Kenneth Strong, an actor and teacher with PlayMakers Repertory Company and the Department of Dramatic Art since 1979, died Tuesday afternoon, Jan. 12. Strong had fought glioblastoma brain cancer since 2007, a battle whose early rounds were documented by arts journalist Orla Swift in a Nov. 25, 2007 feature story in the Raleigh News and Observer.
Strong had achieved distinction for his memorable contributions to over 50 PlayMakers productions, including Pericles, The Little Prince, God's Man in Texas, and Art. He also performed in a 1996 Broadway revival of "Inherit the Wind" with George C. Scott, in addition to roles off-Broadway, in television series including "Law and Order," "Spin City" and "In the Heat of the Night," and in films.
According to the biographical information on the PlayMakers company website, Strong had also been originally cast to play Newman Noggs in PlayMakers' 2009 production of "The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickelby." Weston Blakesley appeared in the role instead.
Strong had been in hospice for just under a month at the time of his death. Heidi Reklis, PlayMakers general manager, posted on his hospice website that at the end, Strong "was very much at peace and had his [wife] Kee, his mother, his brother and Kee's brother in the room with him. His very last moment was a brilliant Ken Strong smile and a quiet breath. While we are all very sad, you could not ask for a better moment."
A memorial service will be held Mon. Jan. 18, at 1 p.m., at Paul Green Theater.
In lieu of flowers, Strong's family has requested that donations be made in his name to the Tisch Brain Tumor Center at Duke University Medical Center. Click here for a link to their online donation page.
Longtime Indy theater and dance critic Byron Woods has been invited to teach the National Critics Institute's theater criticism intensive seminar and to serve as critic-in-residence for the 2010 Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival (KCACTF). KCACTF serves more than 18,000 college and university theater students each year, in programming all across the country. Woods is one of eight theater critics nationwide chosen to serve this festival, and he will be the critic in residence in Region VI, which includes Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Missouri, Oklahoma and New Mexico. The Region VI conference will take place at Amarillo College, located in Amarillo, Texas, from Feb. 22-28.
[caption id="attachment_1674" align="alignleft" width="204" caption="Jennifer Coolidge in Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call—New Orleans, which plays its final Triangle engagement Thursday, Jan. 14, at the Carolina Theatre in Durham. (Photo courtesy of First Look Pictures)"]
It took one simple acronym to put Jennifer Coolidge in the public eye: "MILF." Since her appearance as the teen-deflowering Stifler's mom in 1999's American Pie, the actress says she's been inundated with scripts for "horny mother and trophy wife" roles. But she looks back on the part with fondness: "It's gotten me a lot of dates."
Coolidge will appear at Goodnight's for a stand-up comedy show beginning tonight and continuing through Sunday, though she doesn't quite know what her set will be: "Probably a lot of weird stories about being an actress." She should have plenty of those, for the last decade has made her a familiar face in film and TV, particularly in such films as Legally Blonde, A Cinderella Story and Best in Show.
"Kids will go up to me who've seen Cinderalla and go 'Are you a bad witch?' Sometimes you'll get someone who goes, 'You're the crazy evil lady in Pootie Tang! Someone said they loved the girl I played on an episode of Friends, and I forgot I did Friends. It all becomes a distant memory."
In the past year, Coolidge has played a hooker on ABC Family's The Secret Life of the American Teenager, a plastic surgery addict on Nip/ Tuck, another mom in Gentlemen Broncos, and a small part in Bat Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans for Werner Herzog and Nicolas Cage.
"It's honestly my favorite film from last year," says Coolidge, who that both Cage and Herzog were a pleasure to work with, despite their gonzo on-set antics. "I had no idea what it would be like working with Nic Cage, but he's just such a nice person, a real professional."
And she's a big supporter of the film, which is still playing in the Triangle: "I think it's one of the best movies of the year, and not just because I have a small part in it. Watching it, it was just brilliant. And I think it's the best thing I've ever seen Nic Cage in. He takes such huge risks sometimes, and he just went for it." She also praises Werner Herzog as "un-Hollywood," and reveals that despite the outrageous content of his films, he's "never taken anything stronger than an Aspirin."
Who would she like to work with? "I always liked Jack Nicholson, and I always hoped one day to get in a movie with him. I've always been obsessed with him and Anthony Hopkins. I would love to be like the mother or mentor of Angelina Jolie, or some up-and-coming young actress and show her how to operate the high-powered guns."
Despite her prolific output, Coolidge says her acting plans this year are unclear." "I'm doing the standup so I don't get bored with my life," she says. "When you live in Hollywood, it's like you're behind a tall hedge, this life that doesn't feel normal. When I started doing standup as a lark, you have to fly everywhere and hang out with people at hotels and get to know the area. I've gotten to see all these parts of the United States I never would have seen otherwise. It's like there's this whole life I've been missing."
She's looking forward to checking out the local sights in Raleigh, which could include the flea market. "I have yet to go to a city where they don't have a good flea market," she says.
"It's hard to find places where people are enthusiastic about what's local," she says. "I went on a date with this guy at one stop, and he took me to the mall."
Word to the slammers — and all of the other spoken word and poetry performance practitioners in the region: Following the Friday, Jan. 15 performance of The Big Bang by Universes, PlayMakers Rep will sponsor a spoken word performance competition in Kenan Theater. Prizes to be awarded include a 3rd-generation Apple Ipod Touch.
The three-round competition is for original works, performed by their creators, on any subject, in any style. Performances in each round will be timed, and must be under three minutes in length (with a 30-second grace period before penalties will be assessed). Each poem may only be used once during the competition. Contestants are advised to leave musical instruments, pre-recorded songs, props and costumes at home.
The competition will be hosted by CJ Suitt, a poet and facilitator with Sacrificial Poets, a youth performance poetry team in Chapel Hill, and judged by the members of Universes.
To register, email Jeffrey Meanza, PlayMaker’s Director of Education/Outreach, at email@example.com. Participants may also show up on the night of the event, but night-of competition spots will be held on a first-come, first-served basis.