On Theater: Eggington, Milgrim set pace in 2011

The late playwright Horton Foote influenced the choices of both individual artists who stood above the crowd in local theater in 2011.

Foote wrote the play "A Trip to Bountiful," the movie version of which won its star, Geraldine Page, an Oscar in 1985. He also penned the screenplay for Harper Lee's novel "To Kill a Mockingbird," which guided Gregory Peck to Hollywood gold in 1962.

Today, two performers who recently assumed these familiar roles on local stages, stand to be applauded once again. They are Paul Eggington and Lynn Milgrim, the Daily Pilot's Man and Woman of the Year in Theater for 2011.

Eggington has an extensive 30-year background as an actor in professional theater. For the past eight years, his chief duties have been at Vanguard University as its resident scenic designer, technical director and sound designer. He teaches classes in these fields as well.

Five years ago, he ventured back onstage once more to take on one of Shakespeare's most difficult roles — that of the scheming Iago in "Othello."

This column noted that Eggington "emphasizes a lightness of being, an outward jollity which masks a vicious inner resentment."

And earlier this year, Eggington assumed the character of Atticus Finch in "Mockingbird" where he "turns in an excellent interpretation...physically imposing and emotionally unflappable."

The show was named Vanguard's top production of the year in this column last week.

Eggington's early training includes performances off-Broadway and throughout the West. He was a member of the Colony troupe in Los Angeles in the early 1980s and later became production manager of the Lamb's Players Theater in San Diego. His wife, Vanda, also a teacher and director at Vanguard, was chosen as Woman of the Year in 2009.

Milgrim, who performed as Carrie in South Coast Repertory's production of "The Trip to Bountiful," is no stranger to the SCR stage.

Her previous appearances include roles in "The Heiress," "The Caucasian Chalk Circle," "Bosoms and Neglect," "The Countess," "Death of a Salesman" and "Pygmalion."

In "Bountiful," she was praised in this column for assuming "a difficult and demanding role, and one performed brilliantly...her Carrie strives with limited mobility but unlimited zeal, vying for an independence long denied her in a bravura portrayal."

The show also was chosen here as SCR's best production of 2011.

Milgrim has given her regards to Broadway in productions such as "Otherwise Engaged," "Bedroom Farce" and "Charley's Aunt. She also performed in the international tour of Neil Simon's "Brighton Beach Memoirs."

She has played leading roles in regional theaters nationwide as well as off-Broadway performances in "Macbeth," "Echoes," "Crimes of Passion" and "Talking With."

Both Paul Eggington and Lynn Milgrim have elevated local theater over the years, and both demonstrated performance excellence in 2011. They are well-deserved additions to the Daily Pilot's 37-year honor roll of exceptional theater people whose talents enriched local audiences.

TOM TITUS covers the local theater scene for the Daily Pilot.

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