YEREVAN/MARIPOSA, Calif. — Actor, director, playwright and musician Les Marsden was born on February 26, 1957, in Fresno. He began piano lessons at age 4 and was an accredited piano teacher by age 11 and composed his first symphony at 13. As a teen, he played principal trumpet in several ensembles including the California Honor Orchestra and the Fresno Junior Philharmonic (FJP) and under Maestro Guy Taylor’s tutelage, he conducted the FJP in performances of his own works. As a teen he acted in local theatre; upon entering college (CSU Fresno) Marsden settled on a theatre career.
As a college student he wrote, produced and starred in his one-man show, “A Night at Harpo’s,” with the cooperation of Harpo Marx’s, widow, Susan, and their children. Well acquainted with the elderly Groucho Marx, he performed as that Marx Brother for years in various theatrical presentations. Groucho’s son Arthur Marx wrote the play “Groucho: A Life in Revue” and in it created the dual role of Harpo and Chico Marx specifically for Marsden who in addition to playing both brothers in and out of their well-known film personae also stunned audiences by actually playing lengthy piano and harp solos in each brother’s distinctive style.
The show had successful runs in New York and London; Marsden was nominated in the U.K. for London’s prestigious Laurence Olivier Award for “Comedy Performance of the Year” — the equivalent of Broadway’s Tony Awards. He also received the London Critics Award and many others for his work on the London stage.
Marsden was seen nationally and internationally in innumerable dramas, comedies and musicals, with countless appearances on film, TV and in commercials. While starring in a play at the famed Arena Stage in Washington, DC in 1999, Marsden had an onstage accident which resulted in a career-ending permanent injury to his left leg. Disabled, he retired at age 42. With no further need to maintain an East Coast professional base, Marsden, his wife Diane and son Maxfield moved back to their native California to live near their beloved Yosemite National Park.
In 2001 he established the Mariposa Symphony Orchestra, offering his Acting in Mariposa (AIM) program.
Dear Les, I have read about you in the 4th volume of Contemporary Television and Film Actors anthology at Yerevan Public Library when I was a student. I was impressed by your theater and TV roles and comical face. At that pre-Internet epoch it was unimaginable that one day I could see your videos and make an interview with you, so I am very glad to introduce you to Armenian readers…