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‘A Prairie Home Companion’ Comes Home

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Cyrus Norcross | The Daily Wildcat

Sue Scott, center left, a professional actress and University of Arizona  alumna, accepts the Alumni of the Year award on Oct. 27. 

This Homecoming Weekend, Wildcats of all ages came to celebrate the excellence of the University of Arizona. One particularly extraordinary group of Wildcats — 14 men and women from each UA college — were honored on Friday, Oct. 27, during the 2017 Alumni Awards Ceremony. Among the group of talented individuals was voice talent and actress Sue Scott. 

A Tucson native, Scott has been acting professionally since 19 years old. Performance has always been an aspect of her life. 

“My father was a minister at the church on Park, so I used to be in the church choir and various productions,” she said.

However, Scott didn’t truly get the acting bug until her time with the Cholla Magnet High School theater department. There, she met one of her favorite mentors: Bill Agle, who encouraged a then-hesitant Scott to take an Introduction to acting class during her freshman year at the UA.

“He had a profound impact on my life path," Scott said. "I went into college undeclared, and I had decided that I wasn’t going to be a theater major because those people were going for Broadway and that didn’t seem like a possibility for me. However, once I took that intro to acting class, I was hooked, and I soon declared my major after that.”

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United with her love of acting after drudging through the uncertainties undeclared, first-semester freshman are bombarded with, Scott saw her opportunity and ran with it. She immersed herself in the study of theater for a year and half.

Then another opportunity — this one equally as pivotal in her career — cropped up. At the end of her sophomore year, Scott met with the head of the theater department at the time, Peter Meroni, to inform him and the school that she would be stepping aside to perform with a theater company based in Iowa.

“[Meroni] was another influential mentor in my life because he was incredibly supportive. Most advisers would have tried to talk me out of something like that, but he respected my decision,” Scott said. 

Luckily, Scott and Meroni both saw the decision for the opportunity it was, and it eventually lead to her studying with the Second City improvisational comedy troupe, which boasts alumni such as Chris Farley and Stephen Colbert. 

It was during her time with the Second City that Scott came into contact with radio personality Garrison Keillor. He invited her to join the cast of his live comedy radio show, “A Prairie Home Companion,” and through the show, Scott would meet some of the best in her craft and gain popularity as a radio personality and talent. 

“It was an honor to be working with people who are so good at their craft,” Scott said. “Being cast on ‘A Prairie Home Companion' in ’92 was the most surreal moment of my career because it is not common to be cast on radio shows." 

The show would gain massive popularity, reaching audiences of over 4 million every week, and would later be turned into a 2006 film starring Meryl Streep, Lindsay Lohan, Tommy Lee Jones, John C. Reilly, Maya Rudolph and Woody Harrelson.  

Scott's husband, Scott Peluso, said his wife's true genius lies in her performances with one particular character. 

“Her best work was always the one-on-one performances on the radio show with Keillor,” he said.

Scott still fondly recalls the hectic but undeniably fun atmosphere of the popular show:

“Working on the set was fun, fascinating and sometimes odd," she said. "There was a sense of urgency when we performed because it was in front of a live audience while being broadcast to an even bigger audience, but as performers, we fed off that energy and our nerves.”

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At the ceremony over Homecoming Weekend, Scott treated the audience to a hilarious sketch before receiving her award. In the sketch, she played a doting mother detailing her recent hip replacement surgery in a voicemail to her son Dwayne.

The audience appreciated the brief lapse in serious speeches and laughed as they listened to Scotts' fictional mother hilariously overshare to an obviously preoccupied son. Once the sketch concluded, she showed sincere appreciation for the school when it came time to receive the award.  

Scott shared how honored she was to be receiving the Fine Arts Alumna of the Year. 

“I was speechless when I found out, and I speak for a living, so it’s rare that things leave me speechless,” she said.

Scott shared that she is currently developing a satirical comedy sketch podcast. She also hinted that she would like to feature only women writers, as a way of encouraging more women to pursue comedy and the arts. 


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