The Dorset Theatre Festival kicks off its 40th anniversary season this week with Hollywood star power — brother and sister style. Siblings Tim and Tyne Daly will star on stage together for the first time in the world-premiere of a play about siblings.
Tyne Daly may be best known for her 1980s TV series "Cagney and Lacy," for which she won multiple Emmys. But she's also won a Tony Award for her role on Broadway in “Gypsy.”
Her brother Tim Daly is currently starring in the hit TV show, “Madam Secretary.” But he’s also got plenty of fans from his work on “The Sopranos,” and the long-running sitcom, “Wings.”
Tim and Tyne Daly also come from an acting family. Their mother was actress Hope Newell. Their father, James Daly, appeared in many TV shows beginning in the 1950s, but may be best known for the 1970s show "Medical Center."
In an interview with Leonard Lopate of WNYC Radio in New York, Tim Daly talked about his family and explained why he enjoys performing in Dorset.
“I fell in love with the theater in summer stock,” said Daly. “Some of my fondest family memories were when we packed up as a family and went to wherever my dad was doing summer theater, and this is back in the day when, as a kid, you could crawl around in the fly loft and hide back stage and no one really thought much about it.”
He called working in a small theater like the Dorset Playhouse freeing.
“Because Tyne and I will work very hard and take it very seriously, but it’s a safe place to try out a new play and see what we have.”
The play they’ll perform was written expressly for the Dalys by Theresa Rebeck, who says she first worked with Tim Daly three years ago when he performed another play she’d written at the Dorset Playhouse.
“And we really enjoyed working with each other,” says Rebeck. “He’s a wonderful stage actor and he’s really suited to my work in many ways. And Tyne came to see it and apparently, later said to him, you should get her to write something for us.”
Rebeck says the result is “Downstairs,” a play that follows brother and sister Teddy and Irene, and Irene’s husband Gerry.
“It’s a simple plot,” explains Rebeck. “Basically, Teddy is sort of in a panic, so he comes home and lives in his sister’s basement for a while and it makes her husband angry. You can’t just move into somebody’s basement. And so there’s kind of very simple and funny premise.”
“It’s not anything we don’t all recognize,” she adds.
But the bonds that connect siblings are complicated. As Teddy and Irene struggle to understand their present and their past, questions arise of betrayal, disappointment and madness.
Rebeck describes her play as dark as well as funny.
Actor John Procaccino plays Gerry, the husband and laughingly describes his role like a hit and run. “I come on raise a little bit of hell, I leave. I come back, raise a little more hell and I leave, and that’s it … hit and run roles.”
“It’s the only way to go baby,” he laughs.
Procaccino says he doesn't usually like to leave his home in New York City for work. But the chance to act with Tim and Tyne Daly was too good to pass up.
"They're marvelous, marvelous actors, and a joy to work with. And Dorset is beautiful,” he says standing outside the Playhouse pointing to the mountains in the distance. “So I’m having the time of my life! It’s fun in rehearsal.”
Director Adrienne Campbell-Holt comes to Dorset fresh from Broadway, where she was associate director of "Dear Evan Hansen," which just won the Tony Award for best musical.
She says its obvious Tim and Tyne Daly enjoy spending time with each other and she says during early read-throughs of the script, stories they shared of their own childhood helped craft the sibling dynamic they present on stage.
Campbell-Holt was born in Newell, Vermont, just south of St. Johnsbury. “I love Vermont, it’s my favorite state,” she says.
“I even have a birthmark in the shape of Vermont … really!” she says laughing.
While she enjoys working in New York, she says everyone is so busy there. It adds a whole different dimension, she says, to be able to work with such talented colleagues in a more relaxed and intimate setting.
“The opportunity to have meals with the sound designer and the actors and extend the day beyond the rehearsal hours is very special and really helps the play grow in a different way.”
“We have a limited rehearsal process,” admits Campbell-Holt, “but I think three weeks in Vermont is like six weeks in New York.”
While Tim Daly wasn’t born in Vermont his ties to the state go way back. As a teenager, he attended The Putney School and he’s owned a farm in Wallingford for more than 20 years. He’s performed in a number of productions at the Dorset Playhouse.
Dina Janis, Dorset’s artistic director, says they’ve been thrilled by ticket sales for "Downstairs." All 16 performances are nearly sold out she says smiling.
“It’s like our own personal, Vermont "Hamilton,”' she says, referring to the smash Broadway hit with a laugh.“We’ve never seen anything like it! Its broken every box office record that we’ve ever had and I think that’s probably true of the entire history of the festival.”
“Downstairs,” will have its world premiere June 22, 2017, and run through July 8.