Luke Yankee (yes, it’s his real name) has written, directed, produced, taught, lectured and acted throughout the country and abroad. He has run two regional theatres, serving as Producing Artistic Director of the Long Beach Civic Light Opera (one of the largest musical theatres in America) and the Struthers Library theatre, a historic landmark in northwestern Pennsylvania.
Luke’s published plays include THE LAST LIFEBOAT and A PLACE AT FOREST LAWN, both published by Dramatists Play Service. THE LAST LIFEBOAT is receiving 12 productions throughout the U.S. and Canada in 2016. His other plays include THE JESUS HICKEY (which premiered in Los Angeles starring Harry Hamlin) and THE MAN WHO KILLED THE CURE, which will receive its world premiere in Southern California in February 2017. He has also written numerous TV spec scripts and pilots.
He created and hosted the seminar series, CONVERSATIONS ON CRAFT, where he interviewed prominent members of the entertainment industry, including actor Emmy winning actor Edward Asner (“The Mary Tyler Moore Show”), Emmy winning actress actress Michael Learned “The Waltons”) Oscar nominated director Mark Rydell (“On Golden Pond), Producer/Director David Lee (creator of “Frasier), Tony winning actress Harriet Harris (“Thoroughly Modern Millie”), Golden Globe winning writer/producer Marc Cherry (creator of “Desperate Housewives”), writer/executive producer, David Rambo (“Empire”, “CSI”) and writer/executive producer Adam Belanoff ( “The Closer”, “Major Crimes”)
His book, JUST OUTSIDE THE SPOTLIGHT: GROWING UP WITH EILEEN HECKART is published by Random House (under the imprint of Back Stage Books), with a foreword by Mary Tyler Moore. Critics have praised it as “One of the most compassionate, illuminating showbiz books ever written.” (Musto, The Village Voice) It was recently cited by PaperMag as “One of the Ten Best Celebrity Memoirs of All Time.”
Off Broadway, he directed the political comedy, “High Infidelity” with John Davidson and Morgan Fairchild at the Promenade Theatre and Chekhov’s “The Cherry Orchard” at the York Theatre with Cynthia Nixon, Penny Fuller, David Canary and Merle Louise. On Broadway, he has worked as an assistant director on the musical “Grind” starring Ben Vereen (as assistant to Harold Prince), “The Circle” with Sir Rex Harrision and Glynis Johns, “Light Up the Sky” with Peter Falk and New York City Opera’s “Brigadoon” with Tony Roberts.
His regional theatre directing credits include: “Driving Miss Daisy” with Eileen Heckart, “Nite Club Confidential” with Barbara Eden, “Private Lives” with David Canary, “The King and I” with Lee Meriwether, “Man of La Mancha” with John McCook, “Love Letters” with Edward Asner, Joanna Gleason, John Rubinstein, Sally Struthers and former California Gov. Pete Wilson, the southeastern premiere of David Mamet’s “Oleanna” (Carbonnell Award nomination as Best Director), the 30th anniversary revival of “Waiting for Godot” at the Coconut Grove Playhouse, a bi-lingual tour of “Cyrano De Bergerac” and productions of “Sweeney Todd”, “The Road To Mecca”, “Painting Churches” “Lost in Yonkers”, A Little Night Music”, “Gypsy” and “Lend Me A Tenor.”
As a director and producer of special events, he has worked with Betty White, Quincy Jones, Stephen Sondheim, Alec Baldwin, Florence Henderson, Barbara Cook, Noah Wyle, Annette Bening, Neil Simon, Barry Manilow, Debbie Allen, Dick Clark, Bill Pullman, John Guare, Roma Downey, Patti Austin, August Wilson, Alfre Woodard and in theatres ranging from Radio City Music Hall to the ms “Crystal Symphony”. Luke also produced special events and trade shows for the Mattel Toy Company all over the country for more than ten years.
He has taught and guest directed extensively at colleges, universities and conservatories throughout the U.S. and abroad, including five years at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, Northwestern, Ohio State, AMDA, Denison, University of New Mexico, the Folkwang Hochschule (in Essen, Germany) and three years on the faculty of Columbia College-Hollywood. For the past six years, he has been a panelist and guest instructor at the William Inge Theatre Festival, where he has performed with Marybeth Hurt, Holland Taylor and George Grizzard. He is also a member of their Advisory Board. He is currently on the faculty of The American Musical and Dramatic Academy (AMDA), teaching advanced acting and scene study.
His theatre acting credits include “Our Town” at the American Shakespesare Theatre with Fred Gwynne, the U.S. premiere of “The Greeks” at The Williamstown Theatre Festival with Gwyneth Paltrow, Blythe Danner, Christopher Reeve and Celeste Holm and “The Dream Watcher” with Eva LeGallienne. In film and television, he has appeared in “The Hiding Place” with Julie Harris, “Ragtime” with Elizabeth McGovern, “Evergreen” with Armand Assante and “The Equalizer” with Jim Dale.
As a filmmaker, Luke wrote and directed the short film, “Help Is On The Way” starring Lois DeBanzie. He also created “E.H. On Film: An Eileen Heckart Retrospective” and “Barbara Eden: Still Dreaming”.
Luke has studied at the Juilliard School of Drama, New York University, University of California – Riverside, Northwestern University, Circle in the Square and the Herbert Berghof Studio.
He is the son of the late Eileen Heckart, who won an Academy Award for “Butterflies Are Free” and appeared in over 15 feature films, 20 Broadway plays, and countless television programs. Ms. Heckart is a member of the Theatre Hall of Fame and a multiple Emmy and Tony Award winner. In her honor, Luke created the Eileen Heckart Memorial Scholarship Fund at Ohio State University, her alma mater.
For six years, Luke served as the casting director for the Los Angeles based, syndicated TV spot, “Hero In Education”. He also served as part of a Presidential Blue Ribbon Task Force to create a theatre piece on drug and alcohol abuse.
Luke toured internationally for more than ten years with DIVA DISH, his one-man show about the golden age of Broadway and Hollywood. There was such demand for a sequel, he recently created DIVA DISH: THE SECOND HELPING, which he premiered at the Desert Rose Theatre in Palm Springs.