Homage to Olympia Dukakis

The Goddess of Acting

In master classes with Oscar winner Olympia Dukakis, one could always count on her bold and direct questions that allowed performers to examine themselves from a perspective that was simultaneously stark and enlightening. She had the ability to draw out an actor’s artistic skills and allow them to color their character and world with a vivid imagination. There is no denying that Olympia Dukakis was an inspiration to those who witnessed her work, whether on stage, on screen, or in the classroom. 

“Olympia, was a passionate advocate for solo performers, and United Solo was honored to have her a part of our master class series,” said Omar Sanger, founder and artistic director of the United Solo. “In our home at Theatre Row and at her private home studio in New York, she taught our participants how to dive deeper into the stories they wanted to share with the world. Olympia was a true friend, a role model, and the Goddess of Acting. She’ll be missed a great deal.” 

Her legacy will be remembered, not only within our solo community, but in the entertainment industry at large. Olympia took home an Oscar for her performance in the 1987 romantic comedy “Moonstruck.” As a highly respected performer of both classical and contemporary theater, the daughter of Greek immigrants first distinguished herself on stage performing in summer stock, and with repertory and Shakespeare companies throughout the country. She made her Broadway debut as an understudy in “The Aspern Papers” at age 30. In 1971 she co-founded The Whole Theater Company in Montclair, NJ, together with her husband, the actor Louis Zorich. Dukakis scored theater triumphs in “A Man’s a Man,” for which she won an Obie Award in 1963, and “The Marriage of Bette and Boo’ — another Obie Award. Many of her successes, both as actor and director, took place while working with The Whole Theater, which encouraged the development of new and untried plays. “Moonstruck” featured a 56-year-old Dukakis in the role of Cher’s sardonic, world-weary mother. In addition to that year’s Oscar for Best Supporting Actress, her performance earned her a Golden Globe, an American Comedy Award, and a Los Angeles Film Critics Award. It also launched Dukakis into stardom. She remained in high demand for over three decades as of one of Hollywood’s most sought-after character players, first in line for a number of top roles including “Steel Magnolias” (1989), “Look Who’s Talking” (1989), “The Cemetery Club” (1993) and “Mr. Holland’s Opus” (1995). A more recent film, “Cloudburst” (2011), was a critical and audience darling, winning over forty awards for Best Film at festivals around the world. Dukakis won several Best Actress awards for her role. She has received high praise for her extensive work in television, including Emmy Award nominations for “Lucky Day,” “More Tales of the City,” and “Joan of Arc.”