Tony Winner Brian Dennehy Visits Theatre of Western Springs
A star of movies like "Rambo: First Blood" and "Tommy Boy," and a veteran stage actor currently in the Goodman’s "The Iceman Cometh," Dennehy spoke to a crowd of over 350.
The Theatre of Western Springs had a unique special guest on Monday in the person of renowned stage and screen actor Brian Dennehy, a two-time Tony Award winner, who spoke for two hours about his career experiences and the challenges of the acting profession as part of the Theatre’s Cattell Lecture Series.
Dennehy addressed a crowd of over 350 TWS members and subscribers, discussing his feelings on art and acting, in particular his penchant for treating acting as an extension of his personal life and self. He also shared backstage and behind-the-scenes stories, including one of his all-time favorites: filming 1985’s Cocoon in Florida, in which he played an “Antarean” alien.
“God, it was fun,” Dennehy told the crowd. “I mean, to get to work with Maureen Stapleton, Wilford Brimley, Hume Cronyn, Jessica Tandy, Gwen Verdon, Jack Gilford and Don Ameche—it was just a great experience.”
In films, Dennehy is recognizable as the belligerent sheriff who antagonizes Sly Stallone in Rambo: First Blood, or as Chris Farley’s father in Tommy Boy. He has won two "Best Lead Actor in a Play" Tony Awards for playing James Tyrone in Long Day’s Journey into Night and Willy Loman in Death of a Salesman; he also won a Golden Globe for a TV production of Salesman.
Currently, Dennehy is wrapping up his work in the Goodman Theatre’s production of Eugene O’Neill’s The Iceman Cometh, opposite Nathan Lane. (TWS, incidentally, just presented an O’Neill play: Ah, Wilderness!.)
Active TWS member Ed Wazak extended the invitation to speak to Dennehy, who graciously took time on his one day off to come by.
“All the people that came really enjoyed what he had to say and were mesmerized by him,” Wazak said. “It was just like the play that he’s doing now, with Iceman Cometh, where people were kind of hanging on his words and really listening to what he had to say and offer.”
“They found him very moving,” said Theatre artistic director Rick Snyder, who moderated the discussion. “He gave many of them the insights into acting [and] revelations they hadn’t thought of before.”
After the discussion, Dennehy attended a reception in the TWS lobby.