Same actress. Same character. Different play.
Last year at around this time, Valerie Harper (best known as TV's "Rhoda") was at Hartford, CT's TheatreWorks with a one-woman show about outspoken author Pearl S. Buck. The Dragon and the Pearl, by Marty Martin, was commissioned by Harper's husband, Tony Cacciotti, workshopped at Milford, NH's American Stage Festival and developed at Chicago's Organic Theatre. However, the play's reception was not quite what the actress and producer hoped for, so the show went back into the germination stage.
Now Harper has resurfaced, again as novelist Buck ("The Good Earth"), only this time she's in a whole different one-woman show that she co-wrote herself. All Under Heaven, penned with Dyke Garrison, will world premiere at Randolph-Macon Woman's College in Lynchburg, VA, Sept. 1-13. Jim Cox, spokesperson for the college, noted that Buck was an alumna, circa 1914.
In Heaven, Harper impersonates 14 male and female characters, opening with an octagenarian Buck appealing to the authorities for a visa to China to visit her mother's grave.
Harper has received four Emmy Awards for her work in television, has appeared on Broadway (Subways Are For Sleeping) and in films, and most recently replaced Linda Lavin in Off-Broadway's Death Defying Acts. Like Buck, Harper devotes much of her time to charity. She is closely involved with The Hunger Project, an organization with the mission of ending world hunger by the turn of the century. Cacciotti will produce Heaven, with Rob Ruggiero directing. The Virginia mounting will feature lighting by John Wade, costumes by Peg Carbonneau and sets by Michael Schweikardt. The plan is for the show to come to NY after its Virginia tryout.
For tickets ($25-$30) and information on All Under Heaven call (877) VHARPER.
Author Buck was the first woman to win the Nobel Prize for literature and the author of more than 70 books, including The Good Earth, which won a Pulitzer Prize. According to an AP report, Buck died in 1973 at age 80. Characters in Buck's life represented onstage include a Chinese governess, a Chinese empress and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.
Said Harper of Buck, "She's such a wonderful and practical visionary. She totally knows the human heart."