Arts & Craft

Judith Ivey starred with Steve Martin in 1984's "The Lonely Guy."

It's been quite the unprecedented season for folks with Twin Cities ties copping major awards-style kudos on the arts and entertainment front.

But the acclaim is nothing new ... at least for those of us who've been keeping close tabs on the careers of actors, actresses, musicians and other creative types who've made their way from here into the worlds of stage, screen, TV and music.

Granted, there's never been quite a year or two like the one at hand, with IWU's Richard Jenkins and ISU's Laurie Metcalf leading the charge.

Jenkins is fresh off his Emmy win two years ago for "Olive Kitteridge," and currently nominated every which way for his turn in "The Shape of Water."

And Metcalf is still basking in the afterglow of her Tony win last fall for "A Doll's House, Part 2," and, like Jenkins, currently nominated all over the movie map for "Lady Bird."

But the acclaim has been fairly consistent down through the decades, per the nominations and/or wins for the likes of John Malkovich, Jane Lynch, Sean Hayes, Gary Cole, Larry Shue, Kevin Dunn and on and on.

What some of us might have forgotten over the course of time is the origin point for this ongoing tradition.

So let us now offer a tip of the Tony/Emmy/Oscar to the real pioneer in this field ... at least from the local ranks:

Judith Ivey, the ISU theater alum from the Class of 1973 who came along just a few years too early to become part of the legendary "Steppenwolf kids" club (Malkovich, Cole, Metcalf, et al.).

Ironically, Richard Jenkins was winding up his IWU tenure the same year (1969) that Ivey turned up at ISU from South Holland, Ill.

Though Jenkins had to wait the better part of a career for his turn (almost 40 years separate his IWU graduation and first Oscar nomination for "The Visitor"), Ivey was off and winning within her first decade out of ISU: near-back-to-back Tony Awards for "Steaming" in 1983 and for "Hurlyburly" in 1985.

With barely time to catch her breath, she was up for a Drama Desk Award the following year (1986) for "Precious Sons."

Then it was into a career evenly divided between the stage and the screens — small and large.

On the big screen she landed in mainstream comedies as offbeat romantic interests in the "The Lonely Guy" opposite Steve Martin and "The Woman in Red" with Gene Wilder ... all of this occurring around the time of her Tony wins.

Her offbeat looks, voice and personality ensured that she would never be mistaken for a cookie-cutter ingenue. So her days in the romantic comedy realm were numbered.

On the TV screen, she fared more comfortably, garnering her widest public recognition as she quipped her way through a string of sassy ’90s network sitcoms that wisely capitalized on her Texas origins: "Down Home," "Designing Women," "The Five Mrs. Buchanans" and "Buddies."

Two more Tony nominations ensued over time: for "Park Your Car in the Harvard Yard" in 1992 and, most recently, for the 2013 revival of "The Heiress."

In 1998, she was Emmy-nominated for the TV movie, "What the Deaf Man Heard."

So what is our pioneering award-winner up to these days, you ask?

As we speak, Ivey is back on the small screen as "Nancy" via the web series, "The Accidental Wolf," a "Homeland"-style thriller which debuted back in November in 15-minute offerings, some of them requiring "unlocking" by answering a question.

Check it out here: http://theaccidentalwolf.com/#/

Some years back, when we interviewed her at the height of her "Designing Women" visibility, playing the raucous and scene-stealing B.J. Poteet, she confessed to us that, for all of that, "I can still walk around and be Judy Ivey."

Few people ever picked her out of a crowd.

"Oddly enough, what people always recognize me from is my voice, even if I'm not drawling around. I'll go 'a cheese pizza, small' and people will always say, 'Have you come in here before?' or `You're an actress, aren't you?' They never say `You're Judy Ivey, aren't you?' "

She added: "I knew I could have a certain amount of fame from the show because you're on nationwide television every week. But I also knew that if I didn't dress like her, I could still walk around and be Judy at the grocery store.

"I enjoy that. It was, to me, very attractive."

Sundancing, part 2: Per our recent coverage of B-N native Chris Harding's movie "Blindspotting," selected for the coveted opening slot of the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah ... there's more good news.

According to a report published earlier this week in Variety, the indie-produced film has been picked up for global distribution by heavyweight studio Lionsgate Films.

In its review of the film, Variety called "Blindspotting" "the most exciting cinematic take on contemporary race relations since 'Do the Right Thing’ nearly 30 years ago. This explosive big-screen collaboration marks a rousing and incredibly timely choice to kick off Sundance 2018, with great potential to serve as a cultural touchstone in months to come.”

P.S. The Sundance awards ceremony was scheduled for Saturday night, after this column's deadline.

Check back with The Pantagraph for word on "Blindspotting's" fate.

Dan Craft is Pantagraph entertainment editor. He can be reached at 309-829-9000, Ext. 259 or via email at dcraft@pantagraph.com 



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