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Fleming, Chlumsky taking on new roles in Williamstown

July 17, 2014
Updated 12 a.m.
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Director Kathleen Marshall, left, poses with Doug Sills, Justin Long, Renee Fleming and Anna Chlumsky, left to right, at a recent  Williamstown Theatre Festival event. Marshall is directing the four stars in “Living on Love,” which opened Wednesday night and runs through July 26. (Williamstown Theatre Festival photo)
Director Kathleen Marshall, left, poses with Doug Sills, Justin Long, Renee Fleming and Anna Chlumsky, left to right, at a recent Williamstown Theatre Festival event. Marshall is directing the four stars in “Living on Love,” which opened Wednesday night and runs through July 26. (Williamstown Theatre Festival photo)

Renee Fleming and Anna Chlumsky are looking to broaden their horizons this summer.

Fleming, an opera star, and Chlumsky, a television and film actress, are sharing the stage in the Williamstown Theatre Festival production of “Living on Love,” which opens tonight and runs through July 26 at the ’62 Center for Theatre and Dance.

An American soprano known throughout the world, Fleming plays a celebrated diva, Raquel De Angelis, in “Living on Love,” Joe DiPietro’s new play based on Garson Kanin’s “Peccadillo” from 1985.

In the show, De Angelis and her husband, composer Maestro Vito De Angelis, played by Douglas Sills, hire younger people to help them write their own separate autobiographies. Chlumsky plays Iris, the Maestro’s ghostwriter, and Justin Long is Robert, who helps Raquel. Kathleen Marshall, a three-time Tony Award winner for Best Choreography, is directing the play.

Rare Experience

“Anytime I do anything that’s from the 20th century it’s rare,” said Fleming, drawing laughter from her co-stars along with members of the media gathered for the WTF press conference two weeks ago.

'Living on Love'

HERE: Main Stage, ’62 Center for Theatre and Dance, 1000 Main St., Williamstown, Mass.

WHEN: Through July 26, performance times vary

HOW MUCH: $65-$35

MORE INFO: 413-597-3400, www.wtfestival.org

“Most everything I do is written by people who died a long time ago. This is a new experience for me and that’s why I’m doing it. It’s an adventure.”

Traditional stage work is a bit out of the norm for Chlumsky, whose resume is mostly restricted to TV and movies, including most recently the hit HBO show “Veep,” with Julia-Louis Dreyfus.

A Chicago native, Chlumsky starred with Sissy Spacek in “Trading Mom” when she was just 14 back in 1994. She left acting for a period of six years from 1999 to 2005 and went back to college to earn a degree in International Studies from the University of Chicago.

Also a familiar face because of the two “My Girl” films (1991 and ’94) in which Dan Aykroyd played her father, Chlumsky does have some stage experience, having performed in a pair of off-Broadway shows in 2008 and 2012.

“I do love the stage, and I’m always thrilled to get back on the boards between my shooting seasons,” she said. “I feel like theater is like going to the gym. It’s the best kind of workout for your craft, your skills, and it’s always what grounds me. Since I got back in the business almost 10 years ago I’ve been trying to get to Williamstown.”

Actors’ Dream

Chlumsky said actors of all ranks love the opportunity to work in the Berkshires during the summer.

“This place has a wonderful reputation in New York City,” she said. “Everybody I know who works here talks about it the rest of the year, and they all have such fond memories. It’s always been an ambition of mine.”

In “Veep,” Chlumsky plays the vice-president’s (Dreyfus) chief of staff, Amy.

“This is a different role than Amy, so it gives me an opportunity to stretch myself a bit,” said Chlumsky, referring to her character in “Living on Love.”

“This play is a really endearing look at love and relationships, and it really touches you. And I also get to work with Renee Fleming. Any excuse to be around her and that music is fine with me. She is wonderful.”

Fleming said she doesn’t sing in the show, but Marshall and Fleming’s co-stars disagreed. She does sing, just not as much as she does in an opera.

“I sing a phrase here or there, but it’s not like the opera, where what we do, without amplification, is a lot like an Olympic athlete,” she said. “I’m not sure how I would do if I had to sing every day on Broadway, so this is the safest way to do it and just have some fun with it.”

Broadway Bound?

If “Living on Love” should head to Broadway eventually, Fleming would be interested in joining her fellow cast members on the New York stage.

“The problem is that in opera our schedules our fixed for years in advance,” she said.

“It’s a real challenge to try to carve out that kind of time, but it’s been thrilling working with Kathleen and seeing this show put together. I’ve been singing opera for years, and this is something new and exciting for me. We are working on my schedule, and if the show doesn’t go to Broadway I might have a very long vacation.”

Sills is a New York City-based stage actor who earned a 1998 Tony nomination for his performance as Sir Percy Blakeney in the musical version of “The Scarlet Pimpernel.” Like Chlumsky, Long is a veteran of TV and film, including “Dodgeball” and “Galaxy Quest.”

 
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