allen in CBS' “Shakedown on the Sunset Strip” (1988), a power-made PTA president in “Menu for Murder” (1990) and the adopted mother of Stephen Dorff in CBS' “Always Remember I Love You” (also 1990). In 1993, she found herself serving as executive producer and star of the NBC made-for-TV film “In the Shadows, Someone's Watching.”
Next, Van Ark portrayed a wife and mother who becomes a overzealous cult member in “Moment of Truth: A Mother's Deception” (NBC, 1994), made a non-episodic directorial debut with “Boys Will be Boys,” a 1994 “ABC Afterschool Special,” and in 1995, returned to the New York stage in the Off-Broadway production of Edward Albee's Pulitzer Prize winning play “Three Tall Women,” replacing Marian Seldes. She then costarred with her daughter, Vanessa, in the L.A production of “Star Dust” in 1997. That same year, she also reprised her role of Valerie Ewing on the CBS mini-series “Knots Landing Reunion: Back to the Cul-de-sac.” Other L.A theater credits include “Cyrano de Bergerac,” as Roxanne, opposite Richard Chamberlain's Cyrano, “Ring Around the Moon,” opposite Michael York and Glynis Johns, “Chemin de Fer,” “Heartbreak House” and “As You Like It,” from which she nabbed a Los Angeles Drama Critics Award. She also appeared as Lady Macbeth in the Grove Shakespeare Festival's production of “Macbeth.”
Entering the new millennium, Van Ark appeared as Nancy Donavan in the independent film “Held for Ransom” (2000), which starred Dennis Hopper and was directed by Lee Stanley. She followed it up with a small part in 2001's comedy/romance “UP, Michigan,” which premiered at the New York Independent Film Festival. She returned to TV with episodic turns in “Twice in a Lifetime” (2001) and “Son of the Beach,” and performances in the television animated film “It's the Pied Piper, Charlie Brown (2000) and the drama/thriller “Tornado Warning” (2002).
After cameo roles in the indie movies “IceMaker,” with Tippi Hedren, and “Net Games” (both 2003), Van Ark landed a regular role in the CBS long-running daytime soap “The Young and the Restless,” in which she played Gloria Fisher in 43 episodes from 2004 to 2005. More recently, in 2007, she appeared in the sci-fi film “Diamond Zero,” and is set to play Megan Phillips in the upcoming romance film, “Channels” (2007), helmed and written by Nat Christian.
Meanwhile on stage, the busy actress became a celebrity guest in the L.A production of “Blackout” (2003) at the McCadden Theater in Hollywood, appeared in the off-Broadway play “The Exonerated” at the Bleeker Street Theater in New York, and was seen in “Five by Tenn” at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., opposite Patricia Clarkson, Sally Field and Kathleen Chalfant. She also acted in “The Vagina Monologues” at the Canon Theater in Beverly Hills and the world premier of Mark O'Donnell's adaptation of “Private Fittings” (2007) by Georges Feydeau, at the La Jolla Playhouse near San Diego.
Soap Opera Digest: Outstanding Actress in a Leading Role on a Prime Time Serial, “Knots Landing,” 1989
Soap Opera Digest: Outstanding Actress in a Leading Role on a Prime Time Serial, “Knots Landing,” 1986