Off the Map

 

"Off the Map" by Stan Berning
Original painting (only a section of it in the banner above) was executed on the back of a roll of circa 1950's wallpaper. The image is 18 inches high and 40 feet long and is done in Watercolor and Watercolor Gouache. It is dry mounted on cloth for purposes of display and preservation.

Release date in US: March 11, 2005 (limited)
Studio:Holedigger Studios
Director:Campbell Scott
MPAA Rating:PG-13 (for nudity and thematic elements)
Screenwriter:Joan Ackermann
Starring:Joan Allen, Valentina de Angelis, Sam Elliott, J.K. Simmons, Jim True-Frost, Amy Brenneman

 

This was the website for the promoting the movie, Off the Map prior to its US release in 2005. After the usefulness of the site was over, the domain's registration was allowed to expire. OfftheMapMovie.com disappeared from the web. I saw Off the Map during its New York City run. I had been in the city with the team that I head up doing customized web application development for several clients. Customized software development is often necessary for businesses that are in in an industries with higher-than-usual security and privacy concerns such as finance, real estate, and healthcare. Many of the security breaches that happen are the result of hackers taking advantage of known weaknesses in (COTS) off-the-shelf software. Customized software development can help address those security concerns as long as the developer knows what they are doing. We also have clients who are expanding and growing whose myriad off-the-shelf programs suddenly need to be integrated rather than hobbling together workarounds which often end up becoming more cumbersome while wasting more of time of the employees. We create custom software development is that can be scaled up or down as needed, giving a business more flexibility as it grows. One of the clients we were working with gave everyone on the team a ticket to see Off the Map as an extra thank you. It was a nice gesture which we all appreciated.

Recently I discovered that the domain for OfftheMapMovie.com was available so I bought it with the goal of recreating some of its content from archived pages. I definitely didn't want someone else purchasing the domain and re-purposing the site for something that had nothing in common with this intriguing ensemble "dramedy ".  SO the site doesn't look like the original, but the content is taken directly from its archived pages. I think that this site and it's content should remain accessible to visitors on the web. Enjoy.

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Story

Across the ancient high desert landscape of northern New Mexico, an extraordinary family embarks on a lyrical journey of self-discovery that reveals unexpected moments of grace and the unpredictable but enduring nature of love. In Campbell Scott's OFF THE MAP, the poetry of a time and a place marked by simplicity comes into full bloom.

It's 1974 and the harshly beautiful wilds of Taos are home to 11-year-old Bo Groden (Valentina de Angelis) and her free-thinking family. While constantly yearning for escape from her sparse environment, Bo passes he time with flair and imagination. She's a crack shot with a rifle and a bow and arrow, an artful plunderer of wallets and briefcases, and the compelling mistress of ceremonies for a moonlit three-ring circus of her own invention. Bo's home is an entrancing, challenging place that she will one day transcend to become the woman she was destined to be.

Arlene (Joan Allen), Bo's warm, earthy, and eccentric mother, raises most of the family's food in her vegetable garden -- which she prefers to tend in the nude. Meanwhile, Bo's father, Charley (Sam Elliott), the embodiment of Old West masculinity, is losing the battle with his inner demons.

When William Gibbs (Jim True-Frost) arrives, a hapless IRS agent with demons of his own, he soon proves to be a catalyst in the lives of the family during this watershed summer. Embraced by the Grodens' idyllic, peculiar world, Gibbs eventually abandons an investigation into the Grodens' tax history and realizes he has fallen in love with both the place and its people.

In a surge of creative energy, Gibbs dips a brush in paint and pours his feelings out on canvas, discovering a long hidden talent for artistic expression. The Grodens, too, make their own discoveries over the course of this memorable season -- the mysteries of love and loss, the power of family unity, and the eternal truth that in New Mexico, the Land of Enchantment, anything is possible.

Holedigger Studios presents OFF THE MAP, directed by Campbell Scott from a play by Joan Ackermann, who adapted the material for the screen. Scott and George Van Buskirk produced the film, with Martin Garvey and David Newman serving as executive producers. Jonathan Filley is the co-producer. The creative team includes director of photography Juan Ruiz Anchía, editor Andy Keir and production designer Chris Shriver. Amy Westcott designed the costumes and the original music is by Gary DeMichele. Marc Campbell is music supervisor.

