Walt Willey's Winter Dreams

We spoke with Walt Willey (Jack, ALL MY CHILDREN) in the middle of one of many New York winter storms this January. But guess what? It was no different out west. And that got Willey thinking about his pet project and the warmer weather.Walt Willey: You have another blizzard coming, or what?

Soap Opera Weekly: It’s been snowing all day, but we’re only supposed to get 6 inches this time. We’ll see.

Willey: I had 2 feet in New Mexico across the holiday break. It went from like 53 during the day to 17. Deep, dark, brutal, cold. Well, we’re at 6,500 feet at our place, so we get that weird mountain weather. Especially right there in downtown [Santa Fe], because you’re just on the lee side of the mountains, so that weather gets pushed up to the top of the mountain, freezes and dumps right over the other side as snow. We’re about 20 miles south of town — I had to dig out to go to the airport. It’s a desert! But it’s full of moisture.

Weekly: Any upcoming projects slated for the warmer weather?

Willey: Well, sure; I have a little playhouse in my hometown [WilleyWorld Community Productions, in Ottawa, Ill.], and this year, we’ll be doing something in the summer. We’re kind of moving ahead of schedule, which speaks mostly to the wonderful local support there. In December, we brought in a historical drama about a company based in Ottawa back in the late 1920s/mid-’30s called Radium Dial. We found this show, called These Shining Lives, in Chicago.

Weekly: Radium Dial?

Willey: It hired mostly women to paint the faces of clocks and watches with radium-based paint. To keep their brushes sharp, they were encouraged to put the brush in their mouth, wet it, tap down and into the paint. They were introducing radium into themselves for eight hours a day, and they were on piece work — so the more they did, the more they got paid. And the quicker they became sick. So we decided that next December, we’re going to bring in another historical drama. I’m writing it now, based on a very famous person who was born in that town, and that’s all I’m gonna say right now, because I’m only about halfway through writing it. But that little theater…it’s interesting that as the economy has worsened, people pull back into local things like this, which instill such a feeling of community and do pretty well.

Weekly: Thanks to all that star power you bring to Ottawa.

Willey: [laughs] But it’s not because they get to see me or Jill [Larson, Opal] or Julia [Barr, ex-Brooke; both of whom have appeared onstage with Willey in Ottawa], because two of the other productions had nobody that they knew at all, and they came out in droves. So, yeah, no matter how bad it is, we still have the arts going on in our little town. It’s a great thing. I’m very excited and happy to be doing this.

Weekly: Last summer, with Julia, you did a classic comedy, Arsenic and Old Lace. Are you thinking about another comedy at some point?

Willey: Honestly, yeah. Summer’s for comedy. We’ll be doing a comedy, and there will be another guest artist. At least that’s the plan, my friend! Here in January, that’s the plan for July.

Weekly: Right. And you know what life does when you make plans?

Willey: [laughs] Make plans and God laughs.