May 2009 Issue
Cast of Characters
With her white hair, charming wrinkles and a petite frame that make her a shoe-in for the part of the “little old lady,” Toledo actress Madge Levinson is landing some big roles. In January, she hit the big screen in “Gran Torino” playing one of Clint Eastwood’s houseguests, and gave a dynamic performance as Sigourney Weaver’s mother in the Lifetime TV movie, “Prayers for Bobby.”
“There are so many good roles I’ve been fortunate to have,” says Levinson, who, at 85, boasts a four-page résumé charting her performances in films, theater, TV and more than 70 commercials. Four agents keep her informed of acting opportunities, including a recent commercial for Toft’s Ice Cream in which she plays a “rich snob.”
“I do it for my sanity,” says Levinson. “I love that I get to be somebody else.”
Levinson made her stage debut as a child singing “Cielito Lindo” more than 75 years ago in a grade-school production, and since then has used acting as her creative outlet. When she retired from her duties as founder and general manager of a radio reading service for the blind in 1991, she began acting more and working with stars, including Sigourney Weaver, who has become a friend.
“She’s a very sweet person,” says Levinson. A handwritten letter bearing Weaver’s signature proves that the feeling is mutual. “We keep in touch.”
One of her favorite gigs involved promoting an exhibit at the Detroit Institute of Arts in 2004, which featured the painting, “Whistler’s Mother.” Levinson brought the famous subject to life in a long, black dress and a white bonnet at a Detroit Tigers baseball game, where she threw out the first pitch.
“It rolled to the plate,” she says with a laugh, “and the Associated Press sent the picture around the country.”
While Levinson’s next film, “Whip It!” (directed by Drew Barrymore), doesn’t premiere until later this year, she can be seen in the North Coast Theatre stage production of “Terror at Tea Time,” at the Oliver House in Toledo May 15–June 13.
In last year’s North Coast Theatre production, Levinson, ever the consummate actress, performed while suffering a pinched nerve.
“Oh, it hurt,” she says, “but, honey, the show must go on.”
For ticket information about North Coast Theatre performances, call 419/255-0416.