NYWIFT remembers leslie Shreve


Dear NYWIFT Community,

New York Women in Film & Television mourns the loss of beloved member leslie Shreve, who passed away peacefully at home on Easter Sunday after a recurrence of cancer. Friends note she was still a joyous presence even during her last few weeks in hospice care.

The first time I met leslie, she was in the conference room at what used to be the NYWIFT Headquarters on 39th Street. She was looking out the window and smiling. When I greeted her, she said, "You don't know this, but we will be good friends because I love this organization and we have much to do together. I represent different organizations, but today I represent SAG-AFTRA…" and she explained the mission and the merging of the two unions. It was a productive meeting. The second time I saw her I was heading onto the stage at SVA. Her small arm reached out of the stage curtains and handed me a bottle of water. She smiled and said, "You see! You never know when I will pop up." I was startled and laughed. That is the warm and loving person she was. Always smiling and always willing to help.

The NYWIFT team feels her loss very deeply.

Rebecca Damon, leslie Shreve, and Cynthia Lopez at SWAN Day 2019


While "she lit up every room she walked into" might sound like a cliché, there is truly no better way to describe leslie's presence. So many of us knew her for her warmth, huge smile, wit, effervescence, and endless enthusiasm for life and for the arts. At NYWIFT, she was a mainstay at our networking events, a champion of supporting women artists, and a frequent volunteer for the Muse Awards as recently as 2019. At Muse she was affectionately known as Captain leslie, frequently leading our security department to everyone's delight. Despite her small stature, leslie was not to be messed with and she led the security team with humor and grace.

After every event – and even sometimes just out of the blue – leslie never failed to send individual emails to NYWIFT staffers to let them know what a great job they did and how much she loved them and the organization. Her zest for life and deep care for the people around her were one of a kind.

Community was a central part of leslie's life. In addition to being a member of NYWIFT, she was also part of the The Players Club, Women in the Arts & Media Coalition, the Dutch Treat Club, The Rehearsal Club, and the Village Light Opera Group, to name just a few.


Nancy Giles, leslie Shreve, and Rebecca Damon backstage at the 2023 NYWIFT Muse Awards


Yesterday, our friends at The Players offered this insight into leslie's life and career:

"leslie grew up in Erie, Pa., graduating in 1963 from Strong Vincent High School. She earned a bachelor's degree in Fine Arts/Drama from Ithaca College and moved to New York City, where she started her career as an actor and makeup artist.

leslie was also a director, announcer, and energetic activist for theatre artists. She served on the boards of many organizations, including SAG and AFTRA (and the merged guild), where she was the longtime chair of the Women's Committee. She was also on the Episcopal Actors Guild Council and chair of the EAG grants committee; on the steering committee of the St. Luke's/Roosevelt Hospital's Crime Victims Treatment Center; on the Council of The Lambs; and television trustee of Local 798 of IATSE.

As a makeup artist, leslie received a Daytime Emmy for her work on All My Children. Her imaginative costumes at Players events were as much her trademark as the lower-case "l" that started her given name.

In 1974, she became 'Leslie the Shreve' in the sparkling cable TV variety show of the same name. She designed the set, drew the graphics, wrote, and sang the songs, and perhaps most importantly met her future husband, the director Joel Willis, to whom she was married until his death in 2020, after a long battle with Parkinson's disease. Self-described flower children, they built a solar house in Connecticut and enjoyed sailing and scuba diving in the Caribbean."



leslie is survived by her sister, Raleigh Orth; her brother, Dana Shreve; and three nephews and their families. NYWIFT extends its sympathy to her family, friends, and all in our community whose lives she touched – there are so many. We are comforted knowing that she is finally reunited with her beloved Joel.

Memorial contributions are suggested to the Women in the Arts & Media Coalition, of which she was a proud founder, past president, and special advisor. 

A joyous presence even during these last few weeks on hospice, leslie took the time to write her own obituary, which we encourage you to read here.

Her closing message: "So, to you friends… I wish each of you to notice the magic in your life…I send you love."




Cynthia Lopez

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