OFF THE MAP stars Joan Allen, a three-time Oscar® nominee for her performances in THE CONTENDER, THE CRUCIBLE and NIXON, Valentina de Angelis, Sam Elliott, J.K. Simmons, Jim True-Frost and Amy Brenneman.

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Reviews


"There's magic in it! Allen and Elliott perform acting miracles in this quietly devastating spellbinder. Scott has built a movie that sneaks up and knocks you flat!"

- Peter Travers, Rolling Stone

"Director Campbell Scott has made one of the year's most unusual and affecting films."

- Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

"Wonderful Performances! A Beautifully Realized Story. Never simplistic or superficial, filled with interesting characters, telling visual and verbal detail!"

- Leonard Maltin, Entertainment Tonight

"Exquisite!"

Ц Harlan Jacobson, USA Today

"Wonderful"

Ц Desson Thomson, The Washington Post

"The main character here is an acute sense of place - a place where one hunts for food, but never for sport; Where the only sounds are owls hooting in stereo; And where greater purpose is not defined by work but by art."

- Annlee Ellingson, Boxoffice Magazine

 

Behind the Scenes

Campbell Scott  Director

Campbell Scott first became familiar with Joan Ackermann's play "Off the Map" almost ten years ago. After acting in such successful films as DYING YOUNG, SINGLES and MRS. PARKER AND THE VICIOUS CIRCLE, Scott was just beginning to branch out into directing. "I first saw 'Off the Map' in Joan's small theater in Massachusetts. Joan and I were only acquaintances, but we had a mutual friend who was starring in the production, playing Arlene. I fell in love with it," he explains. Recalls Ackermann, "I was the co-artistic director of a little 60-seat theater called the Mixed Company Theater in Great Barrington, Mass. Campbell came up to me after the show and said, 'I want to make this play into a movie.' I said, 'Great!'

After optioning Ackermann's work, Scott looked no further than the playwright herself to adapt it for the screen. "Campbell had a lot of influence in shaping the script," says Ackermann, "but he really just let me go off and write it. Then he would give me a suggestion, and I would write another draft. That's how it worked."

For the most part, Scott and Ackermann were in synch when it came to a vision for the movie. "It was remarkable that Campbell's take on the characters and the story was almost identical to mine," says Ackermann. "The film is also very true to the original material." One of the features of the play that Scott was eager to preserve in the film is its tempo, which allows events to unfold much as they do in real life. "It has a pace to it," he explains. "You are lulled in."

Even though OFF THE MAP is the first of her plays that has been made into a movie, and the first screenplay she has written, Ackermann felt comfortable in the new medium. "I was a journalist for many years. I wrote for Sports Illustrated, Time, Esquire. So I had written in many formats," she explains. "I think some plays would be difficult to translate, but Off the Map came naturally."

As the film's director, Scott was a bit more daunted by the transition of the material from stage to screen. "Theater's different," explains Scott. "It washes over you. You can pick who you want to watch. In movies, the filmmakers pick for you, and that can be scary. Our challenge was to make sure that everybody's story got equal time."

Scott was also aware of the benefits he enjoyed in adapting a play that had been performed hundreds of times over the years. "You have such an advantage as a director when you are working with good, strong writing," he says. "There's also an advantage to getting material from a source that has been around for awhile. It's been so well refined." As much as Ackermann loves the play, she thinks the material actually works better as a film. "I think this piece became more of itself as a movie. The stories of these characters are better told in a film."

One character whose role had to be altered somewhat for the film was Adult Bo, played by "Judging Amy" star Amy Brenneman. "Adult Bo is an even larger part in the play of 'Off The Map.' She narrates throughout, appears onstage with the other characters and comments directly to the audience," explains Campbell Scott. "It's effective on stage, but Joan and I wrestled with how to include the grownup Bo in the film. To have too much began to split the focus of the story, but having too little was not provocative and haunting enough."

The duo settled on using some of the elder Bo's narration at the beginning and the end of the film, as well as a few scenes of her in the city where she lives in the present day. Doing it this way "actually proved to be most powerful of all," says Scott.

