Performance (Working In The Theatre #307)

(APPLAUSE) Welcome to the American Theatre
Wing’s “Working in the Theatre” seminars, now in their 30th year, coming to you from
the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. Professionals are brought together by the
American Theatre Wing for these seminars, to help provide an insight to what it’s
like to work in the theatre. Today’s seminar is with six leading performers. We hope to learn not only about their preparation
for a career in the theatre, but also about the drive, passion and temperament needed
to survive in the theatre. I’m Isabelle Stevenson, Chairman of the
Board of the American Theatre Wing. I would now like to introduce our moderator
for this seminar, television commentator Pia Lindstrom. Pia? (APPLAUSE) We’ve got an absolutely terrific panel. I expect to hear great things today! Starting on my right, the fabulous two-time
Tony Award-winning actor, John Cullum, dignified beyond belief (LAUGHTER FROM THE PANEL), and
he’s now in something called URINETOWN. (LAUGHTER) Explain that! Edie Falco, of course, we know from the HBO
series “The Sopranos,” but she is on Broadway, extraordinary in FRANKIE AND JOHNNY IN THE
CLAIR DE LUNE. Thank you. Lea Salonga, we know because you’re always
a young woman who’s been working – I remember, since you were seven years old. That’s right. Stanley Tucci, writer, actor, director, producer,
also in the same play with Edie Falco. And Charlayne Woodard, who writes her own
material! That’s right. Three times, you’ve done one-person shows,
and that’s a good thing for an actress to do. At the very end, but not least, Marissa Jaret
Winokur, who is our new heroine on Broadway, in the big hit, HAIRSPRAY. Welcome! Thank you. Marissa, when I was reading what was in the
Playbill, you said that you had a teacher who found your voice. Yeah. How can somebody find your voice? Well, this teacher, actually, Eric Vetro,
was my voice teacher. And he actually found Tracey’s voice, I
said, ‘cause my voice is much different than Tracey’s voice is. My voice is low and husky and raspy, and Tracey
is much more, she’s sixteen and she sounds more like Leslie Gore (PH). So I took about two years to actually figure
out how to place my voice into a sixteen-year-old sound and my voice into, like, more a nasally
and airy voice that a sixteen-year-old sixties sound would sound like. So this teacher worked with me to find that. You mentioned a true teacher. Yeah, Don Walter. What’s a true teacher as opposed to a false
teacher? Oh, well, I think a true teacher is one who
finds the inner soul of a student and doesn’t just teach the conventional ways, teaches
the ways that makes a student learn. And this teacher, when I was in sixth grade,
realized that I had a lot of energy and I wasn’t a great student, but he realized
that I had a lot more to offer in other ways. So he pushed me towards music and drama and
theatre and dance, to show that, you know, you don’t have to be a great, you know,
reader or a great mathematician, but you might have other things that, you know, you can
give to the world. And he really brought that out in me. So I found that that’s a true teacher to
me. It’s interesting to me that both Stanley
and Edie, you mentioned the same teacher, somebody at CUNY (SIC; SHE MEANS SUNY) Purchase. Mmm-hmm. Who was this person? George Morrison. And why do you mention him as so important? Well, SUNY Purchase is a conservatory that
we both went to for four years, though we went at separate times. Edie came right after I graduated. And it was a mentor system set up at the time,
so he was our teacher for those four years. At least for my four years, you had him for
two years, I think. Two. Two years. What did he do for you? He did a ton of things, and I don’t think
I realized it at the time. Because I don’t think I was a good student,
per se. I was very shy, and there were a lot of students
who talked a lot more than I did. But I think now, a number of years later,
I’m realizing just how much he got through to me. You know, it’s hard to explain what two
years worth of teaching is, but there was something very simple about his work, and
it has informed everything I’ve done since then, I think. John, have you had a true teacher or a false
teacher? Well, I think I must have had false teachers. (LAUGHTER) They didn’t even have a course. When I was at the University of Tennessee,
they didn’t have a course in drama. The closest you could get to was a Speech
major, and I was flunking out of business school, so I went into that. And of course, I was doing theatre all the
time, and I just had people who influenced my work. Most of them, the people, I think, have been
other actors. And directors, too. I envy the people who have had somebody that
you could call a mentor, because I never really had that. I just had bad examples. (LAUGHTER) That’s always good. Charlayne, you’re a member of the Actors
Studio. Yes. Are you a Method-trained actress? Well, yes. Well, I went to the Goodman School of Drama
in Chicago and had that kind of training. Then, when I came to New York City and started
doing musicals, after twelve years of musicals, I wanted to get back to what I came to do. And I joined the Studio, and I found a true
teacher in Geraldine Baron. Well, why is she true and somebody else isn’t? Well, she was amazing, because she took care
of the total thing. There was a philosophy that she introduced
me to. The whole thing of actually being very true
to yourself all the time, and finding out that inside-out kind of work, you know? And using yourself in your work, when you
can do that, and knowing yourself. And knowing the world. You know, she said things like, it’s very
important for us to go museums and go to this and observe and step out! We don’t have the luxury of sitting back
in our bubble and just being Artists. (LAUGHTER) We have to step out, we have to
get out there. Go to the dangerous place or the other neighborhood. Get to know the people of the world, so that
when you make a choice, it’s an informed choice. It’s not a pedestrian kind of – what’s
the choice I saw? It’s like you have a huge bag of tricks? (LAUGHS; PANEL JOINS IN) Well, you better! You know what I mean? (REACHES TOWARD HER HIP) I have to go into
my little packet over here! (LAUGHTER) You know, like that! She also had a spiritual light. That was something she introduced me to. Not like, coming in like, “Let’s do a
little meditation,” or anything. Over the years, you watch. I remember coming in one day, I came in, I
said, “I didn’t get this audition. They’re racist!” You know? Right. And she said, “No, they’re not.” Just like that. So I didn’t understand. She said, “That’s not why you didn’t
get it.” You know? So as time goes on, you say, “What does
she mean, no? She doesn’t know. She doesn’t live in my skin!” You know, and as you go along and you get
really really honest and true, and it’s all revealed to you. She taught me to think another way, and to
see things another way, and that informs my work. Did you have a false teacher or a true teacher? (LAUGHTER) No! No, not exactly. Because I started working so young, the two
people that were my first director and musical director were in the Philippines, both trained
in theatre and music and drama here in New York. I think one of them went to Juilliard and
I don’t know where the director went to, unfortunately, and that’s a bad thing for
me to not know. But they always stressed truth, whenever teaching
even the littlest kids. I was doing THE KING AND I and they stressed
to each and every one. And they never condescended to the kids, and
they always talked to us the same way they would speak to the grownups. And they said, “Always focus on truth. Whatever choices you make, you can’t do
something that a normal person wouldn’t do. It’s what you should always do, try to find
the truth. Always stress the truth.” And also, how to project your voice. They said, “Use your diaphragm when you
project your voice!” Blah-blah-blah, you know. And they also emphasized teamwork in doing
a show. We were a cast of – I don’t know how many
we were, and a lot of us were kids. And they said, “A show is only as strong
as its weakest link!” So they stressed that everybody had to be
strong and work together. So I learned to be a team player when I was
seven years old. And that’s not always – (LAUGHS) It’s work! And it’s work! You’re in FLOWER DRUM SONG now, of course. Yeah. And you did MISS SAIGON, of course, before
that, several times. Yup. Came back three times, did it three times
on Broadway. It was fun! A fun show! Well, you can keep it. Maybe you can do it, you know, ten or twelve
years from now. Fun show, you know? And I think it became more fun the older I
got. Oh, really? Because the stronger my chords became – I
mean, the first time I was doing it, I was like, I went home every night, soaked my feet
in hot water and salt and was just completely paranoid about my voice. And the producer would ask me to come back
and come back, and I’m like (WHISPERS), “I can’t do it! I have ghosts with that show! Don’t let me come back! Don’t make me, don’t make me!” And then there was a concert that they were
