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*Actors who bring spark to the stage USA Today 5/27/94


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Actors who bring spark to the stage

Theater is no cakewalk for `Picnic' star Kyle Chandler


In Homefront, ABC's defunct series set in the 1940s, Kyle Chandler wrapped his 6-foot-1 frame around the role of a lovestruck baseball player.Now Chandler, 28, has made his Broadway debut as another lovestruck athlete, Picnic's hapless Hal, the bare-chested drifter who heats up Ashley Judd (Ruby in Paradise) in a revival of the '50s classic."Nothing ever goes right for Hal. He'd fall in roses and come up smelling like dung," notes Chandler, who does a memorable two-step with Judd. As for falling in love eight times a week, "I don't feel self-conscious."Nevertheless, he calls his roughest performance "the opening with the family out there." The brown-eyed Buffalo native, a bachelor, is the youngest of four children.As a drama major at the University of Georgia, Chandler was spotted by an ABC talent scout and became one of 12 finalists signed by the network in 1988, part of a talent hunt.Now Chandler's soft twang, a remnant of his school days, comes and goes. "I got rid of my accent when I came to L.A., but I have 30-plus friends from Georgia and when I'm relaxed and laying back, it comes out."After his first 18 months in Los Angeles when "I poured beer and sold souvenirs at the Museum of Natural History," he's been working steadily, on TV (Tour of Duty, Homefront) and movies (Pure Country).His Picnic ends Sunday. Broadway is "the hardest work I've done. But . . . you realize as you work on it over and over, how the process is invaluable, having an entire life to live out there in two hours."