Ms Ashley’s most recent Broadway appearances include ‘Gore Vidal’s The Best Man’ with James Earl Jones in 2012 and the acclaimed 2015 revival of ‘You Can’t Take It With You’, again with Mr. Jones.
She is currently preparing to co-star in a Broadway production of ‘Night of the Iguana’ in late 2016 while also completing her autobiography.
She made her Broadway debut in 1959 in Dore Shary’s The Highest Tree. Her Broadway credits include August: Osage County, Dividing The Estate, Enchanted April , the 2001 revival of Gore Vidal’s The Best Man, Take Her, She’s Mine opposite Art Carney and directed by George Abbott (Tony and Theatre World Awards). Barefoot in the Park, in which she starred with Robert Redford, was written for her by Neil Simon anddirected by Mike Nichols (second Tony nomination), The Skin of Our Teeth directed by Jose Quintero (opened the American Bi-Centennial at the Kennedy Center & on Broadway) , and Shaw’s Caesar and Cleopatra with Rex Harrison at the Palace Theatre.
Other Broadway credits include Legend, Hide and Seek, and Agnes of God (originated the role of Dr. Livingston opposite Geraldine Page and Amanda Plummer) for which she received the Albert Einstein Award for excellence in the performing arts. Perhaps best known as one of the definitive interpreters of Tennessee Williams’ work, she has starred in many of his plays, including Eight by Tenn (eight of Williams’ one-acts) starring with Amanda Plummer at the Hartford Stage, the 1973 landmark Broadway production of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof directed by Michael Kahn (third Tony nomination and Tennessee Williams Foundation Award), Suddenly Last Summer at Circle in the Square, The Red Devil Battery Sign, and The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore (WPA), Out Cry directed by Michael Wilson and Sweet Bird of Youth, directed by Michael Kahn at Washington’s Shakespeare Theatre (Helen Hayes Award nomination/Millennium Award). She has also appeared in The Glass Menagerie directed by Michael Wilson (Hartford Stage, A.R.T. Boston and Alley Theatre) which won the Boston Globe Critic's Award and most recently she became the first actress to have played Maggie in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and returned 30 years later to play Big Mama in a highly praised production at Hartford Stage.
Off-Broadway she played Isadora Duncan in When She Danced (Playwrights Horizons) , headlined the premier of Horton Foote's Dividing The Estate (Primary Stages) and the New York premiere of Edward Albee’s Me, Myself And I.
National tours and regional work include A.R. Gurney’s The Perfect Party and Giraudoux's The Enchanted (Kennedy Center); Master Class (Royal Alexandria Theatre/Toronto); Regina in The Little Foxes directed by Douglas Hughes at the Shakespeare Theatre, Vanities with Kathy Bates, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf directed by Michael Wilson, A Coupla White Chicks with Sandy Dennis, Full Gallop, and Eleemosynary directed by Burt Reynolds. She also starred in the highly acclaimed production of Mrs Warren's Profession at the Shakespeare Theatre in Washington DC.
Film credits include The Carpetbaggers (debut, 1962), Ship of Fools (Golden Globe nomination), Rancho Deluxe with Jeff Bridges, Marriage of a Young Stockbroker, Golden Needles, 92 In the Shade with Warren Oates, The Great Scout & Cathouse Thursday with Lee Marvin, Coma with Michael Douglas, Paternity with Burt Reynolds, Split Image with James Woods, Dragnet with Tom Hanks, Vampire Kiss with Nicholas Cage, A Man of Passion with Anthony Quinn, Happiness directed by Todd Solondz (Independent Spirit Award), Just the Ticket with Andy Garcia, Stagecoach with Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash, Windows directed by Gordon Willis, The Cake Eaters with Bruce Dern and Kristin Stewart and Broadway: The Golden Age directed by Rick McKay.
Most recently she played Aunt Mimi for three seasons in the HBO series "Treme." Among her other TV credits are A&E's "The Rope" by Eugene O'Neill (Cable ACE Award Nomination - Best Actress), "The Two Mrs. Grenvilles" with Ann-Margret, "Miami Vice," "Svengali" with Peter O'Toole and Jodie Foster, "The War Between the Tates," "When Michael Calls" with Michael Douglas, "Sandburg's Lincoln," "Caroline in the City," "Dave's World," series' regular on "Evening Shade" with Burt Reynolds (Emmy nomination), "The Buccaneers" (PBS), "Law & Order" and "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," "The Larry Sanders Show," "Homicide: Life on the Street" and many appearances on "The Tonight Show" with Johnny Carson.
Miss Ashley was a founding member of the Board of Directors of the American Film Institute while serving on the first National Council of the Arts during the administrations of Presidents Kennedy and Johnson, and also served on the President’s Committee for the Kennedy Center Lifetime Achievement Awards.
She is the author of the best-selling book, Actress: Postcards from the Road (published in 1978). She can be heard on Lou Reed’s 2004 CD, “The Raven.” She hosted Saturday Night Live on February 7th, 1982 and Rolling Stone magazine credits Miss Ashley as originating the phrase, “money is the long hair of the 80’s.” She recently recorded the audio book of John Lahr's (world renowned author & lead drama critic of 'The New Yorker' magazine) definitive biography of Tennessee Williams titled 'TENNESSEE WILLIAMS: MAD PILGRIMAGE OF THE FLESH' published by Norton in fall 2014.