With a solid script in hand, Scott was eager to get the film underway. As is often the case with material that doesn't fit the Hollywood mold, however, it languished. "It was one of those scripts that everyone loves," says Scott. "But then I would hear complaints like 'nothing happens' or, my favorite, 'it's too soft.'" But Scott was optimistic. "My feeling was the right people would find it and get it made."

Scott's feeling turned prophetic when Holedigger Films, a production company formed three years ago by George Van Buskirk, David Newman and Martin Garvey, got involved. Holedigger had recently garnered attention for the edgy comedy-drama ROGER DODGER in which Scott had starred in the lead role of a smooth-talking New Yorker. "Holedigger was psyched," says Scott. Nearly ten years after first seeing "Off the Map" in a small New England theater, Scott would finally bring it to the big screen.

Since the film is so reliant on the depth and texture of the characters, the first step for the production was to cast the right ensemble. Joan Allen was the first person Scott wanted for the role of Arlene. Says Scott,

 "Joan always plays someone fragile or intellectual. I wanted to see her with a tan!" Although the actress turned down the role five times (a fact the director relishes sharing), "for some reason I couldn't get over Joan," Scott says.

It was a combination of circumstances both personal and professional that kept Allen from accepting Scott's offer over the years. "When I first read the script a few years ago, and Campbell talked to me about it, I felt like Arlene was the caretaker role. She's the glue, she holds the family together," says Allen. "That seemed like familiar territory for me at the time as an actor."

Later, Allen had gotten some distance from those previous roles. "But I still said "no." Then I found myself working out more and sunning myself at my New York apartment. I kept thinking about New Mexico. Campbell called just to see how I was doing, and I just said, you know, 'I think I should do this movie.' The planets aligned and it felt like the right time."

Once work began, Allen soon began to appreciate different aspects of Arlene's personality. "I like her because she's very earthy -- she gardens naked, she drives an old pickup truck. She's part of the landscape," explains Allen. "I tend to play characters in more restrained circumstances, and Arlene had a real physical quality. And the look was so different. That appealed to me."


Once Allen had agreed to take on the role, she suggested Sam Elliott, her co-star in THE CONTENDER, for the part of Charley, the Groden patriarch who falls victim to anxiety and depression that Bo describes as being "like some fumigator's mist, filling our lungs." "When Campbell and I were brainstorming actors, I said I thought the role of Charley would be perfect for Sam," shares Allen. "He often projects a strong, silent personality, so I thought it would be so moving to see this tough cowboy in a bad state. It just seemed like the right balance. He was remarkable, and his role was so difficult," she adds. "The tears that man shed in that role!"

Having just wrapped the big-budget action-adventure THE HULK, Elliott welcomed the opportunity to work on OFF THE MAP, a project so completely different. "Joan left me a message regarding the project: There was a movie, she didn't know if I had been contacted or not. No pressure, but was I interested in this role," recalls Elliott. "Once I read the script, and knowing I would be working with Joan and Campbell Scott, my decision was easy. I love working with Joan Allen. We all do. It doesn't get any better. And Campbell -- he's a charmer. He's smart, he's funny, he's a good man and he's a very creative director-- an actor's director."

A dyed-in-the-wool Westerner with roots in Sacramento, California and family from Texas, Elliott was especially excited to work on a film coming out of New York. "It was an opportunity I don't get very often," Elliott points out. "Everyone was a New Yorker except for me and some local crew members." Some actors had shied away from the role because "to many people Charley was 'this crying guy' who doesn't speak for the first two reels," says Scott. But Elliott instantly saw the potential in the part. "Charley's depression creates the atmosphere of the movie. Campbell and I discussed it, and we settled on a place where he was kind of drifting in and out of being available. But I saw some humor in it, too. Charley doesn't know what got him depressed, but what gets him out of it is a chance encounter with a total stranger - Gibbs -- and the love of a close friend and his family."

A favorite of Elliott's is the scene in which the entire ensemble is gathered around the dinner table. Earlier in the day, Gibbs had professed his love for Arlene. "That scene seemed endless at the time" says Elliott. "To me, that was where the pain and the humor were most palpable. I went to a place that day where I was crying nonstop. It was a tough day's work, and therein lies the reward-- the work."

