Montana Actors’ Theatre (MAT) is bringing some outside talent in for its season opener Oct. 12-14 – Hollywood legend Ed Asner.
“The real fun starts in October,” Rachel Dean of Montana Actors’ Theatre said Aug. 15 while introducing the troupe’s season. “We’re starting with a show called ‘God Help Us.’ This will be a one-weekend run, and it’s two of our actors here in Havre, but we also have a special guest actor joining us for this show. You may have heard of him. His name is Ed Asner.”
“That’s right, the Ed Asner,” Dean said. “OK, for you young ones out there who aren’t going to understand who that is, think ‘Elf,’ think Santa … Santa is coming to town to do a show with us. That is pretty awesome.”
Asner started acting in credited roles in the 1950s but rose to stardom with his role as the irritable but warm-hearted and lovable news editor in “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and followed with the title role in the spinoff “Lou Grant.”
He has been nominated for 20 Emmy awards, winning seven, and served as president of the Screen Actors Guild from 1981 to 1985.
Montana Actors’ Theatre artistic director and co-founder Jay Pyette (also a Montana Arts Council member), who will co-star with Asner along with MAT’s Kate Hagen in “God Help Us,” said the actor’s coming to Havre started with online visits with Asner’s daughter and agent, Liza.
He said she was doing online outreach for her father.
“I responded and she and I started talking,” Pyette said.
The chance to bring Asner to Havre was something MAT couldn’t pass up, he added.
“The guy is an A-List actor,” Pyette said.
The show, by Samuel Warren Joseph and Phil Proctor, is a comedic look at tensions in modern times, Pyette said.
In the Havre production, Asner plays God, while Pyette plays a liberal pundit and Hagen plays a conservative pundit, who had previously been in a relationship.
“God, for want of a better word, is frustrated with them and everybody,” Pyette said
The promotional material says God confronts the two.
“Maybe only the Lord can bring us together in this hilarious and insightful entertainment, where the debate gets hot and the passion gets hotter,” it says. “God … is a wise, cantankerous and wildly funny deity who confronts two political pundits with a romantic history. … He is not at all pleased with our politics or what we’ve done to his Creation.”
Pyette said the playwrights are updating the script for the Havre show, set for Oct. 12-14, to include current references.
The play is being produced by Liza Asner and directed by Mitch Levine, who is known for “Shadows,” “Plagued” and “The Devil’s Crossroad.”
Showtimes are 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday; tickets are on sale at the MAT website, mtactors.com.
Ed Asner: Still going nonstop
Asner has gone nonstop since his acting career started and is still going strong, including voice acting in animation, and roles in 20 television or film productions that are completed, in production or post-production, or announced as planned projects, including the reboot of “MacGyver.”
He played Lou Grant in “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” 1970-77, and continued in that role in “Lou Grant,” 1977-82.
A short, partial list of the shows leading up to “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” in which he had credited roles includes top-end television of the time, such as “Alfred Hitchcock Presents,” “The Untouchables,” “The Virginian,” “Dr. Kildare,” “The Outer Limits,” “Please Don’t Eat the Daisies,” “The Rat Patrol,” “The Mod Squad,” “Ironside,” “The Wild Wild West,” “Mission Impossible” and “Gunsmoke.”
His acting has continued nonstop since, including acting and voice roles in film and television and video games. Credits include “The Simpsons,” “Roseanne,” “Dharma and Greg,” “Buzz Lightyear of Star Command,” “Johnny Bravo,” “Family Guy,” “King of the Hill,” “CSI- NY,” “Hawaii Five-O” and “Sponge Bob Square Pants,” as well his role as Santa in Will Ferrell’s 2003 movie “Elf” and the voice of Carl Fredrickson in Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney Pictures 2009 animated feature “Up.”
– Tim Leeds, reprinted with permission from the Havre Daily News, Aug. 16