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David Birney

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David Edwin Birney is an American actor/director whose career has performances in both contemporary and classical roles in theatre, film and television. He has three children, a daughter Kate, and twins, Peter and Mollie.


 early life and education
Birney was born in Washington, D.C., the first child of Jeanne (née McGee) and Edwin B. Birney, a special agent for the FBI. He is of Irish, Scots, German and Cherokee descent. The oldest of four boys, he moved to Cleveland when his father was transferred from Washington. He was raised a Roman Catholic.

He attended schools in Brooklyn, Ohio and graduated from West High School in Cleveland. Named to the National Honor Society, he lettered in basketball, football and track.

He holds a B.A. degree from Dartmouth College with "High Distinction" in English Literature, English Honors. A scholarship student at Dartmouth, Birney was a member of Casque and Gauntlet, a senior honor society, Green Key, the Sophomore Orientation Committee, Sigma Nu, and served on the Directorate of the Players. He was awarded a Dartmouth Fellowship for graduate study.

At UCLA, Birney earned an M. A. in Theatre Arts, acting and directing, studying with Ralph Freud and William Melnitz. He held a Teaching Assistant Fellowship. He was honored with a Ph.D in Humanities from Southern Utah State University.

During the Vietnam War, Birney was drafted into the U.S. Army and received basic combat training in Fort Ord, California. He was transferred to the Second U.S. Army Command at Fort Meade, Maryland, assigned to the 2nd US Army Showmobile, an entertainment unit. As both a director and a performer, he completed several tours with the performing group touring the Eastern, Southern and Midwestern United States. He received an Honorable Discharge and the rank of Specialist Four.

 Work in theatre
While in the Army, Birney won an All Army Entertainment contest and received the Barter Theatre Award, an Equity contract with the Company for an entire season. He spent the next season with the Barter Theatre, the State Theatre of Virginia, starring or appearing in fifteen shows, directing two others. In the following two years he went on to perform with a range of companies and productions, Off Broadway and in several regional repertory theatres. His New York debut was with Joe Papp’s New York Shakespeare Festival as Antipholus of Syracuse in Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors.

Birney has worked continually in the theatre performing leading roles with some of the most important theatres in the country. His stage credits include starring roles on Broadway in Amadeus, Benefactors, and Man and Superman, and major roles at the American Shakespeare Festival, New York's Lincoln Center Repertory Theatre, the New York Shakespeare Festival, Los Angeles' Mark Taper Forum, Washington, D.C.'s Shakespeare Theatre, Princeton’s McCarter Theatre, the Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival and numerous regional theatres around the country.

Representative roles include: Prince Hamlet, Macbeth, Romeo and Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet, Richard II, Richard III, Benedick in Much Ado About Nothing, Shylock in Merchant of Venice, Orsino in Twelfth Night, Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird, Jack Tanner in Man and Superman, Christy Mahon in The Playboy of the Western World, Young Man in Summertree, Cusins in Major Barbara, Jerry in The Zoo Story, Algernon in The Importance of Being Earnest, Arthur in Camelot, Higgins in My Fair Lady, Matt Friedman in Talley's Folly, David in Social Security, Andrew in Love Letters, Jamie in Moon for the Misbegotten, Victor in The Price, Jaques in As You Like It, the Dauphin in King John, and Shaw in Dear Liar.

He has recorded numerous audiobook bestsellers, including works by Dean Koontz, Paul Theroux, Annie Dillard, Thomas Kenneally, Robert Hellenga and Orson Scott Card. His reading of Julie Salomon’s The Christmas Tree was honored with the prestigious Audie Award, and he has also been the recipient of several AudioFile Magazine Earphone Awards. He also played Anakin Skywalker in the radio adaption of Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi.

Birney appeared frequently on television, building a career in movies, series and miniseries for television. He has starred in such series as Live Shot, St. Elsewhere, The Adams Chronicles, Glitter, Serpico and Bridget Loves Bernie. Miniseries credits include starring roles in: Testimony of Two Men, The Bible, Valley of the Dolls, Night of the Fox, Master of the Game and Seal Morning. He has also appeared in leading roles in many television films, among them Love and Betrayal, Long Journey Home, The Five of Me, Ohms, The Deadly Game, and High Midnight. He was also in the soap Love Is A Many Splendored Thing with Donna Mills and Leslie Charleson.

 Writing and directing
Birney has edited and adapted for the stage a two-character play based on some of Mark Twain’s shorter works and letters. The piece, Mark Twain's The Diaries of Adam and Eve, was presented on the PBS series American Playhouse. Developing the play subsequently for the stage, he has directed and starred in productions for regional theatres such as the Hartford Stage Company , the Barter Theatre, the Capital Repertory Theatre, City Stage, and on tour in performing arts centers across the country.

A second play, A Christmas Pudding, a Christmas Collage of song, story and poetry of the season has been published by the dramatist publisher, Samuel French Inc. A Christmas Pudding has been produced annually during the holiday season for over a decade by Birney in Los Angeles as a benefit for the homeless and abused children.

 Professional associations
Birney has served on the Large Theatre Panel of the National Endowment for the Arts and is a current board member of the Foundation for Bio-Medical Research.

He has also served on the Theatre and Dance Panel of the Jacob Javits Fellowship Foundation. For Dartmouth College he has served as a member of the Board of Overseers for the Hopkins Center for the Performing Arts. He initiated and chaired the Class of ’61 Legacy: The American Tradition in Performance, helping to create a substantial endowment dedicated to live performance at the Hopkins Center at Dartmouth College.

For five years, Birney co-chaired the American Diabetes Association, speaking and fund raising for the Association. He is an advisor for the Children’s Rights Council, a national nonprofit advocating access to both parents after divorce or separation, and has been a frequent spokesman for children’s literacy, health and welfare issues.

His contribution to classical theatre has been recognized with Washington's Shakespeare Theatre's Millennium Award.

 personal life
Birney married Meredith Baxter in 1974 . They have three children: Kate , and twins Peter and Mollie . Birney and Baxter divorced in 1989. In 2011, Baxter said Birney had repeatedly psychologically and physically abused her during their marriage, allegations Birney has denied.

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Whole or part of the information contained in this card come from the Wikipedia article "David Birney", licensed under CC-BY-SA full list of contributors here.