The role of Bo, whose narration as an adult provides the framework for the movie, went to 12-year-old newcomer Valentina de Angelis. The casting process for the young protagonist took only about three or four weeks. "We had a great casting director," says Scott. "I knew we would find our Bo in either New York -- just because of the quality of the pool of actors there -- or New Mexico." He applied the same approach to the casting of Bo that he would use in the casting of any adult role. "My feeling is try to hire an actor first before you hire a presence, or someone you think will fit well."

Auditioning for Campbell Scott and working with Oscar® nominees hardly fazed young de Angelis, who had done some modeling and commercials. "It wasn't intimidating at all," she says. "They were great people to work with. Sam and Joan were perfect." If there was one problem Scott had with his star, it was her looks. "She's so beautiful! It worried me, because we wanted a certain look for Bo," he says. "But the more the crew tried to dirty her up, it seemed the more beautiful she became," he adds. "In the end it didn't matter, because the way she acted it was so good. She's so watchable and so accurate. She has the best quality that any actor could have -- she is an observer first, and then an expresser."

"Valentina completely blew me away," agrees Joan Allen. "Her love of the work, her understanding, her concentration, and her maturity were amazing. The way she conducted herself on the set was so impressive." A self-proclaimed city girl, de Angelis learned how to fly fish, tie a squirrel, shoot a gun and a bow and arrow, and drive a car. "When we were out there, I got to hold a wild tarantula," she explains.

Hired for the role of the pivotal character of Gibbs, the IRS agent who pays a visit to the Grodens and stays on after suffering a life-changing bee sting, was Jim True-Frost, an old friend of Campbell Scott's and one of Joan Allen's colleagues from Chicago's Steppenwolf Theater Company.

The movie came at an auspicious time for True-Frost, who had taken a break from acting to follow his wife to Syracuse, New York, where she was pursuing graduate school. There, he acted in plays, taught at the university, and finished his undergraduate degree. He resumed work (on the acclaimed HBO series "The Wire," in which he plays Detective Roland "Prez" Pryzblyewski), and the film came along… again.

"Campbell had sent me the script about six years ago," says True-Frost, who has been friends with Scott ever since the two acted together in the 1992 film SINGLES. "As soon as I read it, I was crazy about it. I loved the part and the movie. Campbell would call me every year or two and say, 'I think we'll get this made'... and then it would fall through." When it looked like the film would finally happen, Scott called his friend once again. "I felt flattered that Campbell was so certain he wanted me for the role," says True-Frost.

One of the advantages of the long development arc of the movie was that it gave True-Frost the opportunity to fully explore Gibbs -- the character who undergoes the most explosive transformation in the movie, inside and out. "I was able to pore over the script," says the actor. True-Frost developed some strong opinions about his complex character. "He's a character who's really desperately in need of a change in his life, but he doesn't know what it is. He moves from New England to Albuquerque to become an IRS agent; but the change he has to go through is much deeper. It has to do with connecting with nature, and with his feelings. It really starts to happen to him when he's under the family's roof."

As the movie progresses, Gibbs finds himself in the throes of an emotional upheaval driven by two forces: the love he feels for Arlene, and the insight he has into his mother's suicide. "He doesn't fully process his guilt until he is with these unusual people in this unusual place," says True-Frost. "And then there's the painting. As he gains clarity, by chance he starts messing around with watercolors, and that brings him to another powerful realization."

Rounding out the cast is veteran character actor J.K. Simmons, who plays George. A testament to Simmons' proven acting skill, the character of the Grodens' unassuming friend is the polar opposite of the brash, cigar-chomping newspaper editor J. Jonah Jameson from the SPIDER-MAN films, the role that has most recently brought Simmons to the attention of audiences. That is why Scott likes him so much. "J.K. likes the theater," says the director. "He likes to change." Adds Sam Elliott: "Working with J.K. is incredible. He's one of those New York guys who comes with his guns loaded." 

 The fact that George comes off as a somewhat subdued character was attractive to Simmons. "One of the things that appealed to me about the character was that quietness," explains Simmons. "He's an interesting presence. He's misperceived as being not very bright, but there's a depth and a stillness there. I liked the solidness of this guy and how he fit into this wonderful story."

