In Montana, it’s rare for theatergoers to have the opportunity to see an Academy Award-winning actor perform live on stage. And it’s unprecedented to have one premiere their work here.
On Tuesday, Aug. 26, Olympia Dukakis is set to open and perform in “Another Side of the Island,” her adaptation of William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” at the Whitefish Performing Arts Center. The production, which is sponsored by the Alpine Theater Project, will run through Sept. 7.
Long a respected figure of classic and contemporary stage and one of Hollywood’s topnotch character players, Dukakis is renowned for her work across three mediums – theater, film and television. She’s starred in several films, including “Steel Magnolias,” “Mr. Holland’s Opus,” “Jane Austen’s Mafia!,” “Look Who’s Talking” and “Moonstruck,” for which she won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress. Her Broadway theater credits include “Who’s Who in Hell,” “Social Security,” and the one-woman play “Rose.”
The production also stars several other notable actors including Dukakis’ husband, Louis Zorich, and brother, Apollo Dukakis.
“As much as you may see someone on film or television, it’s not the same as watching that actor live,” said David Ackroyd, one of ATP’s three founding artists, who is also acting in the play. “In theater, you are in the same space, at the same time, making the same journey with the actors. To be in the same space and time as Olympia Dukakis, with someone of her talent, is extraordinary.”
Dukakis has been working along with directors Gregory Hoffman and Margo Whitcomb on the adaptation for the past two years, refining the script at different developmental workshops across the country. The original version of “The Tempest” is a comedy and romance that’s generally accepted as the last play written solely by Shakespeare.
“Another Side of the Island” expands the role of women in the play. “The women are more wildly interpreted,” Whitcomb said. “They’re in the main roles and they are fiery and strong characters.”
Prospero, the story’s protagonist and the Duke of Milan, has been reinvented as a female, Prospera, played by Dukakis. Ariel, an airy spirit, and Caliban, Prospero’s deformed slave, will also be played by women, with Caliban being represented as a hermaphrodite.
The high-caliber performance is another, important step for ATP, a nonprofit professional theater company, toward its ambitious goal of building a nationally recognized theater program that draws professionals and shows straight off Broadway.
ATP’s founders Betsi Morrison (Broadway’s Sound of Music), Ackroyd (Broadway’s Children of a Lesser God), and Luke Walrath (Broadway’s 42nd Street) have plenty of connections to call on: It was Dukakis’ work relationship with Ackroyd that drew her to the theater.
“There’s many advantages to doing this in Whitefish,” Dukakis said. “The number one, being away from the gossip and critical eyes of New York. The actors themselves are more relaxed, because they’re away from their everyday lives and efforts to get work and the horrible heat in New York in August.”
Whitcomb said across the board the play’s actors were receptive to the idea of visiting Montana – most for the first time – and since arriving almost three weeks ago to begin rehearsal, they’ve enjoyed the area’s recreation opportunities and hospitality. “Everyone in Whitefish is so nice, you know, after coming from New York,” she joked.
For Dukakis, though, the Montana trip is all business. Her day includes Pilates or yoga and then rehearsal and practicing lines until late evening.
“It’s kind of like the Olympics of Shakespeare,” she said.
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