having in London, and he asked me, “Could you please sing a couple of Kim songs for
it?” And I said, (SIGHS) “Okay, I’ll do this
for you. If I like it, if I have fun doing it, then
I will consider coming back to the show.” And three months later I went back, and I
had a blast! And I mean, it wasn’t vocally as terrifying
as it used to be. I was just having fun! I could go out at night afterwards and still
have a voice the next day. (LAUGHTER) And the cast was incredible, and
everybody was just so embracing and welcoming. And I’m like, “I’m having a blast!” And I just had the best time. John, when you got the script for URINETOWN,
here you are, a man who’s played in HAMLET and ALL MY SONS, did you just say, “This
is for me!” Or you threw it in the wastepaper basket? (LAUGHTER) This is my personality, yeah! Actually, my manager, Jeff Berger (PH), sent
it to me, and he didn’t tell me the title. (LAUGHTER) And he didn’t tell me what it
was about. I was in California. And he said, “Just read it.” And I read this thing, and I got very upset
by it, really. Just angry, because some of the lyrics – you
know, I didn’t know what I was reading! (LAUGHTER) And of course, I wasn’t put off
by the title so much, but the lyrics seemed like “Moon, June, spoon,” and then it
would throw in something about, instead of, you know, “I love you from the depth from
the heart,” “I love you from the depth of my muscular tissues” or something like
that. (LAUGHTER) What in the world is this all about? And I was talking out loud to myself and my
wife heard me talking. I said, “This has got the worst taste of
any script I’ve ever [read]. Listen to this! (LAUGHTER) I mean, there’s a Patty Hearst
thing, they take off on this, it’s got the worst lyrics I’ve ever heard! ‘Snuff the Girl’ [‘Snuff That Girl’],
can you believe that kind of song?” And then I said, “And listen to this!” I said, “This is supposed to be my big number. It’s called ‘A Little Bunny’ [‘Don’t
Be the Bunny’}. ‘A little bunny in the meadow, nibbling
grass, lah-lah-lah-lah-lah.’” (LAUGHTER) I read this silly, silly kind of
lyric to her, and I looked over for confirmation to my wife, and she was laughing! And I said, “You think that’s funny?” And she said, “Yeah, that’s funny.” And I said, “Well … ” And so, I kind of calmed down (LAUGHTER) and
I read the dadgum thing. And then I called up Jeff and I said, “Listen,
I don’t know about this script. Now, what – it’s really kind of weird
and wonderful and strange,” I said, “but what?” And he said, “Talk to the director, John
Rando.” So I got on the telephone to John Rando, and
we started talking, and I was fussing and saying that this won’t work and that won’t
work, and I said, “What is this about? Duh-duh-duh-duh-duh,” and the next thing
I know, we’re hooting and hollering and laughing. And I think, “There’s something here that
I’m not getting. (LAUGHTER) I don’t quite understand why
I’m reacting this way to it.” And he said, “You know, we got some pretty
good [actors].” He said, “Jeff McCarthy’s in it.” And I said, “Jeff McCarthy?” and I said,
“That’s interesting.” “Nancy Opel,” and I said, “Nancy Opel’s
in this?” and “Ken Jennings.” “You mean, the guy that was in SWEENEY TODD?” “Yeah.” I said, “Well … ” So I talked to John, and then, what was funny
was that I decided to do it, yeah. I got the idea of what it was, and I thought,
“This is gonna be a fun, exciting kind of trip. It’s the kind of thing that I would have
done twenty-five years ago.” (LAUGHTER) When I showed up at rehearsal,
what was strange was that everybody’s mouth dropped. I mean, I could see that everybody was wondering,
“Why in the hell are you – what’s he doing here?” (LAUGHTER) And well, anyway, I’ve fit in
ever since. But the title didn’t bother you at all? The title didn’t bother me. I probably didn’t read it! (LAUGHTER) I never read the title or the person
who wrote it. I don’t remember names or faces or things
like that. But I must say (LAUGHS), some of the things
that were in there were really kind of – I couldn’t figure it out. But it’s turned out to be a wonderful experience. You know, obviously, I’ve been there with
it for a year and a half, and I enjoy doing it. Holy mackerel. And it’s still running! And everybody’s going to see it. Running, that’s probably the wrong thing
to say about it. Yeah, yeah. Maybe not, yeah. You know, when I get together in a group like
this, you know, I get envious of all the other people. Like, I’d like to be in the show with Edie
right now. (LAUGHTER) Yeah, get on “The Sopranos”! I’d like to be the hero of FLOWER DRUM SONG. Or share the stage with [Charlayne]. You’ve gotta be Asian to be in our show! (LAUGHTER) He’s a very good actor, he can do anything! I’d love for you to share the stage with
me! That’s what I’d like to do, then, too! I’m afraid I’d get wiped out on that one. You could do a one-woman show, one time. That’s right, a one-woman show with a woman
wouldn’t leave much room for you, would it? (LAUGHTER) Have you ever been surprised, Stanley, by
something they sent to you? A script that arrived? No, because they don’t send that many. So, no. (LAUGHTER) I’m just surprised when a script
arrives at all! Well, that’s why you have to do your own. Right, that’s why I make my own, yeah. You’re another person who does his own. Well, Edie, when you were told you’d have
to take your clothes off in the first act, did you say, “Oh, great!”? (LAUGHTER) No, I can’t say that was my response. But I got talked into it, partially because
they said, “Well, you know, this is the way – the play’s done! It’s written, you know, and these two people
get out of bed.” And you know, everybody’s seen that in movies
and stuff. They get out of bed and they’re fully clothed,
and immediately, the audience is gone. But they said, “Don’t [worry]. Kathy Bates, of course, did this back in 1987,
and this is the way it’s done.” And it’s only recently that I found out
that they were not naked in that production! No, I was going to say, I didn’t remember
that. I got totally scammed on this goddamn thing! (LAUGHTER) So here I am, running around – Who are you? No, we were railroaded. And you did know that this was – No, I had no idea. I have no problem taking my clothes off. Clearly. In fact, I’ll take ‘em off right now. (LAUGHTER; APPLAUSE) But no, we were told
that that was the way it was performed, and as written in the script. We said, “Okay.” And that if we were going to be professionals
about it, we should stop saying, you know, “Do I have to take my clothes off at this
point, or — ?” We were very anxious, I have to say. We were very anxious. But the interesting thing is that you were
the one who sort of picked the play at first. Oh! And then when I was approached, Edie thought,
“Oh, God!” Because you didn’t know there was that much
nudity, right? I picked the play from my memory of it, when
I saw it with Kathy Bates fifteen years ago. I just remember the event. I don’t remember the performances too profoundly. I mean, not specifics. I just remembered it was about two people,
and love, and I left there with a beautiful, hopeful sort of feeling. And the whole ball started rolling, and then
Stan jumped on board, and then I read the goddamn thing! (LAUGHTER) And at first, it said, you know,
“They’re making love and they’re naked”! “What am I doing in this show?” And I thought, “I don’t even know this
guy!” He’s thinking – That she was proposing, with this play. I just asked him to have sex with him every
night, for eight times a week, and haven’t met him yet! Horrifying. Horrifying! (LAUGHS) Well, you do sort of have the sheet you can
work with a little bit. Yeah, a little bit, yeah. Let’s not get into logistics right now. (LAUGHTER) Melissa, were you surprised at what happened
with HAIRSPRAY? Oh, my gosh, so surprised! I was just thinking before, I got involved
in it over two years ago, and I just got involved with it because I loved the music. That was it, I just loved Marc Shaiman and
Scott Wittman’s score. And I [thought], “Oh, I have to be involved
in this! This is so good!” It was the best music I ever heard. And I said, “This is a cheesy Off-Broadway
show that no one ever sees. As long as I get to sing this music every
night, oh, my gosh, I have to do this!” And I think everybody on board kind of was
involved for the same reason. We all just kind of liked the music, and it
was a fun story, and Harvey Fierstein joined in, and we were all like, “Oh, this is a
lot of fun! And okay, this is fun!” Well, how did you hear the music? I mean, they said, “I want to do this”? They had the first act written before the
first workshop. And yeah, I actually heard they were doing
the show, and I was like, “Oh, it’s going to be a musical. What’s the music sound like?” Heard the music, and said, “Oh, my gosh,
I have to meet you! Who’s doing this? I have to be involved in this! I don’t care what I do in this. Like, it sounds so amazing.” The music is so amazing. There hasn’t been a new score like this,
to me – it’s like it’s old-school Broadway. It’s just old Broadway, but it’s new,
you know? So that, to me, ‘cause I love the old-school
stuff. I love the GYPSY, I mean, any Ethel Merman
show, I grew up, like, “That’s what I That’s what I want to be!” you know? (LAUGHTER) So then, to like, get to [do this]. And then I’m hearing this music that was