Simmons also responded to the unique relationship between George and Bo. "It was a fun relationship with Valentina, that sort of uncle relationship," he says. "I was an uncle for 15 years before I was a dad, so I really enjoyed that."

According to Campbell Scott, Amy Brenneman "saved" the production by agreeing to play Adult Bo less than two weeks before principal photography began. "We had discussed a few actresses for the role, but we couldn't really make a decision until we had an actress set to play young Bo," comments Scott. "Once Valentina was cast, three things were essential to me about the actress who would portray Bo as a woman -- someone who could act, someone who looked enough like Valentina, and someone whose voice was believably evocative enough of this great young character."

Scott was able to fill this tall order late in the game with Amy Brenneman. "We knew immediately she was perfect," he recalls. "She does everything with her silent presence and her voiceover. I'll always be grateful for her talent and her attitude throughout.

 

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Cast

 

Joan Allen

Three-time Oscar nominee Joan Allen is one of the film world's busiest actresses. She was most recently seen in THE BOURNE SUPREMACY for director Paul Greengrass, starring opposite Matt Damon. In June, she was seen in THE NOTEBOOK starring opposite Gena Rowlands, James Garner, and Ryan Gosling, directed by Nick Cassavetes. Next, Allen stars in YES for writer/director Sally Potter. She recently wrapped production on THE UPSIDE OF ANGER for director/writer Mike Binder, starring opposite Kevin Costner, Evan Rachel Wood, Erika Christensen, Keri Russell and Alicia Witt. UPSIDE will be released by New Line in March 2005.

She starred in THE CONTENDER opposite Jeff Bridges, Gary Oldman and Christian Slater directed by Rod Lurie, for which she was nominated for a Golden Globe, a SAG Award, an Independent Spirit Award and an Academy Award for Best Actress. Allen starred in PLEASANTVILLE opposite William H. Macy and Jeff Daniels, which earned her several critics awards. Her role opposite John Travolta and Nicolas Cage in the smash hit film FACE-OFF earned her critical kudos as well as Blockbuster and MTV Movie Awards. Her emotionally devastating role in THE ICE STORM, opposite Kevin Kline and Sigourney Weaver, also earned her several critics awards.   

In 1996, Allen starred in Oliver Stone's NIXON for which she received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress. She also won seven critics association awards, including the L.A. Film Critics Association and the National Society of Film Critics.

Allen received her second consecutive Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination in 1997 for her role opposite Daniel Day Lewis and Winona Ryder in Arthur Miller's THE CRUCIBLE. Allen has appeared in numerous feature films including COMPROMISING POSITIONS, PEGGY SUE GOT MARRIED, MANHUNTER, TUCKER: THE MAN AND HIS DREAM, ETHAN FROME, JOSH AND S.A.M., IN COUNTRY, SEARCHING FOR BOBBY FISCHER, MAD LOVE, IT'S ALL THE RAGE and WHEN THE SKY FALLS.

Allen is also one of the New York theater world's most honored actresses and winner of every major prize for her work on and off-Broadway. She received the Best Actress Tony Award for her performance opposite John Malkovich in Lanford Wilson's "Burn This," and was nominated in the same category for the title role in "The Heidi Chronicles." Off-Broadway she starred in "The Marriage of Bette & Boo" (for which she won the Obie Award), and reprised her Steppenwolf Theatre/Joseph Jefferson Award-winning role in "And A Nightingale Sang," for which she received the Clarence Derwent, Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle and Theatre World Awards. Off-Broadway she also starred in "Delores" and "The Heidi Chronicles." An original member of Chicago's famed Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Allen starred in their production of "Burn This," "Earthly Possessions," "Reckless," "A Lesson From Aloes" (Joseph Jefferson Award), "Balm in Gilead" and "Of Mice and Men."

Allen recently received an Emmy nomination for "Mists of Avalon" opposite Anjelica Huston and Julianna Margulies, for TNT.

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Valentina de Angelis (Bo)

Valentina de Angelis makes her film debut in OFF THE MAP. For her role as Bo, Valentina won "The Young Star of Tomorrow" award at the Fort Lauderdale Film Festival and was nominated as " Best Young Actress" for the Independent Lodger Awards.

