Luke Yankee, A Conversation, An Interview

WEST HOLLYWOOD —Handsome actor, writer and director Luke Yankee may come from Hollywood royalty, but he shares many of the things he learned as a child with others. His beautiful late mother actress Eileen Heckart appeared on many TV shows over a 50-year period. Some of the greatest attributes the prolific actress had are imparted on her son, who has spearheaded “Conversations on Craft.” This past week’s first seminar was a real hit. The public still has an opportunity to attend the next two sessions. Canyon News caught up with Yankee a few days ago and asked him about the workshop and his upcoming projects.


Q-What a great idea having the “Conversations on Craft” for people who want to break into the business, those who are in it and those who need advice. How did you come up with this workshop idea?

A-“I grew up in show business and learned so many wonderful life lessons from eavesdropping on conversations in my parents’ living room. Recently, I have been attending many of the remarkable seminars sponsored by the Writer’s Guild Foundation. When I hear these Oscar and Emmy winning writers saying, ”˜If I can do it, you can do it,’ it was so inspiring to me. I wanted to create something that would speak to the artistic community at large and be a boon to early career actors, writers directors and producers in all aspects of show business. In addition, since many artists are passionate about the causes they support, I thought donating the proceeds to charity would create a win/win situation.”

Q-How long have you been in the business and what have you done in the past?

A-“I have worn so many hats in this industry, a prominent casting director recently referred to me as an ”˜uber-hyphenate!’ I was in all the theatrical unions by the time I was 17, studied acting at Juilliard, was artistic director of two regional theaters (including the Long Beach Civic Light Opera when it was one of the biggest musical theaters in the country), directed on and Off Broadway, toured the country for three years with a one-man show and I am now focusing primarily on writing. My first book, ‘Just Outside The Spotlight’, published by Random House, is a memoir about growing up as the son of actress Eileen Heckart and talks about the golden age of Hollywood and Broadway. My first play, ”˜A Place At Forest Lawn’ has been produced at several regional theaters and is published by Dramatists Play Service. I am now moving into film and television writing and loving it.”


Luke Yankee polishing his star in Hollywood

Q-What is the toughest part of being in the entertainment industry?

A-“Being self-motivated. Always having to rev yourself up for your next project can be a real challenge, but if it’s what you love, you do it.”

Q-How long will this workshop be going on?

A-”˜Conversations on Craft’ launched on Tuesday, February 16, with ”˜Frasier’ creator David Lee and the star of ”˜The Waltons,’ Michael Learned. They are such dynamic people with incredible stories about the industry. It was a stimulating, exciting conversation. On March 9, we will have Marc Cherry, the creator of ”˜Desperate Housewives’ and Marco Pennette, executive producer & writer on ”˜Ugly Betty,’ ”˜Samantha Who?’ and so many other shows. Following that, we will switch from television to Broadway with Harriet Harris, Tony winner as Mrs. Meers in ”˜Thoroughly Modern Millie’ (who also played Frasier’s agent and lots of wonderful film and TV roles) and David Zippel, Tony winning lyricist for ”˜City Of Angels’ and Disney’s ”˜Mulan’ and many others. As long as there is an audience for it, I hope to keep going.”

Q-Tell us what you have coming up in 2010?

A-“I have new play I have written called ‘The Jesus Hickey; which will be produced by the Katselas Theatre Company at the Skylight Theatre in LA in May and June. I am really excited about it, as I will also be directing. It is an irreverent comedy about a young, Irish girl who gets a hickey in the shape of Jesus and develops mystical, healing powers. It is sort of a zany fable about religious fanaticism and the price of fame. The play has won several awards at new works festivals around the country and I also have a screenplay version. A couple of prominent producers are interested in it. Hopefully having a production of the play in LA will help to get the movie made.”

Tickets for “Conversations on Craft” are $20 online through Brown Paper Tickets or $25 at the door ($15 for students with valid ID). The first three seminars are Tuesday February 16, March 9 and April 13 at The Stella Adler Theatre, 6773 Hollywood Boulevard (east of Highland) from 7:30-9 p.m.

Parking is available at the Hollywood & Highland complex for $2 with validation. A wine and cheese reception with the speakers is included in the ticket price.

To order tickets online, go to /event/91183. For more information, go to