Cynthia Watros Heads Up a Guiding Light Reunion, Tennessee Williams Style

Michael Logan
INGLEWOOD, CA - AUGUST 24: Actress Cynthia Watros attends the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards at The Forum on August 24, 2014 in Inglewood, California.
Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Not possible! It’s been 18 years since Cynthia Watros left her Emmy-winning role as Guiding Light nutjob Annie Dutton and went on to a stellar career in primetime that would include such acclaimed series as Lost, House and Finding Carter. But she hasn’t forgotten her ol’ Springfield peeps. Watros is about to reunite on stage with three other GL stars—Michael O’Leary (Rick), Grant Aleksander (Phillip) and Tina Sloan (Lillian)—in the gripping family drama Breathing Under Dirt.

Written by O’Leary, the play won the 2016 Manhattan Repertory Theater One Act Play Competition and has been expanded into a full-length piece that will premiere August 13 at the Ella Fitzgerald Performing Arts Center near Ocean City, Maryland. (For tickets and information about cast meet-and-greets, go to lowershorepac.org.)

Tina Sloan, Grant Aleksander, Michael O'Leary

Courtesy of Lower Shore Performing Arts Company

Springfield calling: Sloan, Aleksander and O'Leary join Watros

“This production is the equivalent of a TV pilot—a way to get the play on its feet to see what we have,” O’Leary says. “Hopefully, it’s just the beginning. We’re already getting offers to take the show elsewhere.” Set in the southern U.S. during the 1950s, Breathing Under Dirt is a ripe, Tennessee Williams-style saga of dark family secrets—albeit with lots of humor and hope. Watros plays Patience, an alcoholic with an extremely active fantasy life who has big issues with her mother (played by Sloan).

“Patience, like Annie, is the kind of character I really spark to—so juicy and flawed and wonderfully messy,” says Watros. “It’s rare that you see a male playwright nail a really complex female character, especially one like Patience who is in such psychological turmoil. But Michael really does it! It’s rare because, well, we women can be [laughs]…mysterious.”

Needless to say, the quartet of stars hopes to lure GL fans to the production. And, Lord knows, they’re still out there! “Guiding Light is a thing that doesn’t die, and joyfully so,” says Aleksander, who also directs Breathing Under Dirt. “Soap fans are the most loyal in the world and we were in their homes for decades, 52 weeks a year. They got hooked and got hooked hard. We’re still like family members to them. They still care about us in the most amazing way. The older I get, the more touched I am by that.”