Weight: 118 lb.
Hair Color: Pandemic gray
Eye Color: Hazel
Shaw’s heritage is thick with steel workers and preachers, but has only one one link to the theater, Sir Henry Irving, who in response to his wife’s question, “Are you going to be fool enough to do this for your entire life?” walked out the door never to return. Courage. Faith. Destiny.
Perhaps it was that drop of DNA that prodded Shaw, after graduating with a Masters in Education from University of Pittsburgh, studying child drama at the University of London and spending a glorious exchange year in Switzerland, to leave her teaching career in Pittsburgh for New York City.
Arriving at the YWCA in the middle of a jubilant Gay Pride Parade, she knew she was on track. Joy abounded. Life sped up. She quickly found a place in commercials and Uta Hagen’s class. Off Broadway came next: “You Can’t Take it with You” performed in a restaurant after hours to the American Place Theater’s premiere of “Death of a Miner'' followed. While summers were spent upstate in the famous creative beehive, Lexington Conservatory Theater founded by a with a cadre of Uta’s most wonderful students.
An Off Broadway play called “Never Say Die” introduced her to her husband, Bill Smitrovich. They married in 1985. As his career leaned toward California, they left New York and soon became a California family of four. As Bill’s career blossomed in TV, Shaw’s work was needed at home.
Now, over thirty years later, still married and still in California, they live in Los Angeles in a multi-generational household. Here, Shaw revives her latent career.
Since returning to the theater five years ago, Shaw has cultivated her spot in Los Angeles. She has appeared at the Blank Theater, Sierra Madre, LA Fringe, and the Actors Theater. Of her latest on stage performance playing the mother of a grown family in Last Swallows: Purnell underscores every nuance with her strong and commanding presence — even when her character is struck weak by various obstacles, both physical and mental. Elizabeth’s desperation to bring her family together is striking, and grounds the plot with convincing emotional stakes. Purnell also brings humor to Elizabeth through her occasional naiveties and frequent fixations — the same fixations that bring deep sadness at other moments of the play. Because we care about this character, we care about the family as a whole.
It is with humble gratitude that she embraces the roles of her age: Matriarch, Crone, Queen.
The Barn Theater at LCT