Words from Diane DiVita MFA '77 | Main | Carole Peterson Wendt's Memories (Part 3)

January 13, 2006

Carole Peterson Wendt's Memories (Part 4)

Nearing the end of our tenure at the University, both Bill and I were cast in the Scott Hall production of "Finian's Rainbow." John Breitlow played Finian, and Myron "Mo" Odegaard played Og. Both were wonderful; it was a good show and a pleasure to be in. There is a scene in the show where Finian leaves the stage and the other characters wave goodbye; he's leaving for good. I remember waving goodbye to Finian and thinking this was also my farewell to the theater world at the University. It was my last show before Bill and I married and left for New York City.

I had a wonderful time at the University of Minnesota. I danced and sang and acted in dozens of shows, big and small. I found my lifelong partner, Bill, and I learned a great deal from the teachers, artists, and friends I met there.


Posted by utheatre at January 13, 2006 1:28 PM | University Theatre Memories


Carol, I was stunned and saddened to hear that Bill Wendt died! Did you know the wonderful Lowell Manfull also died?

The first U of M production I ever saw was FINIAN'S RAINBOW. I had no idea if I could act or do anything in theatre, but even though I knew the production wasn't perfect, I was transported, galvanized! It was a life changing experience. I knew then I wanted to devote my life to theatre. Surely there would be something I could do! Sweep up after elephants? Something.

Moe and Bill were icons for me. Years later I discovered Bill in THE RAINMAKER in summer stock in Maine and Moe in New York.

I was not a very good actor but a fair director and I had some success playwrighting. I think it's ironic I've made my living for the past 20 years as an actor in films, TV, commercials and many audio books.

Doc Whiting, Wendell Josal, Ken Graham, Bob Moulton, and especially Art Ballet peopled my pantheon. So did George Amberg in film and John Dennis Hurell in English. The Manfulls and John Ahart were special mentors. Lee Adey and Wendell Josal were particularly kind and patient. Jerry Rumley was a gifted friend who directed a musical I wrote. John Davidson, Wayne Snell, and David Zinman (who became a world famous conductor) were friends. Bobby Dylan would show up at Dinky Town parties and lurk in the corner. I never thought he'd amount to anything! Then he went to New York... So much for my fortune telling skills...

After getting my B.A. and M.A. I taught theatre for 3 years before going to Carnegie Mellon University on a full fellowship and getting my Ph. D. I taught at Indiana-Purdue University and Southern Connecticut State University where I was Chairman and Full Professor. With a couple other guys we launched Indiana's first Equity Rep Company. A special thrill was to be able to hire and direct Richard Halverson in THE MISER.

After directing 85 plays in universities, dinner theatre and stock, and 23 years with the security of academia and tenure, I started going into New York where I rediscovered Bill and Mo. I began getting work in commercials and bits in film. I moved to Los Angeles for more TV and Film opportunities. I've worked hard and been lucky enough never to have to work outside the industry. I've been on almost all the soaps: DAYS OF OUR LIVES, GENERAL HOSPITAL, ALL MY CHILDREN, etc. I work on the TONIGHT SHOW every few weeks. I've worked on L.A. LAW, THE DISTRICT, PARTY OF FIVE, MAD TV, INVISIBLE MAN, PENSACOLA, THE PRETENDER, PRIME TIME GLICK, and many others. You'll hear and/or see me on commercials all over the country.

I'm hardly a star. But I am a working actor. (I've had 23 commercials running at the same time.) It was a stroke of luck to grow up in Minneapolis, to be at the U, and to discover theatre there, just before Guthrie came. I could never in my wildest dreams have imagined making my living as an actor, let alone working in films, working with people like Woody Allen, Robert DeNiro, Meryl Streep,Jan Fonda, Morgan Freeman, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Jay Leno, Martin Short, Steve Martin, and to get work that would take me to exotic places like Poland, New Zealand, and Korea. I even taught and directed for a year in England and got to direct in Scotland. I was hosted at the House of Commons and meet Princess Ann at a Royal Garden Party. Heady stuff for a kid who went to De La Salle and grew up on the South Side.

The University, the Theatre Department, the many wonderful, talented and kind people there changed my life. I will be eternally grateful to those people who shaped and supported me those formative years.

Posted by: Dan Cashman at February 19, 2006 9:55 PM