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Entertainment & Lifestyle

Lithgow reminisces during Akron visit

4/25/2013 - West Side Leader
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By Kathleen Folkerth

Actor John Lithgow, who lived in Akron for two years as a youth, spoke with members of the press at The University of Akron April 18.
Photo: Kathleen Folkerth
DOWNTOWN AKRON — John Lithgow’s return to Akron — 52 years after he left it as a teenager — was a trip down memory lane for the acclaimed actor.

“This has been an extremely nostalgic day,” Lithgow said during a brief press conference April 18 at E.J. Thomas Hall, where he later spoke as part of the Forum Series in an event sponsored by The University of Akron’s (UA) Mary Schiller Myers Lecture Series.

Lithgow’s family came to Akron in 1959 when his father, Arthur, was hired to be director of Stan Hywet Hall and create the Akron Shakespeare Festival. For two years, the Lithgows lived in the Carriage House on the grounds of the F.A. Seiberling estate in West Akron.

Lithgow said he enjoyed spending about two hours at Stan Hywet on the day of his visit, and made sure to take pictures to send to his siblings. He toured the house and also got to see his old bedroom in the Carriage House.

He said when his family came to Akron, Stan Hywet was in the transition from private home to cultural center.

“It was in the worst disrepair it had been in,” he said of the grounds, noting the house was always well maintained. “Over the years, they have made it perfect again.”

Lithgow said he also visited the new Buchtel Community Learning Center, which replaced Buchtel High School, where he attended 10th grade. He spent some time at the school that day and looked over yearbooks, he said.

Lithgow also had the chance to reconnect with a former classmate at the press conference. Fairlawn resident Irv Korman, a community theater actor and theater reviewer who has written a book about his celebrity encounters over the years, was there and reminded Lithgow about their appearance together as the only sophomores in “Arsenic and Old Lace.”

When Lithgow realized who Korman was, he was happy to see his old acquaintance.

“I looked up your picture today!” Lithgow said. “You make a good grown-up!”

The two talked about several of their classmates.

“Remember what a ball that was?” Lithgow said.

“It’s amazing,” he added. “The ninth- and 10th-grade years — those are such formative years in your life. It’s amazing how much you remember.”

Lithgow’s press conference came after he spent an hour with UA theater students. During his appearance later that evening, he talked about storytelling and shared some of his Akron memories from his autobiography, “Drama: An Actor’s Education.”

He told reporters he was impressed by E.J. Thomas Hall. When asked if the success of his visit might lead to another one in the future, he said he’d like to bring his one-man show to the venue at some point.

He added he has agreed to narrate a documentary on Stan Hywet to mark the estate’s 100th anniversary. According to the Stan Hywet website, the hall was under construction from 1912 to 1915.

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