written, you know, two years ago, that’s got that same feel to it, and oh, my gosh. And you know, the first day I listened to
it, and the opening number, “Good Morning, Baltimore,” I just, I mean, bawling! “Oh, my God, I get to sing that every night!” Like, just cried. Now, I wake up every morning and go, “Oh,
no, I have to sing that tune tonight!” (LAUGHTER) It’s like, oh, my gosh! After I get through that song, I’m like,
“Okay, only eight more to go!” (TO LEA) I actually was thinking, “Oh, I
hope someday I come back to the show years from now and think, ‘Oh, this will be fun,’”
you know? (LAUGHTER) I have no life. Everything she said, I was like, “That’s
exactly what I’m going through right now.” I have no life. I have no friends. (LAUGHTER) I moved back to New York and I’m
living in my apartment. On-line communication! It’s the most helpful thing! It is! My answering machine, yeah. You know, I wish it really had existed when
I did MISS SAIGON the first time. Yeah. My answering machine actually says – You can come to our cast party! (LAUGHTER) What’s this thing about soaking your feet
in salt water? Do you know about that? Is that some secret? My feet just hurt after that show. Do you know, I never heard that. Yeah. Oh, Epsoms. I do the Epsom salts, yeah. Oh, feet in Epsom salts. Oh, I do the whole bit. Three-inch heels on the maximum rake, you
gotta do it. Oh! Oh, oh, oh. I get to wear sneakers, though. I said, “I’ll wear whatever you want in
the finale, but I’m wearing sneakers.” I don’t leave the stage, through the whole
[thing]. Act One, I don’t leave the stage. Act Two, I leave the stage during one number. That’s when Harvey and Dick Latessa sing
their love song. And it says on the bathroom door, right outside
my dressing room there’s a bathroom, and it says that no one’s allowed to use that
bathroom during “Timeless to Me,” because that is the only time in the show that I can
use the bathroom! (LAUGHTER FROM THE PANEL) So like, from the
curtain open until halfway through Act Two. And I mean, I said to them, “I’ll wear
whatever you want in the finale. I am wearing sneakers in that show!” But still, my feet, I walk off that stage
– the two and a half hours on the stage, I don’t feel a thing. Offstage, I’m like, “Oh, everything hurts! Everything hurts!” You don’t have this pleasure, except you
play many characters on stage. Yes. But you don’t have anybody around you here,
so you have to give off all the energy. Well, I’m doing everything. But I always say that I’m not solo, I’m
not alone, because I use my audience as if they are my scene partners. So as I’m conjuring everything up and everything,
I’m using them. It’s tough when they’re sleeping. (LAUGHTER) That doesn’t help. And you know, that kind of thing. But you know, I do try. It brings up the anger! (LAUGHS) And it does! And it feeds me, you know? All of a sudden, I’m like, I go to somebody
to sort of share something, and it’s like, “Oh, sleeping? Oh?” (LAUGHTER) And then it, you know, changes
the way I [do it], and that’s how it works. And that keeps it alive for me, actually,
every night. We heard a guy snoring the other day. VARIOUS VOICES
Yes! There was a nice, loud snore. Oh, no! No! And you say, where was his wife to nudge him? (LAUGHTER) I know. She was asleep, too, probably. What do you do? Do you stop the play? Do you say, “Wake up!” No, I don’t do that anymore. Edie told me not to. (LAUGHTER) We had some people in the front row – You didn’t wake him up? He talks to the audience! And I don’t want to get into it. (LAUGHTER) Talk to the audience? I used to. Not any more. Tell them to behave? Well, the phones and all that. The phones and all that! The phones! Oh, God! People taking pictures. Yeah. Mmm. Oh! And they tell you not to. And they do! Oh, yes! Oh, yes, one night I came out for my curtain
call, and four women just stood up and said, “Chi-ching! Ching! Ching! Ching!” Yeah. Harvey points at them and goes, “Unnh-unnh-unnh!” Like, Harvey like points them out when the
cameras come out. Oh, good for him. This is a new thing! Yeah. I’ve never experienced this! It’s weird. It’s incredible. I actually got a videotape at the theatre,
to my name, and it was like, “Love, your biggest fan.” And I’m like, (GASPS) “Oh, my God, what’s
this gonna be?!” Like, so scared. And it was a complete videotape from the first
row mezzanine. No! Still, perfect, zoomed in, zoomed [out]. I mean, it was the best videotaped coverage
of the show. And I’m like, (GASPS IN HORROR). And they didn’t have permission? No, no! No, they didn’t. Handheld, a little [camcorder]. And she didn’t know that she shouldn’t
do it. Right. Ooh, God! And they were like, “And here you go!” I mean, I was psyched. I gave it to my understudy, I was like, “Here
you go! (LAUGHTER) This is gonna be your best way
to learn my part!” You know, there you go. And then, I guess I’ll send it to my niece
and they get to see it now. But like, still, yeah, I couldn’t believe
it. Wow. Scary. That’s scary. That’s amazing. Yeah. How does the audience affect you? When you begin taking off your clothes? How do they what? How does the audience affect you, as you begin
taking off your clothes? You know, well, I mean, we start naked. They start naked! They have to put them on. We start completely naked, so it really is,
you know, it really is the one real sequence in the play where I do not know that they
are there. I am completely [absorbed]. I divorce myself from the fact that I’m
in the theatre, and I’m in a small room with her, and that’s it. And once that’s over, I still am shocked
when I open my eyes after the “act,” and I see those people out there. I still, my heart still (POUNDS HIS CHEST)
sort of – oh, I did that thing I wasn’t supposed to do! I did it already once, too! Yeah, I didn’t want to say anything. (LAUGHTER) You know, my heart still jumps
when I see that those people are sitting there watching us. With binoculars! With binoculars, that’s right. (GASPS OF HORROR FROM THE AUDIENCE) Oh, my God! Oh, no! Yeah, in the front row, too, which I think
is insulting. Oh, we had it in MISS SAIGON, too. Pia, did you know that I did – But you weren’t – oh, but you had – Oh, yeah, the girls would fondly call those
dirty old men, who would sit in the front row with binoculars, “Oh, the perves are
here!” Oh, no! Yeah. Oh, yeah. Life in the theatre! Live theah-tah! It’s so glamorous, isn’t it? What is it, John? I was in, I think, probably the first Broadway
show with frontal nudity with males. Most people didn’t know that. I was in a play called DOUBLES. It was a locker room thing, and Austin Pendleton
and Tony Roberts and I. But all I can remember about it was I used
to stand upstage as far as I could with a very convenient towel. Austin Pendleton couldn’t wait to take his
clothes off! (LAUGHTER FROM THE PANEL) And Tony Roberts
came to me one day, you know, and he said, “I can’t understand why I’m losing this
line!” I said, “I’ll tell you, I’ll give you
a clue.” I said, “If you can get Austin to drop his
drawers one beat later, you’ll get your laugh line!” Oh, my gosh, that’s funny. (LAUGHTER FROM THE PANEL) (LAUGHS) One line! How do you audition for that? (LAUGHTER) Yes, did you have to take your clothes off? Very carefully, I’d say! No, they didn’t say, “Take your clothes
off.” No. No, we didn’t actually get to the nudity
stuff until like two nights before we opened. Yeah, that’s right. They probably didn’t tell you. We waited till the very end, yeah. And then you just do it. And then, once you do it – the first time
was nerve-wracking. I blacked out. I actually have no memory of that. Yeah, it was pretty frightening. The first day! (DOES A WIDE-EYED STARE) It was pretty frightening. (LAUGHTER) And then, it’s fine. After that, it really was not that hard. Do you all have to audition? Do you have to audition, for example, now? Haven’t people seen you enough so they don’t
say – I didn’t have to audition for FLOWER DRUM. I was asked over a very nice burger at a very
nice café by Bobby Longbottom if I wanted to do the show, so it was nice! I’m like, “Wow! Woo-hoo!” (CLAPS IN DELIGHT) It was really sweet. Are auditions required otherwise? Do you, Stanley, have to audition? No, they came to me. I auditioned for Edie’s part. (LAUGHTER) But then they gave me this part,
and I thought, “Well, fine!” As long as you took your clothes off. Right, yeah, yeah. No, they came to me. And do you do many auditions? For yourselves. You’re always working! Oh, no, no, no. You audition for yourself! Yeah, I write these plays so that I can get
other plays. Oh, I see. Not just for that reason, but it does help
me get other plays. And since I’ve been writing these plays,
I have not auditioned for the plays that I’ve gotten. I hate auditioning, but I will. If there’s a role that I really really want,
I’m just going to do everything I can to get it. But it’s just such a – it’s been a luxury,
in the theatre, not to have to – I mean, just to have them offered to me, it’s been
wonderful. Mmmm. Why don’t you like auditions? Well, I’ve never managed to nail it! (LAUGHTER) Oh, okay. Actually, I realized I learned how to audition. I would go in and do a perfectly professional
