Ms. Manahan was 84. For playing the brutish, hateful, selfish mother who thwarts her spinster daughter's chance at happiness, in Martin McDonagh's first play, Beauty Queen, she won a 1998 Tony as Best Featured Actress. It was a happy night for the septuagenarian actress; the late-career award also gave hope to older actresses everywhere. Ms. Manahan, recently, was an advocate for the rights of elderly people and was involved with the group Active Retirement Ireland.
Ms. Manahan was also Tony nominated as Best Featured Actress in a Play for her work in the 1968 Broadway production of Brian Friel's Lovers.
In 2002, Off-Broadway, she appeared The Machine Theatre Company production of John B. Keane's two-actor play The Matchmaker, presented by The Irish Repertory Theatre.
In 2006, she appeared Off-Broadway again in Declan Hassett's Sisters, a new solo-actress play written specifically for Ms. Manahan (she played two sisters).
Black-haired and dark-eyed Ms. Manahan, one of Ireland's leading actresses, had been with Beauty Queen since its first developmental stages, from its start as a presentation of the Garry Hynes-founded Druid Theatre Company at Town Hall, Galway City, to a first run at London's Royal Court, an Irish tour, a Dublin booking, an Australian tour, a second run at the Royal Court, then Off-Broadway followed by Broadway. "I've been in every performance," Manahan told Playbill in 1998. She added wryly, "Every time I tried to get out, I was blackmailed into staying. They threatened to kill me. This is a wonderful character to play and all that, but sometimes one wishes for something else. The greatest sadness for me is I'm unable to get home. …And though it's been exciting to be in on the birth of a play like this, you still have to equate it with film and telly, which are shorter and pay more money, enable you to put your feet up and smell the roses."
A widow "since I was very young" — her husband Colm O'Kelly, stage manager at Dublin's Gate Theatre, died of polio, in Egypt, at age 27 — she had been acting all her life ("Never known anything else").
Among her celebrated performances were Big Rachel in the original Royal Court production of John Arden's Live Like Pigs, and Bessie Burgess in a National Theatre production of Sean O'Casey's The Plough and the Stars, for which the London Evening Standard hailed her as Most Promising Newcomer.
John B. Keane's Big Maggie was another stage project written for her.
Ms. Manahan was born in County Waterford and studied at the Gaiety Theatre in Dublin. She worked with famous Irish theatre figures, including Michael MacLiammoir and Hilton Edwards at The Gate. She has many film and TV credits ("The Riordans," "The Irish RM" and "Fair City").
Ms. Manahan never remarried. She had reportedly been living with her brothers in County Waterford.
Her stage credits include Bloomsday, Entertaining Mr. Sloane, The Killing of Sister George, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Gingerbread Lady, Michael Scott's Red Riding Hood, A Skull in Connemara, The Loves of Cass Maguire, I Do Not Like Thee Dr. Fell, The Crucible, An Old Lady's Guide to Survival, Happy Birthday Dear Alice, The Guernica Hotel (world premiere), A Miracle in Ballymore, The Shaughraun and more.
Ireland's Minister for Arts, Sports and Tourism Martin Cullen said in a statement, "When people talk about great influential Irish actresses they talk of Anna Manahan. That is a testament to her talent. The way she shared her talent and creative spirit with others was one of her greatest gifts to all of us during the course of her life."
(Jerry Tallmer's reporting contributed to this story.)