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April 23, 2010

One-Woman Show: Lee Meriwether takes center stage at IUS

NEW ALBANY — In an empty auditorium with only a director standing nearby, Lee Meriwether took center stage Friday at Indiana University Southeast, looking out and giving a monologue with a young, girlish laugh, before turning around, picking up a cane and switching to a much older woman, who wants to talk to her soldier son.

Meriwether, who is well-known for being a former Catwoman in the 1966 movie version of “Batman” and for playing Ruth Martin on “All My Children” for the past 10 years, is at IUS to premier her one-woman show, an adaptation of a collection of about 20 of the women characters from “Spoon River Anthology.”

The event, which is on May 7 and 8, is titled “An Evening with Lee Meriwether,” and the first act will feature the women from Spoon River and for the second act she will answer questions from the audience.

“It’s American literature that you don’t get to see performed very often. It’s a golden opportunity,” Meriwether said as to why people should come by. “I think people will be able to relate to these women. There’s rape, murder, love, happiness, nurturing and not.”

Director Jim Hesselman is the school’s assistant professor of theater. The two met each other in the early 2000s when Meriwether was performing in “Nunsense” and Hesselman was an assistant stage manager. Lately, he’s been helping Meriwether write her memoir, so she visited the campus a few times. Then, she saw him in action directing a student production.

“I saw his directorial capabilities and I said let’s please work together,” Meriwether said with a smile.

That’s what brought them to today, with Meriwether on stage taking direction on where to stand, pacing and more from Hesselman.

Hesselman said having her on campus helps students in many ways, such as by giving advice and for students to see what professional actresses go through before putting on a production.

“She goes through the same process [students] do,” Hesselman said about the need for rehearsals to work on blocking, pacing and more. “This shows them that acting doesn’t stop. You can do this your whole life. This brings it to a more human level.”

Though he said that was the case, he said having Meriwether on campus is “surreal.”

Meriwether said she hopes the show will open people up to read all the works by Edgar Lee Masters, who wrote the full anthology.

While working on each of her more than 20 characters, Meriwether is also balancing auditions of other works as well as her work with “All My Children.” She said all the rehearsals and work is worth it.

“When you love what you’re doing it’s not a chore,” she said. “It’s work. It’s hard work, but I enjoy working.”

“An Evening with Lee Meriwether” will be at 8 p.m. on May 7 and 2:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. on May 8 at the Paul W. Ogle Cultural and Community Center at IUS. Tickets are $10 for students and seniors and $15 for the general public. Tickets can be purchased at the door or by calling Ticketmaster at 1-800-745-3000.

 

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Allan Leith, and daughter, Grace, Louisville, head back after reaching the now blocked off end of the Big Four Bridge in Jeffersonville Wednesday afternoon.

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