audition, and it would be so boring, and it wouldn’t work. You know, I mean, it just wouldn’t. This is me and musicals. Then I realized, I said, “Okay, so when
I’m Alfred and Dorothy Woodard’s daughter, it doesn’t work.” So I threw her away, and I go in and just
wing it, just wing it! With the musicals, and somehow someone remembers
that, “Oh, yeah, I think she can sing,” or “I think she can do this.” And then they just give me that. They haven’t seen AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’? They missed that. (LAUGHS) Yeah, but I mean, in my play, I write about
how I really did try to flub that audition. What, how? You tried? Oh, yes! It’s a whole scene in the show, child! (LAUGHTER) Oh, oh, in the show. No, you have to come see it! Oh, well, okay. Oh, yes, it’s all about when I came to New
York City, and you know, I was in this hit Broadway musical, but I had never had any
training to be in a hit Broadway musical. Is there a training for that? (LAUGHS) Quick! Yeah, I need it! No, no, no. I don’t think you can train. Yeah, yeah, yeah. So – Marissa, I would think you would be good at
auditions, because you seem so courageous. I’m great at auditions! I, like, nail the auditions, and then on the
set, I’m like, “No, no, no! What I did at the audition, that’s exactly
what I’m gonna do now. I’m not gonna do anything different!” (LAUGHTER FROM THE PANEL) I always, like,
make the joke that, like – and my manager even, he won’t – if they want to put me
on tape, and just do sides, I’ll never do it. Because I won’t get it, because it has nothing
to do with me walking in and doing sides and wowing you with this great interpretation
of this scene. I’m like, “If I don’t meet the director,
if I don’t like meet the producers and go in and just chat, and I’m like this is who
I am.” I mean, I’ll do – obviously, I’m not
– this isn’t Tracy Turnblad but you get, like, oh, she’s going to be completely fine
and confident with herself and her body and who she is and she can do that. And I go in, like, I basically am a mess in
every [audition]. I’m like, “Hi! Oh, if you want me to read sides, let’s
talk for like twenty minutes first.” (LAUGHS) And I like, do everything but do
my audition. Mmmm-hmmm, my audition. And then once I get to the audition, it usually
seems like they’re like, “Oh, we don’t even remember what she did at the audition,”
I think. It’s more about what – Who she is. Who I am. Oh! Oh. And then my experience has been, every TV
thing and every movie thing I’ve ever filmed has always been from, like, a writer like
writing something for me and making it – or like, I’ll go in to do like one line and
it turns out to be a recurring role. (LAUGHS) She always turns it. And I always say, like, if I don’t turn
down – This is great! Go, girl! (LAUGHTER) But, with Tracey, with HAIRSPRAY, I fought
for two years for this role. They would not give me a contract, they would
not close the deal. They wouldn’t even say yes or no. They basically were like – my last reading,
or fourth reading we did, my fourth reading in two years. Came in, it was December 8th of this past
year [2001], and they went – the entire production staff flew to Baltimore to have
their “Big Nationwide Search” for Tracy Turnblad. And there I was, singing my heart out in the
rehearsal hall, going “I’m Tracy Turnblad,” you know? VARIOUS VOICES
Oh, oh! And like, you know, and half of me, like during
the process, like after the second workshop, I was like, “Well, either give it to me
or not, forget it!” And then all of a sudden, I was like, “Oh,
no. Like, that’s fine.” And for me, actually, I never would have grown
so much in this role had it not been [for the time]. Had they just given it to me, May of 2000
– I’m not being bitter, I know exactly the dates (LAUGHTER) – had they just said
to me, “This is your role,” I never would have found a voice teacher to go, “How can
I make this work?” I never would have gone to – I didn’t
go to dance, because I was like, “You know what? Tracey’s not a dancer. Like, it’s more aerobic, it’s more athletic. It’s more about that. It’s more about her spirit than it is about
her, you know, technique. So you know, I went – I started doing aerobics
and started running on the treadmill with my songs. And then, like, the acting, the scene work,
that was going to come once I met the other actors, ‘cause for me, it’s never about
what I do. It’s about, like, I am so blessed with such
a wonderful ensemble, ‘cause to me it doesn’t matter – (TO CHARLAYNE) like, oh, I envy
[you]! I could never do what you do, like that’s
just – I’m always about whatever someone else gives me, I’ll give them back. So you know, so I’ve done a lot of bad,
cheesy sitcoms, because I’ve had a lot of cheesiness comin’ at me so often, right? (LAUGHTER) But I had to fight really, really, really,
really hard for this role. And I mean, even all through Seattle or out
of town. I mean, they were still – everybody was
really worried and really nervous, and that would make really worried and nervous. But it just made me – and then I got a review
in like Variety that said, like, “Oh, well, she’s not quite the dancer you want her
to be.” And in Seattle, I got that review. And then, that was it! Then it was like all about me, and Michele
Lynch, who was like Jerry Mitchell’s assistant, and it was like eight hours a day. I was like, “You are going to make sure
I know every dance better than everybody on this stage!” Even, you know, like even when I’m dancing
in my room to the TV, I’m like, “I’m gonna know it better than the dancers down
there, so that nobody ever comments on my dancing again!” (PIA LAUGHS) So then, I was so about it (PH),
and I was like, “I don’t care now if they say I can’t sing and they say I can’t
act, as long as they say I can dance!” (LAUGHTER) Because I was so angry about that. So for me, because I had to work so much harder
for it, I mean, I never expected the show to be the hit that it became. Nobody involved did, and I think that that’s
why it is such a wonderful show, because no one on stage expected it, so we’re all such
a close family. I mean, I don’t look out at the audience
except during “Baltimore,” that’s it. And after that, I don’t think I face front
even once, ‘cause there’s so much going on, and I have moments with every ensemble
person and everybody’s so important in our show that it’s so great. And I’m so glad that it all happened for
everybody with our show. Edie, are you always comfortable on stage
and comfortable in auditions? No, I hate auditioning. I really hate it. I was never good at it, I don’t think. There’s something about having to prove
yourself to someone. Mmm! Yeah. It seems to go against everything that we
do, you know, instinctively as an actor. Like somebody was just saying about when people
offer you a role, there is something so different about the experience of working on that thing,
because you walk onto the set or into the theatre, you know, rehearsal hall, knowing
they wanted you! There’s something about you that they [wanted]. They already trust you, so all that stuff
is out of the way. Yes. You can just go in and start the work, you
know? And you’re clearly all there for the same
reason, to make the story happen, and they think you’re the best person to make that
happen. Auditions, I’m not a good salesperson, you
know what I mean? And I’ve gotten so bad about it now. I’m like, “You know what? You don’t want me? That’s fine. I’ll go home and sleep,” you know what
I mean? (LAUGHTER FROM THE PANEL) I’m just too tired
to fight for stuff any more, you know. Is that shyness? Is that a component of it? No, no, I don’t think it is. Do you get angry? I think a lot of actors – I know myself
– Yeah. Oh, yeah. I get angry having to audition. I got elbowed (PH) once. And it comes through in the audition. Why? Why? You resent it. That’s right. It was an interesting experience. But why do you get angry? Is it a natural thing? It’s a cover. Anger, I think, for me, was always kind of
a shield. I felt better about myself if I could be pissed
off at the author and the producers and everything. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah! Yeah, it’s true. It’s a terrible, terrible experience, auditioning. Yeah. And I’m never – I hear these stories,
and I’ve been through all of these things. Oh, my God. Mmm-hmm. (LEA LAUGHS) Exactly the same way, you know? And you’re better off when you’re free
and relaxed and all, but how do you get free and relaxed when people are out there judging
you? Well, I also think that so many directors
– I’ve had terrible experiences auditioning. And I’ve also had some very fine experiences
auditioning with very nice directors. But I hate it. If I never had to do it again, and I hope
that, I pray to God I don’t have to do it again. It’s hard! It’s so hard. It’s awful. But a lot of directors don’t know how to
deal with actors in an audition, and I think that that really is the problem, that they
really don’t know how to run an audition. When I started directing, one of the things
that was very important to me was to make actors feel comfortable in auditions. Mmmm! Ah! To talk to them first. To have somebody not do a scene – even if
