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Courtney Vance rides theater skill to Hollywood

Brian Wright O’Connor | 9/25/2013, 11:50 a.m.
Actor Courtney Vance, a Harvard graduate, spoke about his journey at the university’s Winthrop House residence hall on Sept. 18. ABC

His return to the stage this season for Lucky Guy after a 20-year absence from Broadway brought back the butterflies and fears but also the rewards of acting on the edge. The play marked a return to Broadway for Hanks as well.

​“We had Oprah in the house, Denzel. They all came backstage and we took pictures. We are the most picture-ing-est-taking cast on Broadway. Then Meryl Streep came. Meryl Streep? There’s nobody like her. We stood back and nobody dared asked for a picture. I saw Sophie’s Choice. I read the book. She’s the reason I went to Yale. Up on stage, nobody goes that deep — except my wife,” said Vance.

Vance’s primer on theater as life concluded with two points. The first, that the stage teaches us “to live in the moment, to synthesize. You leave these hallowed halls and out there it gets ugly. You’ve got to innovate.”

Second, the stage teaches responsibility to show kindness. He recalled meeting a mother and her daughter backstage with Tom Hanks, who was left weeping by the teenager’s story of how his movies helped keep her alive during a serious illness.

“Afterwards, Tom said to me, ‘You think we just do what we do and we go home. But we never really know how we’re affecting people. That’s why we have to be kind."