Austin Pendleton

Episode 3,  Sep 15, 2021, 04:01 AM

Broadway bound in both directions! Actor, writer and director Austin Pendleton tells of growing up in Warren, Ohio, beginning his career on Broadway and returning home to appear in Neil Simon's Broadway Bound in Cleveland.

Austin Pendleton, a native of Warren, is the quintessential actor's actor … ubiquitous and very busy at 81. Lauded by Meryl Streep, Ethan Hawke, the late Philip Seymour Hoffman (whom Pendleton is credited with discovering) and Olympia Dukakis (in the 2011 documentary Starring Austin Pendleton), he's worked with the best in showbiz over his nearly 60-year career.

Primarily known as a character actor, Pendleton has appeared in scores of movies, television shows and plays since his acclaimed 1964 Broadway debut as Motel in the original cast of Fiddler On The Roof.

Save for a dry spell in the ’70s, which had the silver lining of raising his daughter with wife, the actress Katina Commings, he’s worked consistently. Movie fans may not know know his name, but they certainly know his face, voice and the characters he has played — from The Muppet Movie, Mr. & Mrs. Bridge and  Finding Nemo to My Cousin Vinny, The 4th Floor, The Sound of Silence, What's Up Doc (with Barbara Streisand) and The Mirror Has Two Faces (directed by Streisand). It’s an exhaustive list!

As a director, Pendleton earned a Tony award nomination in 1981 for his work with Elizabeth Taylor and Maureen Stapleton in Lillian Hellman's The Little Foxes. In 2009, he directed Maggie Gyllenhaal and Peter Sarsgaard in the Classic Stage Company’s Uncle Vanya. He has also served as a director for Steppenwolf in Chicago, where he remains an ensemble member. 

One of the three Off-Broadway play's Pendleton has written, Uncle Bob, attracted the unexpected admiration of childhood friend and Fox News founder Roger Ailes (who is also from Warren). The critically acclaimed dark comedy starred George Morfogen and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, telling the story of a hermit uncle dying of AIDS who gets an uninvited visit from a directionless nephew from the Midwest to take care of him. So impressed was Ailes that he invited Pendleton to talk about it on his then radio show.

When not acting, writing or directing Pendleton teaches acting at HB Studios and directing at The New School, both located in New York City’s Greenwich Village. 

Pendleton was born in Warren, Ohio, on March 27, 1940, just two moths before Ailes. His father owned a tool company, and his mother was a former professional actress. Together with his brother, the family would often perform simultaneously in local theatre productions. Pendleton would go on to graduate from the Yale School of Drama. From there it was on to Broadway. This month he returns home to play the role of the grandfather, Ben, in Broadway Bound at the Beck Center of Performing Arts in Lakewood. Performances run on weekends Sept. 10 to Oct. 3. For ticket information visit beckcenter.org In between performances Pendleton will be teaching master scene study classes in his hometown.