Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Courting glamour for the stage not all glitter

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WHAT excellent news that William Hurt is coming back for another acting gig at Manitoba Theatre Centre.

But before artistic director Steven Schipper and his thespians-in-arms break out the bubbly over Hurt's promised return in 2007 for As You Like It, here's a question for them.

Where's Keanu Reeves? Judging by the dismal reviews that have greeted his new movie, The Matrix Reloaded, Reeves could use the fawning treatment he'd get from a six-week stay in the town that made him an international celebrity.

Where would old Neo be without that little star turn as Hamlet in 1995? In Speed VI, no doubt, and at the back of the bus, to boot.

And while we're on the subject, couldn't MTC import some bombshell to turn the heads of us long-suffering men? The women have had Hollywood thrills from Reeves, Hurt and Judd Hirsch, but the male subscriber base needs massaging, too.

Yes, we saw Cynthia Dale last season in that two-hander about the ballroom dancers. But Cynthia was so -- how to express this delicately? -- Torontonian.

They expect us to get excited about someone whose career peak was marrying Peter Mansbridge?

Here's an idea for Schipper. He should work on signing those Charlie's Angels starlets for a production of Ibsen's The Three Sisters.

The Dixie Chicks are having problems south of the border. If Schipper moves quickly, he could sneak them up here for an extended anti-Bush rant next spring in Beth Henley's Crimes of the Heart.

Our own Nia Vardalos should have time on her hands, too. She couldn't fit in a Royal Winnipeg Ballet cameo in Nutcracker last Christmas, but can't you see her in Euripides' Medea? Retitle it My Big Fat Greek Goddess.

There's no question that movie actors benefit from testing their chops on a live stage. It prove that they're not just pretty people who can remember two lines and avoid bumping into the props.

The challenge elevates them to the status of Serious Actor. And all the attendant publicity helps them in the long run with producers and audiences.

Of course, the theatres benefit, too. Would MTC have sold more than 17,000 season tickets this year on the strength of a no-name actor in Richard III? And it doesn't hurt (no pun intended) to have your humble regional theatre company's name mentioned on Entertainment Tonight.

Mind you, there is a downside to courting Hollywood. It implies that the product itself needs the boost -- and it gets backs up among the purists and nationalists who think it's unpatriotic to sell sizzle over steak.

In the '60s, after John Hirsch had moved on, the Free Press's Heather Robertson used to file angry columns berating MTC for favouring American and British actors and plays over Canadian ones. This was when Canucks were few and far between in their own theatre biz.

What would Robertson write today, when there is an abundance of well-trained and, in some cases, even famous Canadians, about our even more craven star-gazing?

On CBC Radio one recent morning, a Richard III actress was said to have been beside herself with excitement when she learned she was wearing Reeves' old Hamlet tights. The wardrobe manager probably hadn't washed them so as to protect their essence of glamour. And this for a guy who grew up in Toronto.

We might as well get used to it. Celebrity worship is everywhere these days.

The mayor gives the keys to the city to minor actors. Newspapers stake out airports to take pictures of rock musicians.

In a bit of electioneering on Victoria day, Premier Gary Doer dropped a $10,000 prize on the film industry in exchange for a meet 'n' greet with the gorgeous Annie Potts, who's here shooting a TV movie about a city overrun by child sex criminals.

Can you imagine how nuts he'll be when Jennifer Lopez comes to town for the rest of the summer to romance Richard Gere?

There go the rest of the Manitoba Hydro reserves.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 24, 2003 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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