|Peter Dennis, Actor, Performer|
(in his own words)
Three years later, I graduated from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and have since been fortunate to play leading roles in numerous theatre productions in the West End of London, provincial repertory theatres in the United Kingdom, America, Holland, the Caribbean and Bermuda.
Prior to arriving in America in 1986, I appeared in many television plays and series in Europe, including The Great Escape with Christopher Reeve, Yes, Minister written by Jonathan Lynn, Jennie with Lee Remick and Prime Suspect with Helen Mirren. Having served as a Sergeant in the British Army, as an actor I was promoted to General to play Montgomery in War And Remembrance, A Man Called Sarge and The Dirty Dozen.
"We are such stuff as dreams are made on..."
My first film appearance was the starring role in Compromise, which won the Gold Medal at the 1969 International Student Film Festival. Behind the camera was a golden talent of the future, Tony Scott.
A number of unmemorable film appearances include The Stud, Confessions of a Window Cleaner, Minder On The Orient Express, The Rainbow Thief, A Man Called Sarge, and Scandalous. When Sir John Gielgud was asked why he had agreed to appear in Scandalous, he replied, "Dear boy, I have a house in the country, and it is very expensive to run!" My house is in Shadow Hills, California — it’s also very expensive to run!
I have often portrayed a Ship's Bosun, an Hyena, a Restaurateur and Galileo's research assistant, as well as the handsome prince, a murderer and frequently a lover. I've distinguished myself as the Butler to many households – all alike in dignity – the Dean of the American University in Cairo, the Minister of Transport in the Conservative Government, and the Devil. For an inadequate fee, I've sometimes portrayed Police Officers, Doctors, Journalists, Psychiatrists, Paleantologists, Art Gallery Owners, Pirate Captains, Lawyers, Judges, Professors, Auctioneers, Hotel Managers – even a Grandfather!
I was introduced to Winnie-the-Pooh by Angela Coghlan [neé Westmacott] at the comparatively early age of 36 during the 1969/1970 Exhibition of the Works of Ernest Shepard at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. This expotition led to the premiere of my one-man stage show, BOTHER!, Selections from The Complete Works of Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne, produced by Michael Dale and directed by my wife, Diane, at the A.D.C. Theatre, Cambridge University on October 14th, 1976, to coincide with the fiftieth anniversary of the publication of Winnie-the-Pooh in 1926. The show has since been performed more than 300 times at over 100 major European theaters, festivals and universities, as well as the Palace of Westminster, London. Audiences have ranged from only two at The Gate Theatre, Notting Hill, London, over 10,600 at The Hollywood Bowl, Hollywood, California in the summer of 1999 and approximately 62,000 at the Pooh Friendship Day held in Assiniboine Park, Winnipeg on August 20th, 2000. In 2001 I narrated a selection of Milne's verses set to Edward Elgar's 'Wand of Youth Suite' with the Philadelphia Orchestra at the Mann Center for the Performing Arts - to an audience of some 13,000 - and with the San Francisco Symphony at Sharon Meadows in San Francisco under the baton of George Daugherty. - to an audience of over 10,000.
In 1986 Anna Strasberg of the Actors Studio presented the American premier of Bother! at the Lee Strasberg Institute in Hollywood, where it was honored with the Drama- Logue Award and the L.A. Theater Award.
Bother! has since been performed at the Coronet and Tamarind Theaters in Los Angeles, Every Picture Tells a Story, the Santa Barbara International Film Festival; the Los Angeles Public Library; UK/LA Festival, California Institute of Technology, Pasadena; the University of California San Diego; The Famous Door Theater, Chicago; Harper College, Illinois; Brigham Young University, Utah; the Asolo Conservatory of Florida State University, Sarasota; Nextstage Theatre, Sun Valley, Idaho; the American Stage Theatre in St. Petersburg; The Opera House, Woodstock; English Speaking Union, New York; Theatre 150, Ojai; the Miniature Theatre of Chester, Massachusetts; Disney PoohFest, Chicago; Whittier College; and UCLA.
In celebration of Pooh's seventieth birthday, and to honour the life of Christopher Robin Milne, who passed away on April 20th 1996, I read The Complete Works of Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne at Every Picture Tells a Story, commencing at 12 noon on Sunday, 27th October and completed the canon of twenty stories and seventy-nine poems at 12.50 a.m. on the Monday.
I celebrated Pooh's 75th birthday on Saturday, October 13th, 2001, reading Us Two and In Which We Learn that Tiggers Don't Climb Trees at the Topanga home of Al and Joanne Martinez. Al, a Pulitzer prize-winning columnist with the Los Angeles Times invited a number of their friends for a sumptuous dinner that evening. I was very disappointed that the Garrick Club and Westminster School, who shared a major portion of the recent windfall of over $350,000,000 from the Walt Disney Company, did not celebrate this unique event. I was not surprised that the Walt Disney Company chose to ignore the occasion, as most products described as 'Classic Pooh' disappeared long ago from the shelves of the Disney Stores.
The eighteen-part radio series of The Complete Works of Winnie-the-Pooh, produced by Christopher Toyne, was first broadcast by KCRW Santa Monica in 1991 and is frequently aired by National Public Radio stations across America. Peter's audio recordings of The Complete Works of Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne have been honored with the Public Broadcasting Silver Award, three Ohio State Achievement of Merit Awards, the Audie Award and Parents' Choice Gold Award. My Unabridged Audio Recordings of the Complete Works of Winnie-the-Pooh by A.A. Milne, produced by Christopher Toyne are available in a number of delightful packaging options.
"And I know it seems easy," said Piglet, "but it isn't everyone who can do it."
