Peter Coyote joins GSO for season opener

by Mark Burger

TheGreensboro Symphony Orchestra will add a touch of star power to its openingpresentation of the 2015-’16 performance season, as acclaimed, award-winningactor Peter Coyote provides live narration for Musical Quest, the firstconcert of the Tanger Outlets Masterworks Series, which will be presentedThursday and Saturday at Dana Auditorium in Greensboro.

Symphonymusic director Dmitry Sitkovetsky and the orchestra will lead audiences througha triple-threat offering that includes selections from Edvard Grieg’s PeerGynt, Aaron Copland’s Lincoln Portrait, and Richard Strauss’ DonJuan.

MusicalQuest will also feature up-and-comingstar and Greensboro native Emily Rose Siar, who will perform Peer Gynt withthe orchestra. Siar, who graduated Greensboro Day School and frequently singsat Temple Emanuel Synagogue, studied music at UNC-Chapel Hill prior to heracceptance at Marilyn Horne’s prestigious Music Academy of the West in SantaBarbara, Cal.

Coyote, a veteran of 150 film andtelevision projects, recently won an Emmy Award as Outstanding Narrator for thePBS documentary series The Roosevelts: An Intimate History, which markedhis latest collaboration with noted documentary filmmaker Ken Burns. Coyotepreviously won an Emmy for narrating Alex Gibney’s 1992 documentary ThePacific Century.

April 2015 saw the publication ofhis memoir The Rainman’s Third Cure: An Irregular Education, which he’sbeen promoting – including a reading and book-signing this week at ScuppernongBooks in Greensboro.

So what brings the busy actor tothe Piedmont Triad? Simple: Friendship.

“DmitrySitkovetsky is one of my oldest and most dearly beloved friends,” Coyoterelates. “Both of us travel far too much, and we don’t get to see enough ofeach other “¦ so we put out calendars together, side by side, to see when wecould get together.”

Lastyear, Sitkovetsky asked if they could work on a Greensboro Symphonypresentation similar to this one. “We did and I had a great time,” Coyote says.

Having done so much narration,Coyote’s voice is as familiar as his face. He’s read audio books but doesn’trelish the rushed schedule. Documentary narration, however, he loves –”especially when you’re working with someone like Ken Burns,” he says. Theirprevious collaborations include 2009’s The National Parks: America’s BestIdea, 2011’s Prohibition and the aforementioned The Roosevelts.For Gibney, he also provided narration for the Oscar-nominated Enron: TheSmartest Guys in the Room (2005).

Of the many projects he’s workedon, “there are about a dozen I’m really pleased with and love,” Coyote admits.

Among those are the collaborationswith such illustrious filmmakers as Steven Spielberg (E.T. – TheExtra-Terrestrial), Roman Polanski (Bitter Moon), Steven Soderbergh(Erin Brockovich), Brian De Palma (Femme Fatale), Pedro Almodovar(Kika), Walter Hill (Southern Comfort), Glenn Jordan (Echoesin the Darkness), and Bobby Roth, with whom he’s made four films, includingthe 1990 thriller The Man Inside (a personal favorite of the actor’s)and the 1991 crime drama Keeper of the City, which earned Coyote aCableACE Award nomination as Best Supporting Actor.

“I’m very lucky in that regard,”he says, but too often he finds himself relegated to playing what he calls “ajerk in a suit.

“I’m just trying to pay the rentand mortgage,” he says simply. “I’ve always done well enough. I’ve put my kidsthrough college with no debt. If I’ve got a month’s pay in the bank, I can turndown junk. If not, I’ll take what’s on my plate.”

If that’s the case, he laughs,”I’ll play another jerk in a suit.”

Having written Sleeping Where IFall: A Chronicle, which was published in 1998, and now The Rainman’sThird Cure, Coyote much more enjoys writing the acting. “I love the act ofsitting at my computer and just writing,” he says, then humorously boasts: “TheRainman’s Third Cure is number-one in Northern California on a small,unviable best-seller list.“

He’s penned 12 (!) scripts “andnot a single one was ever made,” he says. “A script is about 100 pages long, sothere are 12,000 pages (I’ve written) – which some people thought were not onlymarketable but brilliant – and they never got made.”

He’s toying with writing fictionbut admits he’s intimidated because he respects the form so much. “I’m justwaiting for something to come along the spinal telephone.”

Coyote balances his career withbeing a spiritual seeker and a social activist. He’s a Zen Buddhist and “Ihappen to be a Socialist, and I believe that not everything in our culture hasto make a profit.”

Witha farm and orchards in Mill Valley, Cal., “I want to spend the time I have leftdoing what I want to do,” Coyote affirms. “I’m not overly drawn to acting.

“Ilove acting and I love rehearsing,” he says. “I like working with other actors,I like working with directors, I like the crews … but I find the businessloathsome. Nothing in the ‘business’ is helpful to the actor.”

Althougha man of conscience and compassion, Coyote began his career in improvisationaltheater and admits he wishes he had more opportunity to play humorous roles.

“Allmy friends think I’m a funny person and I’m never offered comedy!”

Ifyou want to go “¦ Showtimes are 8 pm Thursday and Saturday at Dana Auditorium,5800 W. Friendly Ave., Greensboro. Tickets are $46, $40 and $34. Tickets forstudents are $6. For tickets or more information, call 336.335.5456 (ext. 224)or visit the official Greensboro Symphony website: Tickets are also available through TicketMaster: