Martin received a Tony Award nomination for her performance in the original production of Archibald MacLeish's J.B. Among her other Broadway credits are The Eccentricities of a Nightingale, Summer Brave, Under the Yum Yum Tree, and The Great God Brown. Additional theater work includes numerous performances with the New York Shakespeare Festival, playing such roles as Portia opposite George C. Scott and the premiere of The Slave by Leroi Jones (Amiri Baraka).
Martin's more recent stage work includes her Dramalogue and Helen Hayes Award-winning performance in The Road to Mecca, Buried Child, Aunt Dan and Lemon, and her Joseph Jefferson Award-winning performance in Three Tall Women.
On television, she appeared in such iconic series as The Twilight Zone, The Fugitive, The Defenders, and The Untouchables, as well as more recent shows such as The Drew Carey Show, on which she played Mrs. Louder, Gideon's Crossing,The Practice, E.R., Chicago Hope, and Golden Girls.
Martin's film credits include Toys in the Attic, For the Love of Ivy, The Other Side of the Mountain (Parts 1 and 2), Dr. Detroit, Some Kind of Hero, Nightmare on Elm Street (Part Three, in which she was Freddie Krueger's mother), and Castaway.
In addition to her acting work, Martin served as chairperson of the theater committee for the Department of State for Cultural Exchange and was appointed by President Kennedy to the Arts Advisory Committee. She also taught acting at Will Geer's Theatricum Botanicum and at El Cerritos College and participated in the AFI Program for Women Directors, directing two short films.
She is survived by husband, architect Harry Gesner, and sons, musician and writer Casey Dolan (by her first marriage) and actor/producer Zen Gesner.