© 2024 | Jefferson Public Radio
Southern Oregon University
1250 Siskiyou Blvd.
Ashland, OR 97520
541.552.6301 | 800.782.6191
Listen | Discover | Engage a service of Southern Oregon University
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Longtime Shakespeare Favorite Catherine Coulson Dies

Courtesy OSF

Catherine E. Coulson, a stage and screen actor best known for her role as The Log Lady in David Lynch’s legendary Twin Peaks, and who made her artistic home with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival for 22 seasons, passed away early Monday morning in her home after a battle with cancer.

OSF Artistic Director Bill Rauch said, “I am deeply saddened by Catherine’s passing. She was an integral part of this company, not only as an actor, but as a passionate advocate for the arts, for theatre, for OSF and for the community of Ashland. Catherine was in the first play that I directed at OSF, and her welcoming spirit was directly responsible for me falling in love with this company. Artist, artisan, administrator or audience member, you knew that you were part of the Festival once you were welcomed by Catherine. Her generosity of spirit was only matched by her vibrancy as an actor; she shone onstage in her every appearance. We will miss her with all our hearts.”

Coulson was born in Ashland and grew up in Southern California. Her mother, Elizabeth Fellegi, was a ballet dancer and her father worked in the radio and television as a producer and public relations executive. Coulson was trained as a classical actor in theater (BA Scripps College; MFA, San Francisco State University) and worked on the stage before her career in film and television.

In the early 1970s when teaching an acting workshop at the American Film Institute in Los Angeles, she met David Lynch. Lynch cast her in the role of the nurse in his cult classic Eraserhead, and Coulson also served as the special effects technician, assistant director and still photographer.

In 1990 Lynch cast her as The Log Lady in the popular television series Twin Peaks, which brought her international recognition. After the series ended in 1991 she frequently attended the Twin Peaks Fan Festival and other Twin Peaks events where she continued to thrill her devoted fans. 

Her other film and TV credits include Portlandia, Psych, Calvin Marshall, The Secret Life of Houses, Another You, Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me and Redwood Highway.

Coulson’s first season at OSF was in 1994, and she performed in more than 50 productions throughout her 22 seasons with OSF. Among her favorite roles were Clara Stepaneck in The Magic Fire (1997 at OSF, 1998 at the Kennedy Center); Catherine in Robert Schenkkan’s By the Waters of Babylon (2005), a part written for her by the playwright; Mrs. Gottlieb in Dead Man’s Cell Phone (2009); Big Mama in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (2010); Mattie Fae Aiken in August: Osage County (2011); Granny, Giant and Milky White in Into the Woods (2014); and General Matilda B. Cartwright and Ensemble in Guys and Dolls (2015). 

She also worked at the Ensemble Theatre of Santa Barbara, Denver Center, San Jose Repertory Theatre and Mark Taper Forum.