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WPXI to give 'The Chief' its television premiere

| Monday, Aug. 25, 2014, 9:00 p.m.
Jim McCalmont
Tom Atkins as Art Rooney greets the audience from the comfort of his office in Three Rivers Stadium (circa 1976) in 'The Chief.'

Tom Atkins' one-man performance as legendary Steelers founder Art Rooney will have its television premiere when “The Chief” airs at 8 p.m. Aug. 30 on WPXI-TV.

Atkins first portrayed Rooney in 2003 when “The Chief” had its stage debut at the Pittsburgh Public Theater.

Written by Rob Zellers and Gene Collier, “The Chief” placed the cigar-smoking, plain-talking Rooney in his office at Three Rivers Stadium. Reluctant to depart for yet-another dinner honoring him, Rooney spins tales about his early days growing up on the North Side and reminisces about the changes he and the team experienced as the Steelers progressed to the glory days of Super Bowl wins and the Immaculate Reception.

Atkins portrayed Rooney to sold-out crowds through seven consecutive seasons at the Pittsburgh Public Theater until it was recorded for DVD in 2009. It remains the most successful play in the Public Theater's 39 seasons.

“This is a rare and special event that Pittsburghers need to see,” Mark Barash, director of programing for WPXI, said in a press release on Aug. 22. “Airing it in prime time is an indication of how wonderful and inspiring we think the movie is.”

After its Aug. 30 debut on WPXI, “The Chief” will re-air at 8 p.m. Aug. 31 on Me-TV and 9 p.m. Sept. 2 on WPXI sister station, PCNC. The program will be preceded by a half-hour show, “Stories About Rooney, The Chief,” hosted by WPXI sports director Alby Oxenreiter.

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