Since the opening of the world première of “The Actuary,” audiences have been sharing their enjoyment and appreciation for Steven Peterson’s romantic comedy-drama. Comments such as “Awesome Production,” “Great Cast!” “Entertaining Play!” “A Must See!” to “It was better the second time around!” were heard as patrons exited the theater.
Over the past few weeks, every department has been bustling to prepare for the magical and creative grown-up prequel to Peter Pan, “Peter and the Starcatcher.” The scene shop has been crafting unique set pieces, the costume shop building mermaid and pirate costumes, the properties shop has been collecting a hodgepodge of odds and ends for the 12 actors to use to tell their story.
Two musicians, Valerie Maze and Bruce Newbern, have been rehearsing with the acting company. “Peter and the Starcatcher” is a play with music and the musicians will also provide all of the sound effects. Costumes will dazzle, props are creative and the scenery imaginative. Door County audiences will be sprinkled with stardust July 5 through 23.
While excitement abounds about the opening of this grand adventure, company members have also experienced moments of sadness with goodbyes to “The Actuary” but also to actor Howard Witt who passed away in Chicago Wednesday, June 21. He was 85.
Howard Witt was last at Peninsula Players in 2001 in the world première of Tom Mula’s “Bob Almighty.” Howard’s acting career spanned regional theater, television and Broadway. He was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Actor in a featured role in the 1999 Broadway remount of the Goodman Theatre’s production of Arthur Miller’s “Death of a Salesman” with Brian Dennehy.
In the mid-1970s, he guest starred in more than 75 TV shows including “Days of Our Lives,” “Kojak,” “The Bob Newhart Show,” “Rhoda,” “The Rockford Files,” “WKRP in Cincinnati,” “Archie Bunker’s Place” (in the role of Sol Rabinowitz), “Hill Street Blues” (as Schwartz), and “Law & Order.”
His other Broadway credits include the role of Shelley in David Mamet’s “Glengarry Glen Ross,” and off-Broadway in Rebecca Gilman’s “Boy Gets Girl,” for which he received a Lucille Lortel Award nomination, an award that honors the best of off-Broadway. He toured with Steppenwolf Theatre Company portraying Kit Carson in “The Time of Your Life” and spent 10 years as a member of the acting ensemble at Arena Stage in Washington D.C. Howard was also nominated for three Joseph Jefferson Awards, a Drama Desk Award and served in the United States Navy during the Korean War.
“Dad was resolute in his belief that acting was a noble profession,” said Robin Witt in the Chicago Sun Times. “He was never more alive than when he was in a production.” Robin is a frequent director in Chicago who is also assistant professor of directing at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte.
Survivors include another daughter, Deborah (a Chicago police officer), a son, Joshua, and a grandson. Plans for a public memorial service are pending.
While researching Howard’s first season at the Players in 1959, I discovered he portrayed Carl in “Bus Stop” and Stanley Kowalski in “A Street Car Named Desire” opposite Broadway sensation Hilda Simms’ portrayal of Blanche DeBouis. Stay tuned to next week’s Players Pen as I share more information on Hilda Simms.
The other night the company raised a glass and toasted Howard. Once a Player, always a Player. As we raised our glasses to toast Howard, I looked up, and I knew he was looking back with a twinkle in his eyes.
On the opening night of “The Actuary” actor Kyle Hatley, who played Richard, sent the company a happy opening note in which he wrote: “At first, I described it (“The Actuary”) to my wife as a love letter to love. And it is. But it is also a love letter to ourselves. On opening night, I would like to ask one thing of you all. Look up.”
Kyle named a star in honor of the mother, Barb, in “The Actuary.” “So look up,” Kyle wrote. “No matter where you are. No matter when you are. It’ll be up there. Lookin’ right back at ya.”
Join us at Peninsula Players where the sun sets, the curtain rises and the stars will always shine.
Actor Harter Clingman will be hosting a pre-show seminar July 13 at 6:30 p.m. in the theater prior to the 8 p.m. performance. Harter will share his experience performing in the first national tour of “Peter and the Starcatcher.” For ticket or information on “Peter and the Starcatcher,” pre-show seminars or Sunday backstage tours visit www.peninsulaplayers.com or call (920) 868-3287.