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Soap star Deidre Hall here for ‘Hell in a Handbag’ fete

Deidre Hall, who has starred as Dr. Marlena Evans for decades on “Days of Our Lives,” NBC’s longest-running daytime TV drama, heads to Chicago this week to support Hell in a Handbag’s annual benefit. The theater company is presenting “A Very Special Rudolph,” a version of its transvestite reindeer tale “Rudolph the Red-Hosed Reindeer,” which is now in its 17th annual holiday run. The Deidre Hall event takes place at the Dank Haus German American Cultural Center, 4740 N. Western, beginning at 5 p.m. Sunday. For more information go to or call (800) 838-3006.

Calling from her “Days” dressing room, Hall laughed about how she came to support this offbeat Chicago production and theater troupe.

“My dear friend Kim Penning was my neighbor here [in L.A.] and has moved back to Chicago. … The last time I was in town to visit her she took me to a production of the Handbag players. I had so much fun, and somewhere in the middle of the play, one of the characters said, ‘I can’t do that now. “Days of Our Lives” is on now.’

“So, of course, I realized I’d been spotted. We stuck around afterward and met all of the cast,” and one of them asked Hall if she’d come back to do a benefit for the non-profit theater company.

She immediately agreed to do it, as long as it supported Hell in a Handbag as well as her pet cause: Wounded Warriors.

“Whatever I make from the production will go — 100 percent — to Wounded Warriors,” said Hall, who is bringing out a bunch of “Days of Our Lives” memorabilia — including an outfit she’s worn on the show, autographed photos and scripts, “Days” mugs, tote bags and other logo items — to create a couple of “really good baskets that can be auctioned off, I hope for a lot of money!”

As we talked about her more than three-decade run on daytime TV, Hall mentioned how the whole world of soap operas has changed in recent years.

“What’s changed primarily is the number of viewers. Today, there are hundreds of cable outlets, plus more women are working and so forth,” said Hall. “That all dictates how much money we can make and spend on the production. ‘Days of Our Lives’ cracked the code on how to turn out a quality product with a much lower budget. We shoot three weeks a month now, with two weeks off. We shoot hard, we shoot fast and we’re all trained to hit the stage and do our best job the very first time. We really move!”

When asked what fans who meet her ask the most, Hall laughed again. “It’s not so much what they ask, but what they say. The first thing I always hear is, ‘I thought you were taller!’ That’s a given. It always comes up, no matter where I go.”

Hall is the mother of two, thanks to a process that was not so common when she did it in the 1990s: Having a child via a surrogate — and then going public about it.

“It’s a wonderful process. I’ve always believed in the power of women. I knew we had to turn to surrogacy, because I had tried and tried for years to conceive and couldn’t get it done. I just didn’t want to go childless. The next option was for me was surrogacy. What I love about it the most — besides the fact it puts a baby in your arms — is that it’s two women working together for one child. What could you do that was more selfless and lovving and giving than carrying a child for a stranger?” said Hall, who talked about her surrogate, Robin.

“It’s amazing, because it meant the whole time Robin was pregnant with both of my children, she had to curtail whatever activity she was doing in her own life. She had to go to the doctor’s appointments. She had to go to support groups. It really was what I call an inconvenience of love for her.

“She’s still close to us,” explained Hall, who also added that “one of the reasons the Wounded Warrior project is so important to me is that two of Robin’s sons were deployed overseas. We spent years sending off care packages and holiday packages for them. Now it’s great to do work for so many of our other young men and women who come home and need so much — as do their families.”