Valentina recently completed director Jessica Manafort's short film LIMINALITY in which she stars opposite Stella Mave and Stephen Baldwin. The coming of age film explores friendship, insecurities, and life in New York City. Valentina has also completed TERRAPIN directed by Regis Trigano.

 

Since the age of 5, Valentina has been one of the top child models, appearing on national and regional magazine covers. Valentina lives in New York City and is in the 9th grade.

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Sam Elliot (Charley)

Sam Elliott most recently starred in THE HULK for Universal Pictures as the military general in charge of the scientific development base. His most recent films are WE WERE SOLDIERS, TOP SECRET, THE CONTENDER, THE HI-LO COUNTRY, THE BIG LEBOWSKI, TOMBSTONE and GETTYSBURG.

On television, he was nominated for an Emmy and a Golden Globe for his role in "Buffalo Girls." He was also seen in the highly successful two-hour movie "Fail Safe" (CBS); prior to that he co-produced and starred in "You Know My Name," a movie for TNT which won the first Golden Boot "Best of the West" Award.

Elliott gained cult status some years ago with his performance in the title role of LIFEGUARD. Since then he has gone on to star in such films as MASK, FATAL BEAUTY, PRANCER and RUSH.

He made his debut as executive producer on Louis L'Amour's "Conagher" for TNT, still one of its top-rated shows. He and L'Amour were good friends and he purchased the property just before L'Amour's death. Katherine Ross co-starred and they co-wrote the script. Sam has starred in such mini-movies as "Murder in Texas," "Gone to Texas," "The Sam Houston Story," as well as the NBC series, "The Yellow Rose" and later in Joseph Wambaugh's "Fugitive Nights

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J.K. Simmons  (George)


J.K. Simmons most recently appeared as Jonah Jameson, the publisher of the Daily Bugle and Peter Parker's gruff but kind-hearted boss in SPIDER-MAN and SPIDER-MAN II. He will be in theaters later this year in Disney's HIDALGO.

Simmons' motion picture credits also include THE MEXICAN, Sam Raimi's THE GIFT and FOR THE LOVE OF THE GAME, AUTUMN IN NEW YORK, THE JACKAL and EXTREME MEASURE.

A regular on HBO's acclaimed "Oz," Simmons can also be seen on the hit TV series "Law & Order" as Dr. Emil Skoda.

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Jim True-Frost (William Gibbs)

Jim True-Frost currently co-stars as Prez in the HBO original series "The Wire." His motion picture credits include Paul Schrader's AFFLICTION, Cameron Crowe's SINGLES, the Coen Brothers' THE HUDSUCKER PROXY, NORMAL LIFE and FAR HARBOR.

As a member of Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company, he has appeared in "I Just Stopped By to See the Man," "David Copperfield," "Side Man," "The Playboy of the Western World," "The Homecoming," "Killers" and "The Grapes of Wrath," amongst many others. True-Frost's television credits also include "Crime Story," "Early Edition" and "Law and Order: Criminal Intent.

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Amy Brenneman  (adult Bo)

Amy Brenneman's motion picture credits include YOUR FRIENDS AND NEIGHBORS, HEAT, NEVADA, DAYLIGHT, BYE BYE LOVE, CASPER, FEAR and THE SUBURBANS. She most recently appeared in the Sundance Film Festival entry THINGS YOU CAN TELL JUST BY LOOKING AT HER with Cameron Diaz and Glenn Close.

Brenneman has received five Emmy Award nominations, two TV Guide Awards and three Golden Globe nominations for Best Actress. She currently stars in CBS's "Judging Amy," the hour-long CBS drama based on the real-life experiences of her mother, a State of Connecticut Superior Court judge.

Brenneman first became known to television audiences for her portrayal of Janice Licalsi in the series "NYPD Blue," for which she received two Emmy Award nominations. Her additional television credits include the series "Middle Ages," on the CBS Television Network, and the telefilm "ATF."

Brenneman is a co-founder of the acclaimed Cornerstone Theater Company, for which she has appeared in "The Learned Ladies," "Sincerity Forever," "The Video Owner's Significant Other" and "St. Joan of the Stockyards." She is a graduate of Harvard University.

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