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Olympia Dukakis to women: Face the challenge to evolve

(ran LA edition of LT)

As Cher's mother in the film Moonstruck, Olympia Dukakis gave Cher's character advice while trying to regain control of her own life.

She won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress in 1988 for that role.

On Tuesday evening, Dukakis, 62, had words of wisdom for an audience of about 400 _ almost all women _ gathered to hear her speak at Ruth Eckerd Hall. She spoke of how women can best cope in a society that is rapidly changing from one of male dominance to more equal partnerships between men and women.

"The challenge that we all face is of our own evolution and our own growth," she told a rapt audience.

But the goal is not necessarily to compete or to be better than anyone else, she emphasized. She has realized over time that her purpose as an actress is to serve an audience, not manipulate it, she said.

"An audience should have whatever experience they want. Everybody is free to be whatever and whoever they want at that time."

Speaking of women as role models for the future, she recalled one of her role models was scientist Marie Curie because of "the commitment that woman made to her work that could not be budged."

"The image of that woman working and struggling, seeing failure and success, sacrificing for long-range satisfaction made a tremendous imprint on my mind," she said.

Dukakis' appearance was sponsored by Morton Plant Health Systems as part of its "Week of the Woman" celebration.

Growing up in a home where social issues were discussed contributed to her interest in politics and social conditions, particularly those affecting women, the actress said.

She also was a fervent supporter of her cousin Michael Dukakis during his unsuccessful 1988 presidential campaign. She is a founder and board member of the National Museum of Women in the Arts and a board member of other arts organizations including Broadway Cares and Amnesty International.

She has worked with economically handicapped schoolchildren and in inner cities such as Newark, N.J., and has helped raise money for AIDS research and the fight against children's diseases.

Dukakis' other recent film credits include Steel Magnolias, Look Who's Talking and Look Who's Talking II. She also performs in live theater. Her Broadway credits include Social Security, Who's Who in Hell, Night of the Iguana and Abraham Cochrane. She has appeared in more than 100 productions and taught acting in the graduate school at New York University for more than 15 years.

Recent television movie projects included Fire in the Dark for CBS, Lucky Lady for ABC, The Last Act is Solo for Nederland Television and Sinatra, a mini-series for CBS in which she portrayed Frank Sinatra's mother.

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