the guy was completely wrong for the part or really bad, I would have them do it more
than just once. I would have them do it two or three times,
because I might learn something and they might learn something. I might say, “Oh, you know what? I see why he made that choice the first time,”
or whatever. My goal was to make those people feel as comfortable
as possible, because so many people in my life had made me feel so terribly uncomfortable. Right. Absolutely! And sometimes, you have to audition actors. I would prefer not to audition actors, but
you have to, because you really need to see. A director isn’t sure. But if a director isn’t sure, the actor
has to know why the director isn’t sure, and that is the problem. Directors don’t make that clear, and that’s
why it’s so excruciating. Or maybe they don’t know what they want. You know, when I give advice – like, I have
a son who’s an actor, and I try to give him advice, which he never follows, but we
do talk about it anyway! (LAUGHTER) But the one thing, I think if I
had it to do over again, would be to try to be myself, because everybody wins. If you go in there and – what most actors
have to do is go in there and try to be what they think the producer wants them to be. Yeah, right. Exactly! That’s the pit! Everybody loses in that situation. (GENERAL AGREEMENT) But if you go in and you
just absolutely, as honest as you can be. I heard you say that, didn’t you say that? Yeah. Then, the director knows more, when he gets
through, even if he doesn’t want to use you. (GENERAL AGREEMENT) It’s wonderful. And Stanley does what he does, but that’s
really – We should all be so lucky about that. And me, when I go into an audition, I do try
to show up as I am, and then I do the work. And I feel like, if they don’t want me for
this part, they know who I am. Right. So they can call me back, this human being
back again, for something else. But if I just go in as these two pages that
they gave me, then I’m really messed up, just in case I blow that. (GENERAL AGREEMENT) Well, it’s a little frustrating. Sometimes, too, though, as an actress, I’ll
go in and (LAUGHS) do my “me”! And you know, read the scene, and then they’re
like, “Thank you.” And you leave and then you’ll get feedback,
that they’re like, “Oh, they wanted to go a different way,” and you’re like,
“Well, why didn’t they just tell me that?!” Oh, I know. (GENERAL AGREEMENT) ‘Cause so many times, you know, they’ll
say, “Well, we wanted her a lot quieter or shy.” I’m like, “Well, just because I’m such
a big mouth doesn’t mean I can’t be timid and shy.” But that’s the problem, that’s what I
was saying, is that they don’t know how to do it. Right, right. They don’t know how. They don’t say, “Could you try it this
way? Could you try this, could you try that?” And you see what facility the person has,
and also, you’re discovering maybe what you need to find for the role, as a director. ‘Cause you just make your own choices, as
an actress. Of course. Right. You’re like, “Oh, this is how I read it.” “Just tell me what to do,” you know? And you know, sometimes you don’t even get
the whole script or you don’t get how everyone’s going to react towards you. Sure. You have to conjure it up in the air. The problem is directors then continue to
do that after they’ve hired you. Yeah! (LAUGHS) They don’t tell you what they want. (GENERAL AGREEMENT) I have a question I want to ask of people. When you do get a script and you have it,
how do you judge whether to do the script or not? Now, (TO EDIE) you were very honest, and I
believe that you remembered something and then you decided to read it after Stanley
took the job and you knew you were going to have to do it, then you read it. Right. (LAUGHTER) I’ve done that, too! I’ve gotten into a lot of trouble that way. Uh-huh! (LAUGHTER) But one of the things, how do you figure out
what you want to do, or whether a script works, or what you want to do with it? That’s what’s interesting. I never have been able to figure it out. For me, if it hits me on a visceral level. Mmm-hmm. (GENERAL AGREEMENT) When George C. Wolfe sent me Suzan-Lori Parks’
IN THE BLOOD, and I was in La Jolla at the time, doing a play. And I went to this beautiful place to read
this incredibly intense play, out in the sunshine, at the beach. And you know, I’m reading, and you know,
I’m like looking at this, and I’m, you know, “This is ridiculous! If George thinks I’m going to do this, they’re
crazy! This is wild!” And I closed it up, I finished it, I had to
get to the theatre, it was coming on half hour. I’m driving down this highway, and all of
a sudden, something happened to me where I felt like I was having a panic attack. And you know, like, something is going on
really wrong and I don’t know what’s happening. And I pulled over, and had this major, major
catharsis that was postponed, you know, from when I was reading this play. And then I got back in the car, after I had
controlled myself, went straight to the theatre, called George and said, “I have to do it.” Because it was scary, it was challenging,
it was a reach. It was such a reach. And the fact that they thought that I could
make that reach! And I saw, “Yes, this is the beginning of
this play. Yes, I don’t know – we’re going to really
have to do some work on this play.” But that’s why – “It’s not perfect
here right now, but I want to work on this thing, because it’s so powerful! I want to do this. It’s a reach.” And that’s what I go after, you know? I just love that reach. Do you like it when there are stage directions
in a script, so that it says what you’re supposed to do, or do you like the scripts
without any direction? I think they’re important, and I think that
there’s no harm in trying them. And then, if it feels right, then do it, otherwise
get rid of it. Yeah, you don’t feel that you are obliged
to do it. (GENERAL AGREEMENT) Oh, God, no. No, absolutely not, no. What’s more important, then, the text or
the director? John, for example. I have to answer that? No, Lea will answer it! (LAUGHTER) Oh, I will answer it! I guess, ultimately – well, everybody might
have a different take on it, but I think the material has to lead you somewhere. Case in point, let me see. There was all of this material for FLOWER
DRUM SONG, and we got rewrites upon rewrites, and thank goodness David [Henry Hwang] was
in the room with us every single day, you know, just ready to pen out a different line
or a different way of delivering something, even though it means the same thing. And that’s pretty much our map. We’ve got a map, okay. Then you’ve got a navigator. You’ve got the director to help you which
way you can, you know, try going. So yeah, you’ve got to have a good script. It’s really helpful if it is good. Can the director change enough to make something
a hit, make it good, if the material isn’t actually there? Well, he can try! He can try? He can try, but I think if the material isn’t
[there], if you don’t have good material, it just ain’t gonna work. Yeah. You can’t pull it together. So it doesn’t matter who the director is? No. Because I think a good script will ultimately
direct itself, and then everybody will kind of have a similar thought into how a scene
would be done. Mmm-hmm. And you all just kind of ride the same ride,
and you’re all feeling – it’s kind of like, I don’t know, some psychic moment
of some sort. And you all just kind of, when you finish
with the scene work, you’re all like, “Whoa! Was that a ride or what?” It’s fun! It’s really fun. You know, the reason why I asked the question
is because over a period of my life, I’ve had so many different experiences with different
roles. And I remember, when they asked me to audition
for 1776, I wanted to do the John Adams part, but they kept asking me to do the Rutledge
part. And I turned down the Rutledge, because Rutledge
was the governor from South Carolina, and I didn’t want to play a Southerner! (LAUGHTER) I had never played a Southerner. I had always played Englishmen or something
to hide my identity. And then, a year later, I had been doing stuff
in the regions and I called my agent, I said, “I want to do something, I don’t give
a damn what it is, I want to stay in New York.” And he said, “Well, you know, they’re
replacing the Rutledge character in 1776.” I said, “Sure, I’ll do it.” I knew I’d get it, I knew that. But my attitude about it was so strange and
negative. And yet, I knew, I mean, after all these years,
I knew that there was something that I was supposed to do. I mean, it was an area that I was supposed
to break open. It was a like the same [thing], thirty years
later, when they asked me to do ALL MY SONS. I had been in a production in 1947, fifty
years earlier, of ALL MY SONS, played the neighbor next door in college. And I was very reluctant to do it, for a totally
different reason. And I didn’t realize it, but I was afraid
to play that part, because I didn’t like that guy. (MURMURS OF APPRECIATION FROM THE PANEL) And
the Rutledge was so easy for me that I didn’t want to do it. But it was very important for me to [do it]. And it’s been making me wonder. Now, I’m looking back over years, but I’m
