We should have known to expect greatness from Jane Fonda from the very beginning. After all, her career started with a Tony nomination and a Theatre World Award.
Fonda, who just earned her fifth Emmy nomination for the hit Netflix series Grace and Frankie (her first for the series), made her Broadway debut at age 23 in 1960’s There Was a Little Girl. Her theatrical coming out earned her a Tony nomination for Featured Actress in a Play, and after that short engagement, she bowed in Invitation to a March in the fall of that same year.
Theatre managed to hold onto Fonda for two more plays—The Fun Couple in 1962 and Strange Interlude in 1963—before Hollywood snatched her away entirely. Fonda made her film debut the same year as her first stint on Broadway and went on to make such films as Period of Adjustment, Cat Ballou, Barefoot in the Park, Barbarella, and They Shoot Horses, Don’t They (for which she received her first Oscar nomination). A proven star, Fonda won two Oscars—for Klute and Coming Home—and received additional nominations for Julia, The China Syndrome, On Golden Pond, and The Morning After.
In 1982, Fonda added fitness guru to her résumé with her best-selling line of aerobics videos. She continued to appear in film until 1990, when she took an extended break that did not end until her starring turn in the 2005 comedy Monster-in-Law.
Just as Hollywood wooed her back, Fonda returned to Broadway 45 years after her Tony-nominated debut in 33 Variations in 2009. She earned Drama Desk and Tony nominations for her performance in the Moisés Kaufman play about musicologist Katherine Brandt who tries to determine the root of Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations, a series of 33 variations on a waltz. In addition to Fonda’s nominations, the play won a Tony for Derek McLane’s scenic design and nominations for Best Play, Featured Actor in a Play to Zach Grenier, and Lighting Designer of a Play to David Lander.
33 Variations, with Fonda, Reaches Broadway
Since 33 Variations, Fonda has been absent from the stage, but not from theatre. She blogged about her experience returning to Broadway in 2009, and theatre continued to be a part of her writing, sharing her experiences at musicals like The Book of Mormon and plays like God of Carnage.
Still a frequent theatregoer, Fonda attended a performance of Dear Evan Hansen with her Grace and Frankie co-star Lily Tomlin and entered a bidding war during the auction to benefit Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS during their spring fundraising season. The two pushed the price of Ben Platt’s arm cast to $2,000. In the end, both ladies donated $2,000 each and walked away with their prize.
Tune in to the 69th Annual Emmy Awards September 17 on CBS.