The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

June Hansen, prize-winning actress, dies at 95

She won a Helen Hayes Award in 2000 for her supporting performance in Tom Stoppard’s ‘Indian Ink’

June Hansen, left, with Catherine Flye in 2000 at the Kennedy Center. (Rebecca D'Angelo for The Washington Post)

June Hansen, an English-born actress who enlivened dozens of Washington-area theatrical productions with her barbed delivery and mischievous presence, died April 28 at her home in Boise, Idaho. She was 95.

The cause was pneumonia, said a son, Jim Hansen.

After performing with British repertory companies in the 1940s and early ’50s, Mrs. Hansen was in South Africa playing the lead in a touring production of George Bernard Shaw’s “Saint Joan” when she met her future husband, Orville Hansen, an American traveling on a fellowship. She accompanied him to his native Idaho, where she raised seven children while he practiced law and rose as a Republican in the state legislature.

They settled in the Washington area in 1969, after he was elected to the first of three terms in Congress, and she soon renewed her theater career. Working frequently at Arena Stage and the Washington Stage Guild, Mrs. Hansen spent three decades playing all manner of British roles, from Henry Higgins’s housekeeper in Shaw’s “Pygmalion” to the grandmotherly eccentric medium Madame Arcati in Noël Coward’s “Blithe Spirit.”

Joe Brown, in his 1989 Washington Post review of the Coward comedy at the Washington Stage Guild, noted her ability to “dither adorably” in such roles.

But Mrs. Hansen showcased a broader range as the frumpish proprietor of an English seaside boardinghouse in Harold Pinter’s “The Birthday Party” at the Studio Theatre in 1986. She twice played the tenacious Winnie, the half-buried heroine of Samuel Beckett’s existential play “Happy Days,” in stagings by the Washington Stage Guild and the Scena Theatre. As a caustic bureaucrat from a preservation trust, she also won plaudits in Peter Shaffer’s “Lettice and Lovage” at the Folger Elizabethan Theatre in 1993.

She was nominated seven times for the Helen Hayes Award, a Washington theater award for excellence, before winning in 2000 for her supporting performance in Tom Stoppard’s “Indian Ink” at the Studio Theatre. She played an acerbic widow who comments on her vivacious late sister’s active love life: “She used them like batteries. When things went flat, she’d put in a new one.”

Washington Post theater critic Lloyd Rose found Mrs. Hansen “simply delicious, hitting her consonants with a resounding whack that knocks the lines over the fence.”

June Duncan was born in Southport, north of Liverpool, on June 29, 1926. Her father was a chartered accountant, and her mother had been a nurse before marrying.

She spent her Washington years in the suburb of Arlington, Va., where she was among the first female lay readers of St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church and helped start a church theater group. She moved back to Idaho in 2014.

Her husband died in 2017. In addition to her son, of Boise, survivors include six other children, Margaret Hansen of Middleton, Idaho; Elizabeth Stripe of Vienna, Va.; Katherine Hansen of McCall, Idaho; John Hansen of Boise; Mary Szymanski of Glen Allen, Va.; and Sara Yun of Gilberts, Ill.; 12 grandchildren; and a great-granddaughter.

As she reflected on a career that would last from age 16 until her retirement at 79, she once told The Post: “My father thought I would grow out of it, but I didn’t, actually.”

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