Recently Delaware Theatre Company’s artistic director, Bud Martin, checked in with stars of two previous DTC shows—actors Harry Hamlin and Michael Learned—at their Los Angeles homes. In gracious 15-minute interviews, Martin talks with each about working in Wilmington and their careers. Both Learned and Hamlin began in the theatre and have substantial stage credentials.
Checking in with the stars
Learned, the matriarch of all nine seasons of The Waltons, talks about auditioning for that show. A leading lady at San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theatre doing Coward and Shakespeare—and in the midst of a divorce—Learned felt totally wrong for the part. She “went to LA with a bottle of bourbon and a Raggedy Ann doll,” filmed a scene with Ralph Waite and Richard Thomas (the Waltons father and son) and was cast a week later. “The series saved my life.”
She loves regional theatre and her DTC show, The Outgoing Tide, a look at the burden of Alzheimer's disease by Philadelphia playwright Bruce Graham. (Martin has produced and directed five of Graham’s plays.) The premiere was a regional hit and the play later moved to New York. Learned loved the intimacy of the Wilmington theatre, and she concludes with a pitch to be invited back.
Hamlin, noted for his career in television and film (L.A. Law, Mad Men, Clash of the Titans) appeared at DTC last fall with Stefanie Powers in One November Yankee by California playwright Joshua Ravetch. A two-hander, the show has three interrelated vignettes that each feature a different brother and sister, all played by Hamlin and Powers.
Hamlin’s time in Delaware included museum visits, especially to Winterthur, and he talks about his company exploring renewable technology, a lifelong interest. The actor intended to major in environmental design but arrived at college too late to register in the architecture department. So, as a placeholder to start the semester, he registered for theatre courses, and an unexpected career unfolded as he kept getting cast in shows.
Among some other short videos is one featuring animal trainer Bill Berloni, at DTC for the 2015 original musical Because of Winn-Dixie. The show, which has had several major regional productions, stars the dog Bodie (who has 120 cues!), seen here lounging on the couch as Berloni recounts the start of his animal-training career..
Founded in 1979 in an abandoned firehouse, DTC opened its current 315-seat building in 1985 on Wilmington’s largely desolate Riverfront. A revitalization pioneer, the theatre now numbers among its neighbors OperaDelaware Studios, apartments, corporations, restaurants, hotels, a conference center, and the minor league baseball team Wilmington Blue Rocks. Martin has announced a 2020-21 season, though he’s uncertain about the ongoing impact of restrictions or audience anxieties. Meanwhile, these interviews provide a pleasant theatrical interlude.
What, When, Where:
Bud Martin’s online interviews with Harry Hamlin, Michael Learned, and Bill Berloni, plus two looks behind the scenes. Delaware Theatre Company, Wilmington, DE. View on the DTC website.