Asner working with MAT in Havre

Asner working with MAT in Havre

Jay Pyette

August 16, 2018, by Tim Leeds, Havre Daily News

The local acting troupe is bringing some outside talent in for one of its productions this fall – a Hollywood legend.

“The real fun starts in October,” Rachel Dean of Montana Actors’ Theatre said Wednesday 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.”

Dean made the announcement while presenting MAT’s 2018-19 schedule during intermission of Shovels and Shotguns’ performance at the final Sounds on the Square at Town Square.

See the full schedule in a story on page A2.

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, 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.

“That’s kind of a mystery,” Pyette said.

He said she was doing online outreach for her father.

“I responded and she and I started talking,” Pyette said.

The chance to bring Ed 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.”

Tickets will be on sale soon at the MAT website and will be available at fivehead’s, Bear Paw Meats and Computer Center, Pyette said.

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.”

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.”

He played Lou Grant in “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” 1970-77, and continued in that role in “Lou Grant,” 1977-82.

His acting has continued nonstop including acting and voice roles in film and television and video games including “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 of 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.”

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