Exhausted Asner cuts short ‘FDR’ performance in Gary
By Carole Carlson Sun-Times Media March 13, 2013 6:50PM
Actor Ed Asner leads a master class with local theater students and instructors at the West Side Theatre Guild in Gary, Ind., Tuesday, March 12, 2013. Asner, whose film career has spanned more than five decades, gave the master class prior to his acting engagement as Franklin D. Roosevelt at Marquette Park Pavilion. | Guy Rhodes~For Sun-Times Media
Updated: March 14, 2013 2:12AM
Actor Ed Asner was expected to be released from an area hospital Wednesday after falling ill from exhaustion during Tuesday’s sellout performance of “FDR” at Marquette Park Pavilion in Gary.
Stunned audience members looked on as Asner, 83, struggled with his lines and finally admitted to the crowd he was confused. Audience members asked Asner questions about his life as organizers called an ambulance.
Asner left the stage about 15 minutes into the performance, which began about 40 minutes late.
On Wednesday, the actor posted a tweet on his Twitter account: “Reports of my imminent demise are greatly exaggerated. They tell me I am suffering from exhaustion. Thanks for the good wishes!”
Asner’s publicist, Charles Sherman, confirmed Asner, who has been touring the country performing the one-man “FDR” show, suffered from exhaustion. Sherman said Asner was “resting comfortably” and is expected to be released from a Northwest Indiana hospital. His family was expected to join him.
Asner, known for his television role as crusty journalist Lou Grant on the “Mary Tyler Moore Show” and later on “Lou Grant,” has been performing the show about President Franklin Delano Roosevelt for about three years.
On Tuesday, Asner sat in a wheelchair behind a presidential desk and an American flag on the pavilion’s large stage.
Earlier in the day Tuesday, he led a spirited acting class for students at the West Side Leadership Academy in Gary. Thirty drama students from Lake and Porter counties participated.
Tuesday’s performance was sponsored by the Miller Beach Arts and Creative District. The organization’s interim president Karren Lee said despite the disappointment, the audience was “amazing” in its patience and humanity.
“He really wanted to do this and obviously, he wasn’t feeling well,” said Lee. “From the moment he was on stage, he was struggling.”
Lee said as the ambulance crew removed Asner from the stage he told his audience, “I will be back.”
Lake County Surveyor George Van Til said Asner seemed confused and frustrated from the beginning. He said Asner was conscious as he left the stage, but was not speaking clearly.
The evening began with a short welcome from Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson who sat alongside former Mayor Scott King.
“There were people from Chicago and Porter County and the pavilion looked wonderful. The sound was just perfect,” said Lee.
Lee said despite the abbreviated performance, no one asked for a refund. It marked the first event the arts group presented at the newly renovated pavilion.