Julie Smith Yolles plays Olive Madison in the female version of The Odd Couple.
Julie Smith Yolles can recall being a fifth-grader and taking religion classes at Congregation Shaarey Zedek in Southfield. For a dramatic program being planned by the synagogue, she wore her brother’s robe and stood on a desk to portray Moses.
Smith Yolles loved the acting experience and, in the following years, went on to appear in professional and community theaters while taking part in coaching sessions to build her skills.
This theatrical season, she has a leading role, Olive Madison, in the female version of Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple for the Ridgedale Players in Troy. The play, performed over three weekends, alternates with the male version of the comedy.
Both versions, about people with opposite personalities living and dating together, will be presented Nov. 4-20 at the company’s Troy playhouse. Taking the other main role in the female version is Alisa Martin as Florence Unger. Eileen Sinclair White is the director.
“This is the time when I have gotten my dream role,” said Smith Yolles, a freelance communicator whose articles appear in the Detroit Jewish News as well as other publications. “The irony for me is that this is kind of type casting. I play a messy journalist and that is my life in a nutshell.”
Smith Yolles describes herself as a huge fan of Neil Simon, who came up with the scripts for both plays. She described loving the way he writes. She thinks of the late playwright as being very good at colloquial commentary on everyday life.
Among the Neil Simon productions Smith Yolles has enjoyed participating in have been Rumors, once for Ridgedale Players and once for St. Dunstan’s Theatre Guild, as well as Lost in Yonkers for Meadow Brook Theatre.
“I just love the comedy, and comedy is my forte,” said the actress, who has been inspired by the talents of former Detroiter Lily Tomlin, comedian and actress; Jackie Hoffman, performer of one-woman Jewish shows; and Andrea Martin, an actress and comedian who appeared in a production of My Big Fat Greek Wedding 2.
“I’m having a blast playing the role in The Odd Couple. We’ve got a great cast, and they’re just fun to be with in rehearsal every day.”
Other productions of this play have placed Smith Yolles as a Trivial Pursuit player — in 1989 for the Players Guild of Dearborn and in 2011 for the Two Muses Theatre in West Bloomfield.
Smith Yolles, who lives in Bingham Farms, acted while attending Southfield-Lathrup High School but skipped theater as a student at the University of Michigan. With a full load of courses and job responsibilities, she had no time for the stage.
After college, she found time for theater, and her roles have included Miep in The Diary of Anne Frank for the Jewish Ensemble Theatre (JET), Annelle in Steel Magnolias and Columbia in The Rocky Horror Picture Show for St. Dunstan’s Theatre Guild.
A favorite role has been Virginia in Do Black Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up? for the Players Guild of Dearborn. That role brought a local award as Best Featured Actress in a Musical.
One of the funniest experiences Smith Yolles has had while acting involved a cardboard television about to lose its place in a Ridgedale play about 25 years ago. She had to brace herself against the set to look like the TV was staying up.
While Smith Yolles explains her talents are not in serious singing, she works with medical coaches at Henry Ford Health to keep her vocal cords in good condition. Along with taking dancing and acting lessons, she works with the app LineLearner to memorize scripts.
“When I’m not working, I’m often attending theater,” said Smith Yolles, who goes to services at Temple Israel and is a life member of Hadassah and the National Council of Jewish Women, Michigan Region.
“I love the camaraderie of creating something together, performing with great people in a cast and crew and having the ability to develop special friendships that are lifelong.
“I love performing on stage and hearing the response of an audience, especially in a comedy. I just enjoy creating different roles. It’s very challenging and rewarding.”
Two versions of The Odd Couple will be performed Nov. 4-20 by the Ridgedale Players, 205 W. Long Lake Road, Troy. $16-$18.
Female version tickets: 8 p.m. Nov. 4, 12, 18; 2 p.m. Nov. 5, 13, 19 at https://ci.ovationtix.com/35604/production/1126144. Male version tickets: 8 p.m. Nov. 5, 11, 19; 2 p.m. Nov. 6, 12, 20 at https://ci.ovationtix.com/35604/production/1126145.
Ridgedaleplayers.com. (248) 988-7049.