Local Commentary

Our Man in Arlington

Washington-Lee High School is rightfully proud of the actors it has sent to the national spotlight—1950s graduates Shirley MacLaine, her brother Warren Beatty, and the 1980s generation’s Sandra Bullock.

But there are other accomplished thespians, from W-L and greater Arlington, whose work you’ve seen on screen or stage or heard over the airwaves, perhaps without awareness of their local provenance.

Older W-L alums recall Forrest Tucker, class of ‘38, from such films as “The Westerner,” “Sands of Iwo Jima” and “Auntie Mame.” On Broadway in the late 1950s he dominated as the lead in “The Music Man,” and as frontier capitalist Sgt. O’Rourke on the ‘60s TV comedy “F Troop.” Tucker died in 1986.

Nor have Generals forgotten Gena Rowlands, class of ‘47, two-time Oscar nominee and two-time Emmy winner who starred in such films as “Gloria” and “A Woman Under the Influence,” directed by her husband John Cassavetes. More recently she did the 2004 hit “The Notebook.” She’s still at it on television’s “Monk” and “NCIS.”

Nicholas Hammond, Yorktown ’67, boasts 79 actor credits, including the movie “Sound of Music” and the 1963 classic “Lord of the Flies.” He played on the TV series “The Defenders,” “Hawaii Five-O” (‘70s version) and most recently on “The Jesters.”

Nancy Robinette, Yorktown ’69, has been called the “doyenne” of Washington theater. She has performed over the decades with the Shakespeare Company at the Lansburgh Theater and Arena Stage, and around the country. She’s won three Helen Hayes awards and four nominations. Her movie credits include “Serial Mom,” plus a passel of TV roles, including a part in “The Day Lincoln Was Shot.”

Arlington private-school spawn Zach Cregger currently stars in the NBC comedy “Guys with Kids,” having also done “Friends with Benefits.” A veteran of New York City comedy, Cregger co-wrote, co-directed and co-starred in the (raunchy) 2009 film “Miss March.”

Wes Johnson is an Arlington-based actor, comedian, radio personality, voiceover specialist and pro sports announcer who attended Swanson Middle School (and Falls Church High School). He voiced for the videogame “The Elder Scrolls.”

Doug Nelson, Yorktown ’69, has 13 film credits on the International Movie Data Base, including “Night at the Museum.” He also has appeared in TV movies such as HBO’s “Game Change” and “Eleanor and Franklin” and cable shows such as “The Wire” and “Veep.”

My friend and Yorktown classmate Jean Lichty in 2010 played the character Cherie in a production of William Inge’s “Bus Stop” at Maryland’s Olney Theatre Center. She played Lila in Inge’s “A Loss of Roses” in June 2012 at the Arkansas Rep theater, both directed by New York City playwright and film and stage actor Austin Pendleton.

Outside the spotlight, Arlington’s contributions to the entertainment industry include multiple-Emmy-winning TV producer Greg Garcia, a 1988 graduate of Yorktown who is creator of “My Name is Earl” and “Raising Hope,” among other works. From Yorktown’s class of ’72 there’s Stuart Neumann, a long-successful film industry location manager, and Phil Fravel, a well-traveled Hollywood stuntman.

When brightest lights MacLaine, Beatty and Bullock return to Arlington, they tend to keep it quiet. I recall once when Beatty, who left our area in the late 1950s, was being interviewed on “The Today Show” by Katie Couric (Yorktown ‘75), she commented that he’d gone to W-L and she to Yorktown. His reply: “What’s Yorktown?”