Earlier this year Tony award-winning actress Linda Lavin made her Wilmington theater debut a decade after she made the Port City her home. But fans won't have to wait that long to see her again. Lavin's latest production is "Collected Stories," by Donald Margulies. The show premiered Thursday night at the Red Barn Studio, owned by Lavin and her husband Steve Bakunas. "The play is about what happens when you tell your story to somebody and it's somebody who's a writer," Lavin said. Lavin plays Ruth Steiner, a famed short-story author teaching at Columbia University and giving lessons to Lisa Morrison, a young upstart writer eager to learn from a master. "I tell her I'm not going to teach her how to write, because it can't be taught, but that talent is innate," Lavin said. It's a feeling Lavin, a Tony and Golden Globe winner turned acting teacher understands. "I believe a lot of the things that I say in the play about teaching," Lavin said. "Acting, for instance. I think you can teach the principles, but you can't give somebody talent. It's inborn." Lavin sees that talent in co-star Isabel Heblich, the two of them somewhat mirroring the teacher-student relationship of their characters, using their personal interaction to bring the roles to life. "We just from day one wanted to dive right in, wanted to get into it," Heblich said. "And we enjoy each other. We enjoy being on stage with each other." At Red Barn it's not just the actors who share the stage. Lavin says the 47-seat theater brings the audience into Ruth's living room. Director Bakunas agrees, saying the smaller setting helps the production in big ways. "Sometimes when you see a play on a large-scale stage, it's all presentational, and you don't see the intimacy as much as you would in this situation," Bakunas said. "It's a journey," Lavin said. "It's a passionate journey." "Collected Stories" runs through November 18 at the Red Barn Studio at the corner of Third and Marstellar Streets in Wilmington. Performances are Wednesday-Saturday 8 p.m., Sunday matinee 3 p.m. Tickets are $25 for adults, $23 for students and seniors. Call (910) 762-0955.
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