wondering about young people. How do they make this [decision]? It’s strange that you don’t know. And I wonder, how do you find out what – But you don’t have to like the character. But you had an epiphany! You had to pull over on the side of the road! (LAUGHTER) There’s not much doubt, that’s
a role you’re supposed to do. But sometimes, you don’t know. I have a question. Yes, a question! It’s been in my experience, and it’s kind
of worked, like, in parallel with my own personal life, that I get a script or I get offered
a part, and for some reason, it directly reflects on what’s happening in my life. I just want to know if that’s happened to
anybody else, too. Like, it comes at the right time in your life,
and it serves as an outlet or a channel for you to work through whatever’s going on
in your life. Sure. Yeah, I think you choose things sometimes
unconsciously for that reason. Yeah. And I think that that’s probably true. That is what it is, I think. Even when you’re scared or when you’re
disdainful or something, then you ought to take a second look, just like you did. See, somebody told you, God told you or whatever
it was. Yeah. But I think that that’s an interesting point. We don’t have control all the time over
the best things in us. See, I don’t work [inside-out], I work from
the outside. I don’t really even know the expression,
inside-out? Inside-out and outside-in. I think that’s sushi. That’s sushi! Now I’m hungry! You’re on the British side. What you see is what you get. No, but the truth is, probably I don’t. Probably there’s something that works, and
it’s working inside for me, anyway. Mmm-hmm. (GENERAL AGREEMENT) So it’s interesting to me. Are you inside-out or outside-in? It depends. You can go both ways. But how do you know the difference? Well, the British, I think, have a tendency
to work – That first scene, he’s working from the
outside in. (LAUGHTER) But I’m never an acting student, so I don’t
know what it is! He doesn’t have to do anything in that scene. It works. No, don’t touch it! If it’s working, don’t touch it! Actually, just don’t touch it. (LAUGHTER) I don’t want to know. We’ve talked about theatre performances. John tells me that he only does, how many
performances a week? Oh, I’m not supposed to tell people that. I only do six now. Totally unprofessional. (LAUGHTER AND GROANS FROM THE PANEL) I think that’s shocking. I do. Listen to her! Isabelle thinks it’s awful! I think eight a week is cruel. Eight a week is shocking. That’s what you’re doing, eight a week? That number is so civilized! It’s not too bad, once you’re used to
it. And you have to film, as well? Edie and I are – Or you’re finished? No, you’re not doing it [“The Sopranos”]. No, this is my hiatus, so I’m not doing
it. Okay, so your hiatus, eight shows. How many performances a week? Eight. Eight? Okay, eight. I do seven. Seven, you get one off. But I have a two-hour show. Well, I was the only one in the show for a
year who didn’t miss. VARIOUS VOICES
Ah! Well! Oh! You get points for that. I did miss, but my wife had to go to the hospital. That’s what I missed, the whole time, in
a year. So I mean, I’ve done my time! (LAUGHTER) They can trust me now. Okay! What makes the difference? All through the years, you did eight shows
a week. Why now, the difference? Well, I’ll tell you what the difference
is for me. I remember, when I came into the business,
eight shows a week, with a Wednesday matinee, and you know, the matinees, the four on the
weekend. That, I could handle. What was really tough is when they switched
to five on the weekend! Yeah, that’s right. So then you only have Monday to recuperate
from five shows, bam-bam-bam-bam-bam! And then come back on Tuesday? By Tuesday, you’re still aching, you know? And it makes it so difficult with that five
thing. But it’s good for the producers, for the
money and everything, and the people coming into town. I can usually handle that Wednesday, if you
have that Wednesday matinee, it’s not as bad. But the five! Yeah, we have the Wednesday matinee. Well, I’ll tell you the reason. That’s exactly the reason, because we were
on that same schedule. The reason is that I was having trouble with
a hip flexor, because this is a very dangerous show. We have the walking wounded! We’ve got people with broken feet that perform
all the time. But I couldn’t get well. After a year and a half, it’d be like playing
baseball for an entire season and not having three months off. You don’t get any time off, actors don’t
get time off. Right. It’s very interesting – this makes no
sense at all – but when I was doing MAN OF LA MANCHA, I heard about a production that
was being done, the stage manager wanted to open a production in Spain of MAN OF LA MANCHA. And I was playing [Richard] Kiley’s alternate
at the time. Kiley wasn’t doing the matinees, and I was
doing the matinees for him. They went over there, and the stage manager
came back and he said, “Do you know that they do seven days a week over there, and
they do a matinee every performance, and there are no understudies?” Ooh! Ouch! What? I mean, figure that. (PIA LAUGHS) I mean, all I can say is that
– No union! No union. Yeah! No, that’s it. But that’s true. And that’s in Spain, that’s the way they
do it. I guarantee you, they don’t get the same
kind of production that they would [here]. Well, yes. Of course not, yeah. I mean, if you ask a pitcher in baseball to
pitch every day, or an opera singer to sing every day, they can’t do it. No! Oh, I think that’s a different thing. I think working in theatre and doing your
performances eight times a week should be what your goal is. That’s because you’re thinking like a
producer. (LAUGHTER) I’m telling you, that’s the
truth! Why not? It really is. I’ve had to do it. No, I’m thinking of another generation. And I’ve been here for forty-five years,
and I’ve done nothing but eight performances. That’s right. And I’m telling you, I did it, because if
they wanted me, the only reason I could get it, if you want to know the honest truth is,
I’d walk away. It didn’t make any difference to me. I don’t have to work. And I would simply leave. That’s the arrogant John Cullum talking
right there! (LAUGHTER) And they can get somebody to do
the role, but I enjoy doing that show, and if they want me, then they can have me. And the level of the work has changed, too,
you know? Is it harder? People are doing amazing things. I mean, musicals are almost competing with
movies! I mean, there’s a lot of stuff going on
that seems like it’s just the level of the work has gotten so high. The risk of injury, you know. I remember, at one point, some point, we were
doing something, they gave us hazard pay! You know? Oh, no! Oh, yeah. No, yeah. We get that. You can get hazard pay, because you can hurt
yourself, on these rakes and these things, you know? Oh, the rakes! Oh, goodness. Yeah! Yeah, that’s true. You can hurt yourself. You go into the theatre – I’m in the theatre
right now – it’s freezing cold! For some reason, it’s freezing cold. Oh, my God! So I start the show being very pleasant, and
then in the middle of everything, I start these kicks, you know? And now, my warm-up has worn off, so I’m
doing these kicks, and my hams are like nyang-nyang-nyang! You know? It’s just like, whoa! Yeah. And then, you don’t have time to heal those
hams. How do you heal your hamstrings? You have to stop stretching them for two weeks. But you keep doing it in the cold every night! (LAUGHTER FROM THE PANEL) Right! Oh, it’s cruel to perform when it’s cold! You know? People have to take into consideration that
actors are human beings, and we are working with everything we have. Oh, yeah. I asked a stage manager one night, doing our
show, and it’s like, “Okay, why is it so cold? It’s freezing. I’ve got practically a ski suit costume
on, and I’m still freezing. Why?” “Oh, because the audience needs to be – ” Mmm-hmm. So they don’t go to sleep! (LAUGHTER) That’s right. And you consider that we kind of have to do
this every day! Harvey Fierstein and I, every single night
– every night, from opening night, we have an argument. I think it’s too cold, he thinks it’s
too hot. (LAUGHTER FROM THE PANEL) So there’s the
poor stage manager, and they will turn off the air vents for us, and they’ll turn ‘em
right back on for him! So I’m out there on stage, and I’m like
looking out, I’m like, “I am so cold!” (LAUGHTER) And he’s like, dripping with
sweat. (LAUGHTER) I know! That’s what I don’t understand! And I’m shivering, I literally have goosebumps
on my arms. And like, some of the ensemble girls have
now asked to have, like, sweaters put into their costumes, because they are just so cold. And so then, like, there’s an air vent where
one of my quick changes is, so we have them turned off. Can’t they have, like, a personal one, wherever
he walks, and it’s just on him? Yeah, yeah, yeah. He needs a fan. The two of us, every night, we have that same
argument every night. He’s like, “You must be warm, you must
be happy tonight, Cookie!” And I’m like, “I know.” Then the next night, I know I’m going to
be freezing cold. You’ll get your revenge in the summer time. But we fight every single night, we fight
about the weather, the cold and hot. Oh, my gosh. And I, unfortunately, wore a scarf during
rehearsal in the eighty degrees weather outside? So, like, my say has nothing any more, because
