Film icon Asner talks about Havre, MAT

by Stephen Real, Havre Daily News, October 12, 2018

The red carpet will be out in Havre as film legend Ed Asner gets set to take the stage in the Little Theatre in Montana State University-Northern's Cowan Hall for the production of "God Help Us" this weekend.

Asner has been travelling across the United States performing this show. He and his manager, his daughter Liza Asner, and producer Mitch Levine recently went to Chicago, Coeur D'Alene and Los Angeles. Havre is their fourth stop.

"I don't remember anything," Asner said, joking about his rigorous schedule.

This is the first time that Asner has been in Havre, and he said he likes what he has seen.

"I love it. It's a cute town. There certainly is a lot of civic spirit," he said.

Asner is playing the role of God in Montana Actors' Theatre production of the play written by Samuel Warren Joseph and Phil Proctor.

The show is about two political rivals who used to be romantically involved who are confronted by God because of their toxic nature.

Asner said he decided to star in "God Help Us" because he liked the theme and the writing.

"God is not the awful menace that he is too often shown as," he said. "The conditions in the country right now are perfect. We've just seen the greatest polarization between Democrats and Republicans that you could ever want to look at. It's horrendous. There is no compromise and it doesn't look like there is going to be any compromise."

Asner stars alongside MAT veterans Jay Pyette, who is also the founder and artistic director for MAT, and Kate Hagen.

"They've been lovely," Asner said. "Pyette has just been the most gracious host I've ever come across. Granted he's got a leading role in this opus we're performing, but I'll overlook that."

Asner has a long list of credits to his name, spanning television, live action and cartoon productions, video games and film. Younger generations may know him as the voice of cantankerous Carl Fredricksen in Disney's "Up" or as Santa in "Elf." Older generations may remember him as Lou Grant from the "Mary Tyler Moore Show" and the spinoff "Lou Grant."

Asner has had the opportunity to work with many iconic and legendary actors, but he said he likes working with small, community theaters such as MAT.

"The spirit is most willing and great," he said. "I love the spirit. It's what I had a long, long time ago and I'd love to find it again. They inspire me. Their energy. Their belief in me - which is surprising because they're so mistaken."

Asner said what he also enjoys about performing on stage is the interaction between the actors and audience.

"I take energy from the audience," he said. "If they're dead - they better not be - then I fall flat."

"God Help Us" opens tonight at 8 p.m. and has two showings Saturday, at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., and a Sunday matinee at 2 p.m. A few tickets were still available this morning for the Saturday matinee performance at $25 a ticket for general admission, $20 for Northern students, seniors and members of the military.

"I'm very pleased in the choice of the actors," Asner said. "The angels tickle the hell out of me. I hope the audience gets as tickled as I have."

Photos by Colin Thompson

© 2019 Montana Actors' Theatre