My other one-man show, Speak of the Devil, A Portrait of the Devil in Literature from Revelations to Bulgakov, compiled by the late Yvonne Mitchell, received its English premiere at the Oxford Playhouse Theater and was premiered in America by Jody Kiel at the Tamarind Theater, Hollywood, in 1993.
‘The audio recordings were originally distributed by K-Tel International and Soundelux, but, after being wooed by Walt Disney Records, Diane and I spent over a year working closely with the Disney Records design team. The eventual cassette products, highly praised by Michael Eisner and Roy Disney, were swiftly shelved on the advice of their ‘expert’ sales representatives. The recordings are available through this web site and iTunes and direct from Blackstone Audio through their web site http://www.blackstoneaudio.com
‘The accompanying music to the recordings is by Don Davis, double Emmy award-winner and composer of many film scores, including ‘Bound’, Jurassic Park III’ and ‘The Matrix Trilogy’. Don conducted a chamber ensemble, with Gloria Cheng on piano for the world premiere of his composition ‘The Enchanted Place Suite’ in April, 2004 at the Orange County Center for the Performing Arts. The Suite, dedicated to me, accompanies Milne’s verse ‘Us Two’ and his story ‘In Which Pooh Invents a New Game and Eeyore Joins In’.
Since my first arrival in America in 1986, I have been a guest star in many television productions, including Murder, She Wrote, Murphy Brown, Melrose Place, Prime Suspect, Knot's Landing, Santa Barbara, To Be The Best, Acapulco H.E.A.T., The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., The George Carlin Show, California Dreams, Saved By The Bell, Too Something, Young Indiana Jones and the Hollywood Follies, Misery Loves Company, Step by Step, Star Trek: Voyager, Mr. Rhodes, Tracey Takes On, Profiler, In The House, Townies, Family Matters, Knight Life, Friends, Seinfeld, The Wayans Brothers, Felicity, Diagnosis Murder and Alias.
Recent films have included 'The Effects of Magic' directed by Chuck Martinez; 'Hellborn' directed by Philip Jones; 'Sideways' directed by Alexander Payne; ‘Man in the Chair’ directed by Michael Schroeder and ’10 Inch Hero directed by David Mackay.
On June 16th, 2007, Diane and I recorded a play for radio ‘The Upstart Crow’ written and directed by Vincent Dowling at The Beverley Garden Theatre. The play covers an imagined meeting between Susannah, the daughter of William Shakespeare and Richard Burbage, the famed Elizabethan actor, artist and theatrical entrepreneur. Vincent is an internationally acclaimed actor and was the Artistic Director of the Abbey Theatre in Dublin for over twenty years. It was a great experience working with him — Diane and I have too rarely performed together during all our 35 years, and ‘The Upstart Crow’ was certainly the peak of all we have done together. U.C.L.A. plan to present the show in October. Hopefully there will be other opportunities. “You never can tell!” says Pooh. The following is an example of many heartwarming and encouraging letters we received following the performances:
I have completed the audio recording of Christopher Milne’s autobiographies, ‘The Enchanted Places’ and ‘The Path Through the Trees’ under the guiding hands of Al Johnson and Diane. Don Davis has very kindly allowed me to include excerpts from his two compositions ‘The Enchanted Place’ and ‘Your Gift to Me’ from my recordings of The Complete Works of Winnie-the-Pooh. Of course, Al has many hours of editing before it is completed. But it all sounds very good and we are hopeful the finished product will have some life – apart from entertaining Christopher’s daughter, Clare.
Diane and Peter spent six weeks in Pennyslvania recording the CD and DVD of “Buttercup Days” a Jazz Suite by Phil Woods. Phil had composed the Suite, formerly known as “The Children’s Suite” some 45 years earlier, but had not been allowed to perform it live or to record it. Peter negotiated with the Pooh Trustees and the Walt Disney Company to secure the necessary permissions. The Pooh Trustees quickly gave their blessing to the project, but it took nearly six years for Peter to finalize an agreement with the Walt Disney Company. Hopefully, the CD will be edited in time to be nominated for Phil’s fifth Grammy Award.
What's next? 'You never can tell!' says Pooh.
The English actor PETER DENNIS
BOTHER! The BRAIN OF POOHSelections from the works of Winnie-the-Pooh by A. A. Milne
SPEAK OF THE DEVIL
Compiled by Yvonne Mitchell
BOTHER! The Brain of Pooh received its American premier at the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute in December 1986, before transferring to the Coronet Theatre in 1987. The show received eight 'Critics Choices' the "L.A. Weekly Theatre Award" and the "Drama-Logue Award".
Bother! has been performed at over 80 major theatres, festivals and universities throughout the United Kingdom and America.
Speak of the Devil was compiled by Yvonne Mitchell from the works of James Bridie, Mikhail Bulgakov, Lord Byron, Daniel Defoe, Gustave Flaubert, Johann Wolfgang Goethe, James Hogg, the Ettrick Shepherd, Ben Jonson, Christopher Marlowe, John Milton, Jean Paul Sartre, Dorothy L. Sayers, George Bernard Shaw, Stephen King and the Mystery Plays.
It has been performed at the Playhouse Theatre, Oxford and the Tamarind Theatre, Hollywood.
The Devil in literature, from Revelations to Bridie, has proved to be so immensely attractive, that often writers, who started off with Godly intentions to smear his name, have, in spite of themselves, produced a hero. Audacious, courageous, unconquerable, a fellow of brilliant verbal wit, he defies his censors and appears again and again triumphant. We are lured into his net, not by his guile, as he probably believes, but by his exciting personality, which breaks the conventions of each decade one after the other and forces us to think afresh. Who could help Falling for him?
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