they’re all like, “Oh, she’s always cold. She’s always cold!” So then, I’ll be like poking on everyone,
going, “Go complain. Isn’t it cold? Isn’t it cold? Isn’t it cold, isn’t it cold?” It’s cold now! It’s just cold and wet and icky. It’s just yucky. And it’s not the nicest weather to sing
in. (MARISSA PRETENDS TO WHEEZE) Because you know,
Wednesday matinee’s the hardest thing, and I’m just praying, “Dear God, no phlegm! Not right now, okay?” (LAUGHTER) “I don’t need it right now!” Standing there, trying to be the picture of
serenity, with my mouse suit and a drum, I’m looking out into the house, and I’m like,
“Dear God, not [phlegm].” And I can feel it, creeping up slowly! Ugh! (LAUGHTER AND GROANS) Half inch by half inch! You have to finesse the phlegm! (LAUGHTER) And I’m like, “A hundred million miracles!” It’s true! One of the tricks here! And the thing is, once that “H” comes
out, and I feel like – Oh, God, no! Altoids seek the phlegm! No, Ricola! Altoids are good? I’m gonna sit in the back row when I see
you! (LAUGHTER) Master the phlegm, baby! So what do you do to clear your throat? Oh, every time I run off stage, my dresser
hands me an Altoid and a chug of water, ‘cause I have just like a hair change and like, the
music is just literally just waiting for me to come back. And I just chew on Altoids just to keep the
phlegm down. Oh, my God. I suppose none of you drink milk? Is that true? Oh, no dairy! No cheese, no dairy? Water! Lots of water! Oh, I do! Not too much. Lots of water. A lot of water. (GENERAL AGREEMENT) Yeah, because yes, it keeps everything – Oh, I have to set the record straight here,
though. When I go into another show, I’ll be doing
eight shows again. (LAUGHTER) There you go! (APPLAUSE; ISABELLE LAUGHS) And hold that wire up, so we can hear what
you’re saying. Oh, I’m trying
to be nervous, yes. Well, Edie and I are freezing over here. Are you? That’s why you have those coats on? I wore a jacket. I had a feeling. I have my scarf on. Is it more competitive, do you think – well,
you have had a great deal of experience in this. Is the business more competitive than it used
to be, do you think? Well, I don’t know how people survive. You know, when I was here, and I know this
doesn’t fit anymore, but when I got to New York, I stayed in a room and paid six dollars
a week. It was big enough to – I mean, it was so
small – I did everything in this little room. I lived on a little cot, and I put the clothes,
I hung them on the side of the wall. And I peed in the sink (PIA LAUGHS) and I
washed my hands and shaved and everything. It was all – I didn’t even have to move
to get out. I couldn’t move! Oh, so fun! That’s why he’s in URINETOWN! But at the same time – URINETOWN, listen. (LAUGHTER) It’s a full circle! A full circle. That’s the kind of experience – why would
I be embarrassed about URINETOWN? Forget it. (LAUGHTER) But the point is, the first place
that I had was fifty-five dollars, a cold-water flat, and that would be eight hundred dollars
today. And most actors nowadays have to live with
somebody else. (GENERAL AGREEMENT) I don’t know how young
actors do it. I don’t either. I really don’t know how they manage to do
it. Probably a lot of them stay out in California. It’s tough. I moved to L.A. and started doing some film
and T.V. and that allows me – I can afford now to come back and do a play here. Mmm-hmm. That’s how I’ve been doing it. I did GREASE! on Broadway. I was doing one of the lead roles in a Broadway
show, and I was living with four people. And I was a lead in a hit Broadway show! And I was living with four people, ‘cause
I couldn’t pay my rent. And our rent wasn’t that much, you know,
but I mean, it was so much, and your salary – and then I also moved to L.A. and made
residuals, you know. Don’t you love L.A.? (LAUGHTER) Just like wondering (PH) what it all meant. And like, the money, you know, I would have
done HAIRSPRAY for nothing. Standard of living. So you have to love this. Yeah. This has got to be your lot. Oh, yes! You have to, you have to. This over anything else. The passion is really it. Yes, that’s the only reason why actors should
do it. That’s right. Yeah, yeah. Because they really love it. That’s the only thing that’s going to
keep you doing it. That’s right. Because I had a teacher, Dr. Bella Itkin in
Chicago, she said, “If there’s anything else that you can do –” Do it! “ – you will find yourself doing it!” So, you know. You have to love it. It’s your passion that keeps you here, working
for a little bit of money. Well, you’ve managed to do a little of everything. Mmm-hmm. So you’ve spread it out, because you can
write, direct, act. Maybe that’s – is that easier, rather
than saying, “Oh, I’m just going to be an actor”? It’s easier, yeah, it is. I mean, it makes life more varied, which I
think is good. I mean, I love doing all those things. And like you say, if you love doing them,
then you have to do them. There came a point in my career where I had
to direct and write. I just had to, and I didn’t know why I did,
necessarily. I just had to do it, so I did it. I made it sound so easy, didn’t I? (LAUGHTER) Yes. I just did it! But I never would have really – And I had to do it well! (LAUGHTER) Had to do it well, and I did. And you did! (LAUGHS) They’re modest, yes. Yeah. I wrote three solo plays, but I never would
have written any plays, if I had work here that fulfilled me, you know? I had lots of work, I was always working. But I just needed work that fulfilled me as
an artist, as I grew. And when I realized that some of my best work
was in class, you know, then I thought, “Well, what am I doing? I cannot keep complaining about this! I cannot keep complaining. I have to do something, even if I just create
– ” And I created the first play, not to make it a big play and bring it to New
York or whatever. I just created it so I could have something
to exercise my instrument with. How did you learn to do that? Where did you learn writing? I’m a storyteller. I come from storytellers. And I used that oral tradition, that storytelling
thing, in order to tell my stories. I tell my play for like a year before I even
write it down, so theatres know what it’s going to be. It takes me two weeks to write it down, after
I’ve told it for a year, a year and a half. But I tell it. I go places, I walk down [the street] – I’m
writing my new play now. I’m writing it, it has six characters, and
I’m writing it as I walk to work every day. You know, just talking to myself, and talking
to people and going to dinner and taking hikes. Because my whole thing is that I am an actor,
an actor, and I’m using my instrument to write this evening of theatre. That’s what I do. Awesome. Edie, what about working in “The Sopranos”
and in the theatre? Shall I? Are we [stopping]? You. Edie. What about working in “Sopranos” and the
theatre? Well, they’re not at the same time. “Sopranos” is done. Now I do the play. And then, as soon as we close the play, I
go back to “Sopranos.” When do you do “The Sopranos”? Where do you do it? In Queens, mostly, at Silvercup Studios, over
the 59th Street Bridge. So that you can work in the theatre and do
that as well. Sure. Mmm-hmm. You told me you liked doing both of them. I do! They’re completely different. You must. But I love ‘em. I love ‘em both. We’re going to continue on this in a moment. But first, we have to take a short break,
and Isabelle Stevenson is going to tell us some more about the American Theatre Wing. Before we get back to the American Theatre
Wing’s “Working in the Theatre” seminar on Performance, I would like to remind you
that these seminars are only one of the many year-round programs that the Wing undertakes. You are probably familiar with the American
Theatre Wing’s Tony Award, given for achievement of excellence in the Broadway theatre. We also have an important grants program,
providing aid to Off- and Off-Off-Broadway theatres. We now offer six different scholarships, for
students to pursue studies in the theatre arts. We have an expanded career guide program for
beginning professionals. As a long-established charity, dating back
to World War One, and again in World War Two, when we operated our famous Stage Door Canteens,
all of our programs are designed to reward and promote excellence in the theatre, to
introduce young people and their families to theatre and the magic it unfolds. We take pride in the work we do and are grateful
to our members and everyone whose contributions help make possible the dynamic programs of
the American Theatre Wing. We are proud to be part of this exciting industry,
as we continue to provide services to the theatre and to the community. And so now, let’s return to our panel on
performance, and our moderator, Pia Lindstrom. Pia? Well, we are now going to hear some questions
from the audience, and our first question, I believe, is going to be directed to Edie
Hi, my name is Heather Lind (PH). I was curious about your transition from Broadway
to television. I understand you had to make a choice between
SIDE MAN on Broadway and “The Sopranos”? And I was just curious about that. Yeah. That was really rough, actually. Those were very rough days. To have been doing SIDE MAN for almost four
