June 29, 2015

The Theatre Part I

The Westport Country Playhouse where Uncle L began his career in Theatre while in junior high school.

My children's book series is getting close to launch as the illustrator has only to add colouration to the completed sketches and then we're off!

A couple of sketched pages now undergoing colouration. We hope to have Book 1 out by mid-September.


As I have mentioned previously, our book series will have a philanthropic component part of whose mission will be to support The Arts and in particular, Theatre, which has been fighting an uphill battle.

Don't Go Gentle cast
Norm Woodel (Judge Lawrence Driver), Benjamin Sprunger (Ben), Andrew Muwonge (Rasheed), Echaka Agba (Tanya) and Robyn Coffin (Amelia) in the Haven Theatre Company's "Don’t Go Gentle."
(Dean La Prairie photo from The Chicago Tribune)

Saturday night I attended a fine production of Don't Go Gentle. It bothered me that a Saturday night production wasn't sold out. Chicago has a fine international reputation as a Theatre Town yet far too often I attend excellent productions with empty seats. The Den will be doing something about this and I feel especially compelled to do so on account of my Uncle L's wonderful legacy in the field of Dramatic Arts.

Uncle L has a thunderous laugh and tells a story better than anybody I've ever heard.


My Uncle L had a very fine career in Theatre, Television (winning two Emmys), and Movies having been President of American Playhouse until it had to close due to lack of funding.  They brought high quality theatrical productions to Public Television and relied on public funding and foundation grants as a non-profit entity.  Back then, it carried a lot of prestige for actors to be in an American Playhouse production and Uncle L had a reputation for being very persuasive at convincing big name movie stars to work for scale.

From left: Auntie J, Uncle L, Uncle S (behind), Grandfather 'Pete', FRL, and Mum with Pete holding 'Bambi'.
August 1961.
 A tale Uncle L tells to perfection was as the long suffering uncoordinated youngest brother
of accomplished athletes and son to a Nixon Republican who remarked his Theatre pursuits were for 'sissies'.
Vindication came one day during the mid 1970s in Los Angeles when Pete, in town on business, was taking his youngest son to lunch. Uncle L said he was bringing a 'friend'. That 'friend' turned out to be Faye Dunaway whose career was then at its apex.

After American Playhouse had to close, Uncle L went to Hollywood and became President of Fox Searchlight Pictures. His tenure at Fox Searchlight was a successful one culminating in Best Picture Oscar nominee The Full Monty. Uncle L had by then tired of life in Hollywood where he never felt he fit in and longed to return to the East Coast so convinced the higher ups at Fox to let him leave Fox Searchlight and produce The Full Monty as a musical on Broadway. It was a critical and commercial success and would have been spectacularly so had it not been for the box office phenomenon The Producers starring Matthew Broderick and Nathan Lane that swept all the Tonys and box office sizzle that year leaving everything else in its wake.

Guess Who Uncle L's Bringing to Lunch. This is the little gal Uncle L surprised his father Pete with. In an instant,
Uncle L went from the black sheep to Family Star as the boys at the Club and on the Metro North Bar Car got to hear
about Pete getting fresh with 'Bonnie'.


Uncle L is retired now after several years of lecturing at Yale but still in excellent health and living a quiet life in beautiful Northwestern Connecticut.

Post performance cocktail at The Red Lion.


I'll be hatching a plan to lure him out of genteel seclusion.

15 comments:

  1. Such a great post. I love that Uncle L brought Faye to lunch. I mean, yowza! Take that, everybody! I'm very excited about your children's book. Let me know if you will be in Manhattan during any part of this process so we can meet for a glass of champagne to toast your success! xx

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    1. I will definitely take you up on that Jill.

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  2. Hello GSL,

    You must be thrilled that your book is almost at lift off point. Interested to hear about your plan for Uncle L. Could it possibly have something to do with the half-filled house on Saturday evening?

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  3. Uncle L sounds amazing! And well done about the book? Will it be available to order online?

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    1. Wendy, Uncle L is quite a character although likes his solitude.
      I'll be peddling those books online, offline, at toll booths, lemonade stands, and out of the trunk of my car.
      I'll have every soccer mom in North America buying with both hands by Xmas.

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    2. Wendy, Uncle L is quite a character although likes his solitude.
      I'll be peddling those books online, offline, at toll booths, lemonade stands, and out of the trunk of my car.
      I'll have every soccer mom in North America buying with both hands by Xmas.

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  4. good luck on your project!

    The west end is healthybut the interest doesn't tend to spill over to what is known off broadway equivalent here - calleed the fringe. There are still so many empty seats. Rather sad state of affairs. I think there should be a channel on cable that shows these things - god knows the stuff they show on tv they could start showing this instead.

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    1. I think it's wonderful that a Cate Blanchettt, Kristin Scott Thomas, and other major movie stars still do theatre but just wish that tide of publicity raised more boats. It's ao easy and risk free to stay home and curl up with Netflix which has to hurt the live performance gate.
      You are so right on there should be a channel that features live or taped live theatre.

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  5. The fabulous Faye is vindication indeed! Uncle L sounds wonderful.
    Yes good luck with your project, how cool that you are nearly finished- I always have great respect for people for finish things as that is the most difficult thing for most of us. How cool that you are bringing that theatre back to life. I lived in New Canaan as a senior as an exchange student and loved that area - NC is near Westport right?

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    1. New Canaan is a stones throw from Westport and Uncle L did The Ice Storm set in NC.
      The book series project has been an ordeal...took 5 years to find a suitable illustrator who was available and not outrageously expensive. Hope to have 3 out by Thanksgiving for Xmas.

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  6. What a lovely paean to such a loved relative and friend! I would settle for the laugh alone, but with all that talent and gift for storytelling and such a magnetic personality---you are blessed squared. I've been blessed just recently to have spent a week with just such a laugher---a big deep whiskey-throat laugh (though she abhors any "brown" liquor) and a hatful of stories and adventures and friends which she sprinkles with abandon. She, by coincidence is known as Unky K to all the younger relatives. And her husband, also here for the week, is as witty and fun, with his own gift for the tales, as well. What a blast we had, even sans a notable. (Or, as it happens, a kitchen, as well).

    Speaking of whom---my most memorable picture of Faye Dunaway was not from a film, but because of, I suppose. I remember the "morning after" of her Oscar win---that evening of sublime-to-ridiculous clothes and manners and talk---and there, on the front of the Commercial Appeal lying on my doorstep, was her photo, out by the pool at home, just sitting there alone in her robe and slippers, and with her Oscar her only company.

    And just last week I peeked into one of those online "Faye Dunaway's Mansion for SALE!!" bits, and one of the pictures featured a glance down a hall, with THAT PICTURE framed, of all the flashbulbs of the splashy evening---just that one, alone with her prize.

    I think of all the folks we know, love, or are kin to, we remember the huggers and the storytellers, best.

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    1. Very interesting Rachel,
      I have always had a conflicted connection to both sides of my family. My mother's side were small town school teachers of superlative character in every sense of the word but as a boy growing up felt a stronger connection to my paternal side where the more dynamic personalities who led seemingly far more interesting lives. I was very late to really appreciate my maternal grandparents who always went out of their way to help people in need. That's why I'm naming the philanthropic component of my book series The Cooper Fund to honor them.

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  7. I hope you are successful at convincing Uncle L to peek out of retirement now and again. And I love a booming laugh.
    My mother graced the stage, ever so briefly, at the Ivoryton Playhouse in CT.

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    1. While I'll be scheming to lure Uncle L out of retirement, I'd also like to bring Mother Bebe back to tread the boards.

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