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Actress makes ultimate cougar her very own

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On Sunday, Feb. 16, at 7 p.m. L.A. Theatre Works, will present a radio-theatre version, produced and directed by Susan Albert Lowenberg, of “The Graduate” adapted by Terry Johnson, at Marian University Theatre. It’s based on the screenplay of the 1967 comedy-drama film written by Calder Winningham and Buck Henry and the novel written by Charles Webb.

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For many young men of the time who saw the movie, Mrs. Robinson was their first sexual fantasy. She is the older women played by Anne Brancroft who seduces Benjamin Braddock, an aimless college grad, played by Dustin Hoffman, who then falls in love with her daughter, played by Katherine Ross.

Heidi Dippold stars as Mrs. Robinson along with Brian Tichnell as Benjamin, Matthew Arkin (son of Alan Arkin and brother to Adam) as Mr. Robinson, and Tom Virtue as Mr. Braddock. The rest of the cast includes Darren Richardson, Jill Renner and Diane Adair.

Dippold is a film and television actress. She had a recurring role on HBOs “The Sopranos,” and has also had guest appearances on “NCIS,” “NYPD Blue,” “Alias,” and “Law and Order.” She starred in the film, “House” with Michael Madsen and was also in “Stardom,” and “Mexican Werewolf in Texas.” Most recently she was on stage with Orson Bean in “Smokefall,” at South Coast Repertory in Orange County, CA.

Recently Dippold responded by email to questions posed by Examiner.com about “The Graduate.”

Where are you and how is the tour going?

Right now we are in Ocala, FL. The tour is going well. The show is a real crowd pleaser. Because of air travel in the winter, however, there have been some long days in airports.

What sort of feedback have you received regarding the show?

People just love the show. It's fast paced, funny and dramatic all at the same time. Baby Boomers love it. There is really a sense of nostalgia over the piece. The other evening in Kansas City, a gentleman came to the show wearing a sweatshirt from his graduating class of 1969 that said, "Here's to you Mrs. Robinson." It was fantastic! We took a picture together.

For many people the movie holds a meaningful place in the story of their lives. It's great to share in that with them. At the same time, young people really identify with Benjamin. Still. It's the same story. Idealistic young kid wanting to find his way and contribute something meaningful to the world but can't help getting disillusioned by the realities of society. It's a rite of passage really. We've all experienced it to some extent.

How do make the role of Mrs. Robinson your own?

I really wasn't interested in playing Mrs. Robinson as a mustache twirling villain so to speak. The idea of playing the ultimate cougar or an iconic figure didn't speak to me. When I read the play I was happy to find that the reality is that she is a flawed human being that has experienced disappointment and heartbreak as we all do in life. Then I became interested in the role and I think that is how I make the role my own. People who have come to see the show have really empathized with Mrs. Robinson and that is what I hoped would happen.

What exactly is radio-theatre?

Radio theater is theater produced for the purpose of being listened to. Actors and sound effect artists pour their performances into a microphone for the audiences listening pleasure. What we do is a hybrid between a radio play and staged production. We do use microphones and there is no set, but our director has added blocking and costumes into the mix to make it a visual event as well.

How does it compare to the regular play format?

As a performer, this format is a bit more challenging because most of us are accustomed to looking at our fellow actors during a performance. We don't get to do that. We have to put it all into the mic. But the result of that for the audience is a very fast-paced and distilled experience. Somehow, it demands the ultimate focus from the actors and the audience alike. The audience response has been amazing.

For tickets ($20 - $35) and information about L.A. Theatre Works "The Graduate," presented by Marian University Theatre call (317) 955 - 6236 or visit www.marian.edu/mutheatre.

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