Olympia Dukakis gives a glimpse of the acting life

Oscar winner to lecture on theater life during trip to Juneau

Posted: Thursday, July 18, 2002

On July 25, Juneau residents will have a chance to go inside the actor's studio with Academy-Award winning actress Olympia Dukakis.

Dukakis will give a lecture, "A Life in the Theater," at 6:30 p.m. next Thursday at the 20th Century Twin Theatre downtown. Following the lecture, Perseverance Theatre Artistic Director Peter DuBois will interview Dukakis and moderate a question-and-answer session with the audience.

"I think this may be a first for us, and we're just really honored that she's coming and that she recognizes the contribution of regional theaters," said Patricia Hull, community relations director for Perseverance.

An acclaimed film, television and stage actress, producer, teacher and director, Dukakis won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1988 for her role as Cher's Italian mother in "Moonstruck." It's one of many acting awards she's picked up in a career that began more than 40 years ago.

Her trip to Alaska - which includes stops in Juneau and Anchorage - happened "very serendipitously," Dukakis said. On an airplane flight, she found herself sitting beside Ann Secrest, associate state director for the Anchorage branch of the AARP, a national support organization for people over age 50.

"We started to talk, and I was telling her what I was doing," said Dukakis, who is an active member of the organization. "I had some kind of an appearance, plus I was doing a play ... I told her, I run around the country and I do appearances, and she said, 'We'd love for you to come to Alaska.' "

Secrest said she'd call, Dukakis said, and "Indeed, she did. And there we were, and before I knew it, it was my first trip to Alaska."

In Anchorage, Dukakis will speak on "The Richness of Life After 50," Secrest said. She's looking forward to the event.

"She was a very recognizable name to me, and now she's become a very special person," Secrest said. "I think the world of her. ... This is a woman who's blossomed."

Dukakis arrives in Juneau on July 24; that evening, she'll attend a private benefit dinner at a local home. Tickets for the catered meal are $250, and attendance is limited to between 12 and 16 people.

"It's going to be a gourmet meal, a really delightful meal with lots of local seafood and lots of special, just incredible creations," Hull said. "So in addition to having a fabulous dinner companion, you'll also be dining on some of Juneau's finest."

The lecture and question-and-answer session will take place the next night. She's given similar lectures around the country, Dukakis said. She finds many people are unfamiliar with much of her theatrical work - and indeed, much of her film work as well.

"They're familiar with the movies - actually, only the movies I've done since 1988," Dukakis said with a laugh. "They have no idea what my stage work is like."

That work includes a workshop in Washington, D.C., with former Juneau resident and Perseverance Director Molly Smith. They're hoping to work on a play together during the next theatrical season, Dukakis said.

Other upcoming projects include a second series of performances of "For the Pleasure of Seeing Her Again," a two-person play Dukakis premiered with San Francisco's American Conservatory Theater in May.

"It's based on real characters, the author and his mother," Dukakis said. "The title comes from his desire to see his mother, to hear her voice again, to enjoy her humor and her spirit again, and also to send her off with a different kind of death than she had, which was evidently very painful and difficult."

The depiction of a mother-son relationship is unusual, Dukakis added.

"It's startling that it's actually a positive view of a mother and a son," she said. "Most plays are mothers and daughters. We do a lot of those, and this was a mother and son, which was very engaging."

Tickets to Dukakis' lecture and discussion are $17 in advance and $20 at the door, with proceeds benefiting Perseverance and the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council. They can be purchased at Hearthside Books, the JAHC and Perseverance offices, and online at www.perseverancetheatre.org, where they are listed under "tickets."

After the lecture, a reception will take place at the Goldbelt Hotel. Audience members can get in free by showing their tickets; other parties can pay $20 at the door.

To purchase tickets for the private benefit dinner, contact Perseverance or JAHC.

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