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The Actor

Actors play roles. They pretend for a living. And while the role they play originates in the fertile brain of a writer, is then interpreted by a director, and has to be adjusted to the overall concept of a film, in practice the best actors are truly the co-creators of the characters we finally see on the screen. They strive to become a fictional person in manner and motivation, but they often undertake extensive independent research into the life of the character (often digging beyond the script into what is referred to as the "back story"), and draw upon personal emotional memories in a quest for bone-deep authenticity. (An actor who claims to understand a character more deeply than the director or even the screenwriter is not necessarily exaggerating.) The distinction usually drawn between stage and screen acting is one of scale: theater performances have to be projected to the audience over a distance, while film acting has to look authentic even in microscopic close-up. An actor working in movies faces the additional challenge of maintaining these hard-won real-life textures in a highly technical, mechanized medium, in which body language and even line readings have to be coordinated with camera movements and anticipated editing rhythms. Under the circumstances, great acting can seem magical, a triumph over daunting odds.

Biography

Linda Lavin stars as Professor Ruth Steiner, an accomplished author and teacher who becomes mentor to graduate writing student Lisa Morrison (Samantha Mathis), in "Collected Stories," the second production in the acclaimed new drama series PBS Hollywood Presents.

During her distinguished career as an actor and producer in theater, film and television, Lavin has earned numerous awards and honors. She recently completed a yearlong run as Marjorie in the Broadway production of The Tale of the Allergist's Wife, for which she received rave reviews and a Tony nomination for Best Actress. She won a Tony Award for Best Actress for her work in Neil Simon's Broadway Bound and is a four-time Tony nominee.

Lavin first achieved stardom as the title character in the long-running hit comedy series Alice, for which she earned an Emmy nomination, a People's Choice Award, and two consecutive Golden Globe Awards for Best Actress in a Comedy Series. She went on to star in the comedy series Room for Two and in numerous TV movies and miniseries. She also produced such programs as the miniseries The Sunset Gang, the after-school special Flour Babies, and the musical variety special Linda in Wonderland, all of which earned Emmy Awards.

Lavin's most recent TV credits include the Hallmark presentation of Best Friends for Life, the miniseries The Ring, The Irvine Fertility Scandal, A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes, and Secrets from the Rose Garden, which she developed and executive produced. Her television work also includes the series Conrad Bloom and such movies and miniseries as A Matter of Life and Death; The $5.20 an Hour Dream; Another Woman's Child; A Place to Call Home; Like Mom, Like Me; and Lena: My One Hundred Children.

Lavin began her Broadway career in the chorus of John Kander's A Family Affair, directed by Hal Prince, and worked again with Prince in the musical It's a Bird…It's a Plane…It's Superman. Her numerous Broadway credits include the role of Mama Rose

in Gypsy and starring roles in John Guare's Cop Out, Carl Reiner's Something Different, Wendy's Wasserstein's The Sisters Rosensweig and Neil Simon's Last of the Red Hot Lovers, for which she earned a Tony nomination. Ten years later, Lavin played Kate Jerome in Simon's Broadway Bound and won the Tony Award for Best Actress, as well as Drama Desk, Outer Critics and Helen Hayes Best Actress awards.

Lavin's first off-Broadway starring role was Patsy in Jules Pfeiffer's Little Murders, for which she won Best Actress Outer Critics and Saturday Review awards. She went on to earn the Best Actress Obie and the Lucille Lortel Award for her work in Death Defying Acts, a trio of one-act plays by David Mamet, Woody Allen, and Elaine May. She starred as Lillian Hellman in the 1996 off-Broadway production of Cakewalk, based on Hellman's memoirs, and in 1997, earned a Tony nomination for her role in the Broadway production of The Diary Of Anne Frank.

Lavin's feature film credits include Alan Pakula's See You In The Morning, Jim Hensen's The Muppets Take Manhattan and the Alan Renais film, I Want to Go Home.

In 1997, she founded the Linda Lavin Arts Foundation to promote and foster the advancement of the performing and visual arts, with special emphasis on arts in education. Her foundation has created a theatre program called Girl Friends, whose purpose is to raise the self-esteem of at-risk teenage girls of the inner city. This program has now flourished in two city middle schools. She continues to raise funds for the foundation through generous donations, grants, and Lavin and Friends, a concert given at Wilmington's Opera House by Lavin and her friends, who come down from New York to entertain.

Lavin lives in New York City and Wilmington, North Carolina. In both cities, she teaches master classes in acting and singing for the stage, and she directed an all-Brazilian jazz version of As You Like It for the Wilmington Shakespeare Festival in 1998.

 
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Linda Lavin
Linda Lavin

 

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