published Thursday, March 29th, 2012

Curtain Call: Hope arrives in Chattanooga

Hope Alexander is shown in her role as Mrs. Cheveley in "An Ideal Husband" at South Coast Repertory in California.
Hope Alexander is shown in her role as Mrs. Cheveley in "An Ideal Husband" at South Coast Repertory in California.
Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

HOPE ALEXANDER

Age: 65.

Hometown: San Francisco.

Family: Son, Thorin; grandson, Ivan; daughter-in-law, Heather Simmons Alexander.

Other talents: Blues and jazz singer, skilled in British, Irish, Russian, Polish and French dialects.

Other interests: She is also a Life Coach (thecoachhopesite.com), helping people focus their goals via half-hour phone conversations.

At 22, Hope Alexander was a single woman doing her best to raise a child. Born into a theater family, being an actress was all she knew or ever wanted to be. That meant long days and nights learning her craft, auditioning, rehearsing and performing.

When her son had his own child five years ago and moved his family to Chattanooga, Alexander made a drastic decision. She left Los Angeles and the theater company she was running there and moved here to be a full-time grandmother.

"It wasn't a hard decision at all," she said. "My friend said, "You've had your career; now you get to have a life. I've accomplished pretty much what I wanted or hoped.

"I missed so much of Thorin's growing up."

During her 49-year career, Alexander has done film, television and theater. In the late '70s, she actually made her first visit to Chattanooga as part of a national tour of "Shakespeare's People" starring opposite Sir Michael Redgrave at the Tivoli Theatre.

Over the years, she has performed or directed productions in Louisville, Ky.; Chapel Hill, N.C.; Seattle and California. During one three-and-half-year stretch, she directed 23 plays, she said.

"Now I'd rather use my energy on the playground," she said.

Her television credits include the lead in "The New WKRP in Cincinnati" and guest spots on "The Bob Newhart Show," "Eight Is Enough" and "Sisters."

She had featured roles in "The Princess Diaries" (1 and 2). She got those roles in part because of her friendship with Garry Marshall.

"There is a group of us called FOGS, Friends of Garry Marshall, and he insists on having us on set. He's a wonderful man and a wonderful mentor."

In fact, the only acting she does these days is when Marshall calls, she said.

She's also taught several classes, including Improvisation, Ritual Movement, Song Styling and Acting Shakespeare, at the University of North Carolina, the American Conservatory Theatre and California Institute of the Arts and others.

While being a grandmother now takes up most of her time, Alexander said she definitely is not retired from the theater.

"Artists never retire, they die; and they do that kicking and screaming."

She is reading scripts as part of the Nicholl Fellowships in Screenwriting contest presented by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. She is also teaching a class at Chattanooga Theatre Centre called On Camera Acting/The Business of the Business. Her class has 17 students who are learning how to act in front of a camera and how to put together a marketing plan and package to promote themselves.

"They don't call it 'show arts'," she said. "It is a business."

Alexander said she has found several talented people in Chattanooga, but does lament the lack of a professional acting company and the relatively small numbers of directing opportunities. She directed "Blues for Mister Charlie" in collaboration with the CTC and Destiny Theatre Company.

"One of the biggest things I had to get used to when I moved here was the fact the waiters and waitresses are just waiters and not actors," she said.

about Barry Courter...

Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...

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