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Carolyn Coates, 77, noted stage actress

BRANFORD, Conn. -- Carolyn Coates, a stage actress known for her portrayal of strong women such as Madam Irma in ''The Balcony" and Hecuba in ''The Trojan Women," died Monday of cancer, said her husband, actor James Noble. She was 77.

Ms. Coates performed in ''The Balcony" and ''The Trojan Women" at The Circle in the Square in New York. She was also known for her roles in ''Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf," ''The Seagull," and ''The Cherry Orchard."

She met Noble, who played Governor Gatling on the TV show ''Benson," in 1951 in Worcester, Mass., while playing Eliza Doolittle in ''Pygmalion." In 1986, she began a nine-year sabbatical to volunteer in hospitals and on hot lines for AIDS Project Los Angeles and the Gay Men's Health Crisis in New York.

The funeral is scheduled for today in St. Matthew's Church in Norwalk.

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