John Lithgow Headlines Long Wharf Theatre's 2014 Gala Tonight
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"We are delighted to feature inarguably one of the greatest actors working on stage and screen today at our Gala," said Artistic Director Gordon Edelstein. "John Lithgow got his start at Long Wharf Theatre and we are so happy that he is able to return home."
For one very special evening, Long Wharf Theatre is proud to present the extraordinary John Lithgow in his one-man theatrical memoir, Stories by Heart. Following his triumphant appearances at New York's Lincoln Center and London's National Theatre, the Tony® and Emmy® and Golden Globe® Award winning actor offers a touching and humorous reflection on storytelling as the tie that binds humanity. Invoking memories of his grandmother and father before him, Mr. Lithgow traces his roots as an actor and storyteller, interspersing his own story with a great story read to him and his siblings when they were children - "Uncle Fred Flits By" by P.G. Wodehouse. In the Wodehouse tale, a fretful young Englishman is taken on a wild afternoon's escapade in suburban London by his irrepressible uncle. In a hilarious tour de force, Lithgow performs with zany abandon, portraying ten distinct, outrageous characters (including a parrot). Stories by Heart provides ample evidence of the power of storytelling, the magic of theatre, and the talents of one of our greatest actors.
John Lithgow's roots are in the theater. In 1973, he won a Tony Award three weeks after his Broadway debut, in David Storey's "The Changing Room," which received its world premiere at Long Wharf Theatre. "It felt like home. I was perfectly prepared to work there for the rest of my life," Lithgow wrote about Long Wharf Theatre in his recent memoir.
Since then, he has appeared on Broadway twenty more times, earning another Tony, four more Tony nominations, four Drama Desk Awards, and induction into the Theatre Hall of Fame. Ensuing stage performances have included major roles in "My Fat Friend," "Trelawney of the "Wells,"" "Comedians," "Anna Christie," "Bedroom Farce," "Beyond Therapy," "M. Butterfly," "The Front Page," "Retreat from Moscow," "All My Sons," the Off-Broadway premieres of "Mrs. Farnsworth" and "Mr. and Mrs. Fitch," and the musicals "Sweet Smell of Success" (his second Tony), and "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels." In 2007 he was one of the very few American actors ever invited to join The Royal Shakespeare Company, playing Malvolio in "Twelfth Night" at Stratford-upon-Avon. In 2008 he devised his own one-man show "Stories by Heart" for The Lincoln Center Theater Company, and has been touring it around the country ever since, including a triumphant six-week run at The Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles. He can currently be seen on Broadway in David Auburn's new drama "The Columnist" in which Lithgow portrays famed Washington political columnist Joseph Alsop, a performance which has earned Lithgow his sixth Tony nomination.
In the early 1980's Lithgow began to make a major mark in films. At that time, he was nominated for Oscars in back-to-back years, for "The World According to Garp" and "Terms of Endearment." In the years before and after, he has appeared in over thirty films. Notable among them have been "All That Jazz," "Blow Out," "Twilight Zone: the Movie," "Footloose," "2010," "Buckaroo Banzai," "Harry and the Hendersons," "Memphis Belle," "Raising Cain," "Ricochet," "Cliffhanger," "Orange County," "Shrek," "Kinsey," and a flashy cameo in "Dreamgirls." Lithgow was most recently seen on the big screen in "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," Fox's prequel to "Planet of the Apes," andand, most currently, the political comedy 'The Campaign' starring Will Ferrell, and Judd Apatow's "This is 40".
For his work on television, Lithgow has been nominated for eleven Emmy Awards. He has won five of them, one for an episode of "Amazing Stories," and three for what is perhaps his most celebrated creation. This was the loopy character of the alien High Commander, Dick Solomon, on the hit NBC comedy series "3rd Rock from the Sun." In that show's six-year run, Lithgow also won the Golden Globe, two SAG Awards, The American Comedy Award, and, when it finally went off the air, a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. More recently, his diabolical turn as The Trinity Killer in a twelve-episode arc on Showtime's "Dexter" won him his second Golden Globe and his fifth Emmy.
His other major appearances on television have included roles in "The Day After," "Resting Place," "Baby Girl Scott," "My Brother's Keeper," TNT's "Don Quixote," HBO's "The Life and Death of Peter Sellers," and most recently "How I Met Your Mother," making a long-awaited entrance as the father of Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris).
And then there is Lithgow's work for children. Since 1998 he has written eight NY Times best-selling children's picture books, including "The Remarkable Farkle McBride," "Marsupial Sue," "Micawber," "I'm a Manatee," "Mahalia Mouse Goes to College," and "I Got Two Dogs." In addition, he has created two "Lithgow Palooza" family activity books and "The Poets' Corner" for Warner Books, a compilation of fifty classic poems aimed at young people, to stir an early interest in poetry. He has performed concerts for children with the Chicago, Pittsburgh, Detroit, Baltimore, and San Diego Symphonies, and at Carnegie Hall with the Orchestra of St. Luke's. He has released three kids' albums, "Singin' in the Bathtub," "Farkle & Friends," and the Grammy-nominated "The Sunny Side of the Street." These concerts and albums have included several his of own songs and rhyming narrations. Together, this prodigious work has won him two Parents' Choice Silver Honor Awards, and four Grammy nominations.
Lithgow has even dipped his toe into the world of dance. In 2003, the noted choreographer Christopher Wheeldon invited him to collaborate on a new piece for the New York City Ballet. The result was "Carnival of the Animals," a ballet for fifty dancers, with music by Camille Saint-Saens and with Lithgow's verse narration. Lithgow himself spoke the narration from the stage. At a certain point he ducked into the wings, climbed into costume, and re-emerged to dance the role of The Elephant. He has performed this feat over twenty times.
In September HarperCollins released Lithgow's memoir, "Drama: An Actor's Education." The book presents scenes of his early life and career that took place before he became a nationally-known star. It vividly portrays the worlds of New York, London, and American regional theater, and relives his collaborations with renowned performers and directors including Mike Nichols, Bob Fosse, Liv Ullmann, Meryl Streep, and Brian De Palma. Lithgow's ruminations on the nature of theatre, performance, and storytelling cut to the heart of why actors are driven to perform, and why people are driven to watch them do it.
John Lithgow was born in Rochester, New York, but grew up in Ohio, graduated from high school in Princeton, New Jersey, attended Harvard College, and used a Fulbright Grant to study at the London Academy of Music & Dramatic Art. This year Lithgow was honored as a Fulbright Lifetime Achievement Medal recipient and was inducted into The American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2005 he was presented with an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters by Harvard and became the first actor in Harvard's history to deliver the school's Commencement Address.
Lithgow has three grown children, two grandchildren, and lives in Los Angeles and New York. He has been married for thirty years to Mary Yeager, a Professor of Economic and Business History at UCLA.
Photo Credit: Joan Marcus