Laurie Carlos

Laurie Carlos was an actor, director, dancer, playwright, and poet in the United States. An extraordinary artist and visionary with powerful ways of bringing the art out in others. 

“Laurie walked in the room (any room/every room) with swirling clairvoyance, artistic genius, embodied rigor, fierce realness—and a determination to be free...and to free others. A Magic Maker. A Seer. A Shape Shifter. Laurie told me once that she went inside people’s bodies to find what they needed.” - Sharon Bridgforth 

She combined performance styles such as rhythmic gestures and text. Laurie mentored new actors, performers, writers and helped amplify their work through Naked Stages, a fellowship for emerging artists. She was an artistic fellow at Penumbra Theater and supported with identifying scripts to produce, with a goal of “bringing more feminine voices into the theater”. Laurie was also a member of Urban Bush Women, a renowned contemporary dance company telling stories of women of the African diaspora.

In 1976, as Lady in Blue, she made her Broadway debut in Ntozake Shange’s original and award-winning production of the poetic drama For colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf. Laurie’s own works include White Chocolate, The Cooking Show, and Organdy Falsetto

“I tell the stories in the movement—the inside dances that occur spontaneously, as in life—the music and the text. If I write a line, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a line that is spoken; it can be a line that’s moved. A line from which music is created. The gesture becomes the sentence. So much of who we are as women, as people, has to do with how we gesture to one another all the time, and particularly through emotional moments. Gesture becomes a sentence or a state of fact. If I put on a script ‘four gestures,’ that doesn’t mean I’m not saying anything; that means I have opened it up for something to be said physically.” Laurie Carlos

Laurie was born and grew up in New York City, worked and lived in Twin Cities. She passed away on 29 December 2016, at the age of 67, after a battle with colon cancer.


“I believe that that was exactly Laurie’s intention. To save us. From mediocrity. From ego. From laziness. From half-realized art making. From being paralyzed by fear.
Laurie wanted to help us Shine fully.
In our artistry.
In our Lives.” - Sharon Bridgforth for Pillsbury House Theatre

“There’s no one that knew Laurie that wouldn’t call her a singular individual. She was her own person. She was her own person, her own artist; she put the world as she knew it on stage with real style and understanding, and she lived her art.” - Lou Bellamy, Founder of Penumbra Theater Company, for Star Tribune 

Read a full Tribute by Sharon Bridgforth