Trooper Woodward rallies ’round fest, script in hand

Thesp fills in for Heckart

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Joanne Woodward came to the rescue of the Williamstown Theater Festival last week.

On Thursday morning, prior to two sold-out performances of Kenneth Lonergan’s new play “The Waverly Gallery,” it was discovered that veteran actress Eileen Heckart had been felled by the flu and couldn’t perform her central role.

For the first time in the 45-year history of the WTF, which never has understudies, performances had to be canceled.

Providentially, Woodward, a WTF trustee who has also both acted and directed at the festival, had tickets for the Thursday matinee at the fest’s second stage, the 96-seat Nikos Stage. When she arrived, she was cajoled by WTF producer Michael Ritchie into taking over Heckart’s role for the remaining four performances of the Aug. 11-22 run of the play, Friday through Sunday.

Woodward agreed. With script in hand and only a few hours of rehearsals with director Scott Ellis and the rest of the cast, she completed the run of the play in Heckart’s stead.

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