"The first act is absolutely side-splitting. The laughs fly fast and furious. Sullivan has an excellent ear for the rhythm and tempo" KPBS – Pat Launer
D.J. Sullivan and her cast prove the importance of comedic timing. The production shines. D.J. Sullivan has brought San Diego a well polished – SDTheaterScene.com – Hitch
Catch a Falling Star – All of the actors found their unique relationships on stage to make this play really sing. D.J. Sullivan directed well – Cuauhtamoc Q Kish
“Outrageously funny, often poignantly touching, by turns crude and eloquent, the D.J. Sullivan directed “Frankie and Johnny in the Clair de Lune” is also very, very chilling. Ms. Sullivan has restored integrity to McNally's script through this multifaceted production” – Carolyn Passeneau
BY TOM NORWOOD, SAN DIEGO BRANCH PRESIDENT This year, the San Diego SAG branch is marking the Silver Anniversary of its founding. It was 25 years ago, in 1974, that D.J. Sullivan persuaded the powers that be to make this outpost of Los Angeles a branch unto itself. D.J. worked hard and recruited some L.A. members who lived in the San Diego area to switch their allegiance and become members of the new branch. We could boast of some three dozen members. Dennis Weaver, former SAG President (1974), came down for the inauguration of our branch and the installation of our first president, D.J. Sullivan. It's appropriate for San Diego to maintain a SAG branch. Filming has taken place here since 1910 when the Flying "A" Movie Studio made Cupid in Chaps. In 1914 Cecil B. DeMille came down to direct The Virginian. The list of features using us as a location now stands at more than 100. A sample of my favorites include Some Like It Hot Stuntman, Top Gun, and of course, all those Killer Tomato movies. Television-series production began in San Diego with Harry O and Simon & Simon. In the last decade we have been fortunate enough to host such series as Silk Stalkings, Renegade, Vanishing Sun, High Tide Push, Nightman and Pensacola, Wings of Gold, and more movies-of-the-week than I can remember. According to statistics in the Hollywood Reporter, San Diego ranks No. 3 in domestic TV production, behind Los Angeles and New York. Perhaps that's why our membership has grown from three dozen to just more than 1,000 since 1974. With Sullivan continuing to be our guru and National Board member, and a dedicated staff of four, San Diego is blessed.
‘An actor is proud of every line. ” — Virginia Hawkins, San Diego Actor By Lee Grant, ARTS CRITIC-AT-LARGE, San Diego Union They work in San Diego, each with varying show business careers, each passionate about their profession, each zealously active in the Screen Actors Guild — national board member Virginia Hawkins, local branch president Don Ahles, longtime activist and former board member D.] . Sullivan. This year, is celebrating its 75th anniversary amid nasty negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers (AMPTP), representing the major Hollywood studios. Issues focus mostly on income from new technology There's also an unsavory split between the hard- line group running the union that represents 127,000 members, and an upstart contingent led by Alec , Baldwin, Tom Hanks and Sally Field challenging the leadership and seeking a quicker compromise. The local branch of 1,600 celebrated the 75th anniversary at a party in June at the Museum of Photographic Arts, during an unusual heat wave. Wrote Hawkins, 74, in the San Diego newsletter: "Actors are accustomed to unforeseen difficulties. We just call it showbiz. We wiped our brows, drank wine, ate cake, bid on some really fun memorabilia and enjoyed a Elm reminding us of how and why the guild was formed? That movie was 1933's "The Invisible Man" with Gloria Stuart, one of SAG's founding members. The chatty newsletter also keeps an eye on famous members visiting here. Item: "Al Pacino was seen with his beautiful twins enjoying our wonderful Legoland attraction.". During the year, San Diego's SAG branch conducts workshops (in which Sullivan, among other things, preps performers on what to expect going up for a part) and keeps a production hot line, tips on who's hiring. Tucked onto University Heights' nearly hidden Tyler Street, in a building called Swedenborg Hall, is a small theater run for decades by Sullivan, 72. On this day, she, Hawkins and Ahles sat beneath the stage, noise of construction accompanying them, chatting some about labor strife but mostly of the actor's life. For Sullivan, it's her 52nd year in the place where she's toiled as a performer and director and where she guides fledgling actors. Her Sullivan Players have mounted productions like “Holy Ghosts" ("about a snake church") and Jules Feiffer's "Little Murders." The pay? ‘*Gas money." "It's been needing an overhaul," she said, cradling a résumé that includes movies like "Raise the Titanic" and TV shows like "Baretta." Hawkins, who lives in El Cajon. had lengthy stints as a supporting player on TV”s "Medical Center" in the '70s and “Dynasty” in the '80s, and invested well in San Diego estate. She's an adamant guild