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Raúl Juliá: 1940-1994: Actor, Humanitarian

Career Ranged From Shakespeare To Soaps

In 1967 Juliá became involved with the New York Shakespeare Festival (NYSF), a group that produced free summer performances in Central Park, and Joseph Papp, NYSF's powerful producer and director, noticed the actor's great potential. Juliá's first production with NYSF was Titus Andronicus, in which he portrayed Demitrius, a murderer who is himself murdered, baked into a pie, and served to his mother. Juliá married his childhood sweetheart from Puerto Rico, Magda Vasallo, in 1965. The two survived some of Juliá's most trying years as an actor, but were divorced in 1969.

Juliá made his Broadway debut in September of 1968 as the servant Chan in The Cuban Thing, which closed after only one performance. He was then noticed by theater critics in Indians, in a triple role as a Mexican Indian, a German actor, and a Russian grand duke. A part he performed in The Castro Complex was praised by some critics as the only worthwhile aspect of the production. Though Juliá always made an effort to resist being typecast in Hispanic roles, he refused to change his name to something that sounded less ethnic. His diverse body of work, however, is proof that Juliá managed to avoid typecasting.

Juliá became a mainstream hit in 1970 during his turn on the TV soap opera Love of Life, an experience he considered "the very pit of my life," as noted in Raúl Juliá: Actor and Humanitarian. He had a more rewarding experience during a run as Rafael the Fixit Man on Sesame Street. He also took small film roles in The Organization, Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me, and The Panic in Needle Park. His return to the stage in the Shakespearean comedy Two Gentlemen of Verona garnered Juliá his first Tony award nomination. Juliá was passionate about Shakespeare, and during the course of his career would act in more than a dozen of the Bard's plays, including King Lear and As You Like It. He received a second Tony nomination for his 1974 portrayal of Charley Wykeham, a student who impersonates his aunt, in Where's Charley?

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Brief BiographiesBiographies: Dan Jacobson Biography - Dan Jacobson comments: to Barbara Knutson (1959–2005) Biography - PersonalRaúl Juliá: 1940-1994: Actor, Humanitarian Biography - Fell In Love With Acting Early, Career Ranged From Shakespeare To Soaps, Theater Career Gave Way To Movies