Jane Alderman says “it’s time”

It’s not retirement for casting director Jane Alderman, but more like a transition back to her theatrical acting roots. The trailblazer who put hundreds of Chicago actors on the screen over three decades is retiring Dec. 31.

This fall she will head for Broadway where she has a role in “Superior Donuts,” a play by Steppenwolf’s Tracy Letts.

In the play, “Jane plays the part of a bag lady who hangs out at the donut shop. It isn’t a big part, but she steals the scene when the show was at Steppenwolf,” comments Stewart Talent agent Nancy Kidder, a long time colleague of Alderman.

After the Broadway run, Alderman will return to Chicago. While she won’t be dealing with actors, she will continue to teach the art and craft of acting at Act One and Roosevelt University. Earlier she taught at DePaul’s theatre school for 20 years.

Said the lifelong actress about her decision, “It’s not the economy or technology encroaching on the artistic, it’s just a good time to say adios,” she said.

Casting director David O’Connor, O’Connor Casting, called Alderman’s departure “a sad moment.”

“Jane is an icon and looked upon with utmost respect,” he said. “She’s done so much for the town, always giving local actors an opportunity to shine and show off their talents.”

However, he added, “Now I’ll get to see more of her as an actress.”

Over the three decades of her career, Alderman cast hundreds of Chicago actors in a total of 63 movies and TV series.

British born and New York raised, Alderman came to Chicago as a stage actress and appearing in a variety of memorable roles in Goodman Theatre and Steppenwolf productions.

Her first movie role came along in the 1970s, when she won a featured part in “T.R. Baskin,” starring Candace Bergen and James Caan, which was the first Hollywood feature to film in Chicago.

Roles in nine other movies ensued periodically throughout the next three decades; one of her most recent being Vince Vaughan’s mother in “The Break Up.”

Casting directors were just becoming a part of the filmmaking process when Alderman set up shop in her kitchen on Jan. 2, 1980, as Chicago’s first movie and TV casting director, in the midst of a SAG strike and a recession.

Her first assignment in 1981 was casting Chicago actors for Arthur Penn’s “Four Friends,” which was followed by nine box office hits during the ?80s. They included John Hughes’ “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” in 1986 (also his “Richie Rich” in 1994), “The Color of Money,” starring Paul Newman in 1986, and “Midnight Run,” headlined by Robert DeNiro, in 1988.

As Alderman and Andreas Casting, she worked non-stop during the 1990s, at an incredible rate of casting local actors in two major movies a year, and four movies in 1993.

In addition, the Alderman name a fixture credits of just about every TV series that shot here during the nineties.

Alderman’s personal favorite film, Kidder said, was “The Straight Story,” in 1999, “because it was a beautiful true story and beautiful script.” It starred Richard Farnsworth, who won the SAG best actors’ award and was nominated for an Oscar.

Alderman has garnered many awards, including the Women in Film Focus Award, two Artios Awards and four nominations for casting, a Jeff Award and the Eclipse Theatre Award.

“I have loved every second of helping incredible actors and working with phenomenal directors. I’ve learned so much from all of them. It has been an exciting and inspirational life,” she said.

Jane Alderman Casting is at 640 N. LaSalle; phone, 312/397-1182.