Arts & Life

Intersections: The Indefatigable John Lithgow

Multi-Talented Artist Reflects on His Father's Influence

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Listen: <b>Web Extra:</b> Listen to a 10-Minute Excerpt of John Lithgow in the Radio Production of 'M. Butterfly'

Listen: <b>Web Extra:</b> Listen to a 1997 Report from the Set of 'Third Rock from the Sun'

John Lithgow

John Lithgow hide caption

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Arthur Lithgow (right) stars as Brutus

John Lithgow's father, Arthur (right), stars as Brutus in Julius Caesar in 1953. He's pictured with Broadway actor and director Ellis Rabb. Photo by Axel Bahnsen. Courtesy of Antiochiana, Antioch College hide caption

toggle caption Photo by Axel Bahnsen. Courtesy of Antiochiana, Antioch College

On the TV series Third Rock from the Sun, actor John Lithgow played an alien disguised as a college professor in a small Ohio town. The scenario wasn't so far off from the actor's real life: Lithgow grow up the son of a classically trained actor and college professor in Yellow Springs, Ohio.

Arthur Lithgow died in March of heart failure. He was 88. As Father's Day approaches, Lithgow reflects on his father's influence on his own career for Intersections, a series on artists' inspirations. NPR's Noah Adams reports.

'M. Butterfly'

In 1988, John Lithgow was nominated for a Tony for his performance as Rene Gallimard in David Henry Hwang's play M. Butterfly. A tale of love, espionage and betrayal, it tells the story of a French diplomat in China who falls in love with an effeminate male opera star. Lithgow reprised the role for a radio production.

Listen 'Listen to a 10-Minute Excerpt of Lithgow in the Radio Production of 'M. Butterfly'

Used by permission of Susan Loewenberg, producing director, L.A. Theatre Works

Arthur Lithgow swung between teaching and producing classical repertory theater, creating a Shakespeare festival at Antioch College. The younger Lithgow made his stage debut in Henry VI, Part 3 at age 6.

"My family was like a gypsy wagon following him around," John Lithgow recalls. "It sort of left me open to creative thought."

For Lithgow, creativity has translated into a life of myriad projects, as well as Tony and Emmy awards and two Oscar nominations. In addition to his work in film and on stage and TV, Lithgow has written books and composed CDs for children. This fall, Lithgow will star in the world premiere of the musical Dirty Rotten Scoundrels at the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego.



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