Cindy Williams (Shirley from “Laverne and Shirley”) will be performing in the comedy “Nunset Boulevard” Sunday afternoon at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center. (Photo submitted)
BY ED GEBERT
Times Bulletin Editor
VAN WERT - You know the face. It's the face you've seen for years peering back at you from the television screen, usually in the midst of a madcap comedic moment. There are a lot of fun times associated with Cindy Williams and the Milwaukee brewery worker character she brought to life, Shirley Feeney. Williams realizes it and has her own fond memories."It was all great. It was certainly a blessing and a privilege to get to do a number one show, she told The Times Bulletin during a stopover somewhere between Saginaw, Michigan and Mansfield, Ohio. Williams has just begun a tour starring in the comedy, Nunset Boulevard, the latest in the Nunsense series of shows. That tour stops in Van Wert on Sunday for a 3 p.m. show at the Niswonger Performing Arts Center.
While television made her a household name, Williams first love has always been the stage. Her stage training was even useful as she was playing her best-known role.
"When we did Laverne & Shirley, it was taped in front of like 400 people every Friday," she shared. "We did it like a stage play except with three cameras. I was a theater arts major at Los Angeles City College, a very tough program and courses. That's what I'm trained for. So stage is sort of second nature, and I feel very at home there."
In the show in which she is appearing currently, she plays Mother Superior of the Little Sisters of Hoboken. This show is the seventh in the series of popular musicals, and it is not the first time Williams has been a part of the shows.
She said, "I did Nunsense (the first show) about four years ago and had a great time doing it. Now I'm doing Nunset Boulevard, which is Danny Goggin's latest show. It's the same characters and I'm working with two of the same actresses I worked with before in Nunsense. It's just a whole lot of fun, and when he asked me to do Nunset Boulevard I jumped at the chance. His plays are always so much fun... There is great audience participation in it - it's a real crowd pleaser. And it's also something for the whole family. You can bring the kids to see it. It's for everyone right across the board."
Aside from her work on stage and on television, Williams has plenty of movie experience also. Before her first appearance as Shirley in an episode of Happy Days, she was paired with Ron Howard in the film American Graffiti. That iconic movie featured Williams as Howard's girlfriend. Williams admitted that the way films are made makes movies more difficult to adjust to doing.
"For me film is tougher," she stated. "It's a very different kind of acting, and a very different kind of technique. It's a whole different kind of energy also. You have to bring everything down, you're talking to the camera, you're talking to the camera motor, you're talking to the side of the camera, you're talking to the other actors sometimes who are on the other side of the camera saying his lines. And it's not like a whole thing where you go from beginning to middle to end all in one fell swoop. And you do have the vibration of the audience there telling you how it's going and what they like. The audience sort of sets the pace."
From the 70s and 80s until today, Williams has worked in numerous television series, guest starring in episodes of Perry Mason, Touched by an Angel, Hawaii Five-O, and Police Story. Although much of her work is available on video and sometimes re-airs on television, Williams admitted that she does not sit down and try to watch any of her films or series. She noted she has see all the episodes of Laverne & Shirley and has watched American Graffiti several times.
Aside from her acting career, Williams also had a hand in movies from behind the camera.
"I co-produced Father of the Bride one and two, I've done Broadway and a lot of stage work. I did a couple of series. One of those was very good with Telma Hopkins called, Getting By. I kept busy, I kept busy. And I raised my family," she smiled.
Her two children are now in their late twenties - Emily is 29 and Zak is 26.
"They're still my babies, of course," she insisted. "They're both musicians and singers, and excellent! And they have each had a modicum of success, but the real trail is still ahead of them. I'm just very proud of them and love them very much."
Williams will be on tour with the show through Feb. 3. Life on the road is certainly grueling, but the fun of the show and the thrill of performing keep her going. After this tour ends, she will perform A Weekend Comedy in Kansas.
"Then I'm looking for a long vacation where I stay in one place, that being my home!" she declared.