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Olympia Dukakis shares her Boston memories

The Oscar winner, Lowell native, and cousin to a certain former governor is returning to town tomorrow to pick up an Elliot Norton Lifetime Achievement Award.

Christian Oth

There’s a kind of irony in coming back to Boston and getting a lifetime achievement award. Elliot Norton, in his first review of a show that he saw me in, called me “The actress playing Miss Prism, whose name will go unmentioned in this column . . . ” He wanted to say very negative things about me, but he decided to pull his punches. And later he had me on his television show, and I reminded him of that. He was totally embarrassed; he didn’t even remember it.

 I graduated from graduate school at Boston University and a group of us did summer stock down on the Cape, on Buzzards Bay. We decided to hang in together and start [The Actors Company]. We went to Boston on Charles Street, and we found a place on the third floor, a loft. I think it was a Greek restaurant, a German cabinetmaker, and us. Everybody who came to see us had to walk up two very steep flights of stairs, so mostly it was a younger audience.

Then they found a bigger space, where the Charles Playhouse is now, so we went in there and renovated that. I remember pounding nails in the floor of the stage. And we had another season there, and by this time there was movement by [certain leaders] to take over. We weren’t as political and savvy as we needed to be, and people just began to peel off. I was the last one.

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 It was a big out-of-town thing in Boston then, before the New York openings. There was local theater then, but I don’t know that it was considered that exciting or that interesting. Now everywhere you look it’s another company. I like to think maybe we were part of starting it. It’s great. I’m coming to Boston in April 2015 to do a Tennessee Williams, The Milk Train Doesn’t Stop Here Anymore, at New Rep.  

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— As told to Joel Brown (Interview has been edited and condensed.)

SEE HER The Boston Theater Critics Association’s Elliot Norton Awards ceremony, with musical performances, is tomorrow at Boston’s Wheelock Family Theatre. Tickets are $30. 617-879-2300, nortonawardsboston.com