member: "The AMPTP said they'd bury us with reality shows. And with reality shows, bread and butter people like us, especially seniors, don't get the jobs." Ahles, 45, who began working as a 7-year—old in commercials, is a cheerleader for his two colleagues. “For all three, their decade long SAG membership is something meaningful. Sullivan, who had been a young single mom with three kids, recalled "being taken to the backcountry for a commercial. No food, no bathroom and 18-hour days." She became the San Diego branch's First president and first national board member. Sullivan was featured in the infamous San Diego cult movie "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes" (1978) and its sequels, including "Return of the Killer Toma- toes" (1988), which co—starred an eventual Oscar winner - George Clooney. Sullivan, who lives in Bay Park, taught for years at San Diego Junior Theater and instills her heart in students: "Acting is something you have to do. It's a passion. I've done it since was 14." She studied op- era in Spokane, Wash., and as a freshman in high school got the lead in the senior play. At that point, she realized, "This I could love." She has a TV pilot in the bank called "Agatha and Tillie," "two old broads," she said. It's been described as "over 70 years old and broke with past-due bills, two sisters plot and carry out a robbery with knitting needles and soon upgrade to big guns." Added Hawkins, ‘They say you get bit. I remember my mom taking me to an Easter play in Abilene, Texas. In Solana Beach, I was a showoff in elementary school." She was encouraged by her parents and a teacher at San Dieguito High. The road to the prestigious Pasadena Playhouse was difficult. Her dad sold his car, "but there was no money." Eventually, she earned a scholarship. Ahles' mother had done commercials and introduced him to legendary local agent Mary Crosby. "I remember going into this big room, - about 8 or 9 years old," he said. “It was a Jack in the Box national spot. I got it and had lines. We were Little Leaguers. The coach says, ‘You guys were fantastic today. I'm treating you all to , hamburgers' And I say, ‘I want a chocolate shake.' " He later worked on a number of shows produced at Kearny Mesa's Stu Segall Productions, including "Renegade," as a reporter, and "Silk Stalkings," as a cop. Every year, Hawkins, Ahles and Sullivan enjoy dressing up formally and making their way to Hollywood for the annual, nationally televised Screen Actors Guild Awards (the l5th annual coming up in January) . One time, Sullivan said, "Tom Cruise walked me down the red carpet. He was sweet and nice." Even an actor gets star- struck.
Calendar THEATER, Jeff Smith San Diego Reader She taught at Junior Theatre for 17 years. In 1977 she opened the D.J. Sullivan Workshop, which is still going strong. She can't estimate how many students she's had — “I don't think in terms of numbers” — but it's easily several thousand. Like many who grew up before television, Sullivan listens to it, as to a radio, while doing other things. She'll hear a voice that sounds familiar, look up, and recognize a former student. “Not a day goes by when I don't see one on TV.” Or a local stage. At New Village Arts's recent Crimes of the Heart, Sullivan`s students included Jessica John, Amanda Sitton, and Daren Scott (who, as an 11-year·old, lied about his age so he could attend Junior Theatre's 14—17 age group; Sullivan thought, “This kid wants to learn” and admitted him). Her pupils, former and current —— and adamantly loyal —— insist that she brings two qualities to her work: she's an inspiring teacher and has a lifetime of experiences as an actor. She knows, in other words, how it feels to be auditioner #476 on a Friday afternoon in LA. She played a woman seeking a birth certificate in the famous “Who Shot J.R.?” episode of Dallas. Since the ending was so hush-hush (they filmed three different versions), Sullivan had to sign a paper promising she wouldn't tell. She played Robert Blake”s landlady in Baretta, which ranks as her least favorite acting experience: “The make-up people said, ‘Don't talk to him; don't look at him; he fires women all the time' ” She did all four Attack of the Killer Tomato movies. Sullivan always has students write down what they want in life (“people are afraid to put their fantasy into words, but it focuses their goals”). While on the Tomatoes set, she asked a young, shaggy George Clooney what he wanted. “Be a star," he said. “But you haven't done the work!” She told Clooney to cut his hair, dress better, put lifts in his shoes, and get a good agent. He lauded a role on E.R. — they worked from 4:30 a.m. "till past sundown” — and paid his dues in full. 'Sullivan's motto: Don't ask me if you don't want to know." A 19—year-old wondered how long it'd take her to make him a star. He assumed not long, since he deemed him self a quick study, and acting “look's so easy." “You've got the wrong class, bub." “A lot of actors don't understand persistence,” she says. “Anthony Hopkins reads a script at least 150 times before he decides to do it.”