years at that point, in various incarnations, and then once it actually got to Broadway,
I wasn’t able to follow it there because I was under contract to “Sopranos.” It was not a decision I had anything to do
with, it was contractual. You know, I had people telling me to walk
out of the “Sopranos” contract. “Oh, just go and do SIDE MAN on Broadway!” Which, I think at this point, would have been
a big mistake. (LAUGHTER) So I’m glad it worked out the
way it did. But these decisions are often made for you,
according to schedules and all that kind of stuff. And we have another question now, coming from
this young man. ANDY DONALD
Hi, I’m Andy Donald (PH) and my question is for the panel. I was just wondering how you guys maintain
the freshness and spontaneity of a performance over eight shows a week? And then, especially in the case of Mr. Cullum,
how you do it over a year and a half? And when is it time to leave a show? (LAUGHTER) Well, that’s your question. Well, it’s extremely difficult for me to
keep up for eight performances right now, because I’m only doing six. (LAUGHTER) And believe me, those two performances
I’m not doing are very hard to keep my concentration on the show. (LAUGHTER) But the company that I’m in,
I like doing this show. I’ve done long runs in the past, and it’s
just, I guess, a technique that you develop over the years. If you really like what you’re doing and
you’re proud of what you’re doing, you’re not gonna want to do a bad show. So you figure ways to keep fresh. And even though I’m not a Method actor,
I do use kind of my own feelings to make the show slightly different all the time. So there’s a certain variety, what might
not make much difference to anybody except me and maybe a couple of people on the stage
who’d like to kill me (LAUGHTER FROM THE PANEL). But it helps keep the performance fresh, because
I do a little something different in a long run all the time. And you go through periods, I’m sure. (GENERAL AGREEMENT FROM THE PANEL) I get weeklies,
I get monthlies, and I go through a bad period about every three months, and then I go through
a bad period every six months. And you get over ‘em, and they don’t last
too long, and you just fight against ‘em. I’m sure – I’d rather hear what some
of these other people have to say about it. Edie? What do you do to keep it fresh? What he said. Okay, let’s move right along. All right, moving right along, to do eight
shows a week. I also did the six show a week schedule in
SAIGON, but now I’m doing eight. And it’s not easy, it’s really isn’t. Because there is a temptation to let boredom
set in and to just fall into the comfort zone of just doing the exact same thing, just to
get through that show and then to get through the next if you have one that night, if you’re
doing a matinee. But sometimes, what usually helps me is to
leave work at work, and when I go home I do stuff that has absolutely nothing to do with
work. So that when I do get there, it just hits
me, and it’s like, “Oh, okay! This is going to be a different thing every
day.” And then because I don’t think about work
the whole day, until I get to the theatre, you know, everything just kind of happens
when you’re onstage. And especially, when understudies start going
on, because they are different people, you can’t do the same thing. And you obviously have to react the way – they
would read a line or throw a line at you. And you know, if say the person that you’re
normally performing with throws fast balls or a fast ball, a curve, in a certain sequence,
they might throw it a different way, so you have to learn to catch it in a different way,
too. Mmm. Do you have any tricks to keep it fresh? Well, I think – yeah, I try to make Edie
laugh on stage. (LAUGHTER) Oh, you tickle! Yeah, it’s really great. It’s really compatible, let me tell you! I’m incredibly professional in every way. Unbearable! No, I think that the key thing is, like John
said, you know, you are a different person every day. You come and you bring whatever your feelings
are that day, they can’t help sort of but infuse that performance, I think. But I think it’s very much about always
talking to the other actor, and really listening to the other actor. And if both of those things are happening,
it will be different every time. It can’t help but be different every time. And also, the audience is different. The audience being, in our play, the third
character. (TO CHARLAYNE) So, like you said, they’re
the second character in yours. Because the audience is different, your performance
is going to be different. You’re going to modulate that performance
sometimes. You feel an audience is reticent, you’re
going to maybe take things a little more slowly and maybe bring ‘em in. Mmm-hmm. And then, you know, take ‘em where you want
to go. And sometimes, you don’t know ultimately
who’s leading the performance, the audience or the performer, necessarily. So I think, for that reason, because it is
live, it can’t help but be different every time. Charlayne, is that it? Yes, if you’re listening. I agree with everything everyone’s said. But in addition to that, I have a warm-up
that I do, every evening. I get to the theatre an hour and a half before
the show, and I start this. There are levels to my warm-up, and they change
as the play goes on, you know, according to what I need, to make it fresh and to get me
to perform its level by eight o’clock. Can you give us an example of one thing that
you might do? Well, I don’t want to get specific about
it, because it changes. A secret? (LAUGHS) But I mean, there are vocal warm-ups, there
are physical, there are exercises that I do that freshen images in my [head] and get my
sensory thing happening, you know. Meditation? No. Ommm? No, that doesn’t work! That doesn’t work. (LAUGHS) No, that doesn’t. You don’t want to be too tranquil! But I do things for relaxation. I do things for resting up! As opposed to resting. So that sort of helps, but in general, for
me, it’s what Stanley said about that listening. And really, if you listen, every night, it’s
different. Well, I get to kiss Matthew Morrison all night
long, so really, it stays fresh for me! (LAUGHTER) And we’d like end it (PH), and
we just keep kissing. And then it started off with one kiss a show,
and now we’re up to like eight kisses. So I’m hoping by the end, you know, that’s
really what keeps it fresh and I look forward to that part. (LAUGHTER) So that’s pretty much all I look
forward to. Oh, my God. Lots of kissing. But I’m actually scare – I don’t want
to say scarily – but I’m very consistent in my show, especially with HAIRSPRAY, because
I’m more of the engine of the show. Whereas like everybody’s funny around me
and there’s all this craziness around me, and I’m like, “Okay, but here’s the
line you need to hear! And this is going to carry the story.” So my reaction time and my keeping it fresh
is really just listening to what the other actors are doing, and then waiting for the
audience to stop laughing at them and continue on with the next line. So me, I’m pretty much, I’m like, I try
to stay very consistent and very almost like grounded and rock form, almost, so that they
can all play around me, but we still have where the show’s going. I’ve never had that position before in a
show, ‘cause I’m so much more of the wacky sidekick! And I’m so much more of the best friend. So that was the scariest part of this show
for me was, “No, everyone’s going to be coming up to you. So at this point now, you’ve got to keep
the train going and keep the motion going, and if your energy’s down, everyone [is
down],” you know? So I’m really good about really being consistent,
but it’s so much about the audience. If they’re not laughing at the first ten
jokes in the show, you know either you need to like don’t wait for those laughs, don’t
hold. And people get into rhythms of waiting. They know, “Oh, Harvey’s gonna say something
really funny here!” So everybody waits and does their freezes,
and I’m like, “No, there isn’t gonna be a laugh! They didn’t laugh yet!” So you gotta really, really, really be focused
to the audience and how they’re giving you. And I mean, matinee audiences, some days are
younger audiences. For our show, it’s more kids. Or older people, where you’re like, “Oh,
they’re gonna get this joke!” So you know, you’re gonna wait longer. Or just, the audience’s energy, you know,
you just really [feel it]. I find that that’s so much part of the show. So because of that, every night, it is so
different, figuring them out. Well, I think that that is more of a problem
in a long-run show (GENERAL AGREEMENT) than anything else, is the fact that even people
that have done a lot of theatre have a tendency to come off after the first moment in the
show, if they’ve been in the show for a while, and they decide that the audience is
no good? Yes! (GENERAL AGREEMENT) Oh, that is so hard. Believe me, that is the worst. That’s the killer. That’s the hardest thing to fight against. Yeah. (LAUGHS) I say, there’s always somebody
out there that’s gonna – Who’s gettin’ it! — you’d better play to, ‘cause it’s
gonna come back and bite you in the butt! Right! (LAUGHTER) He’s gonna know a good performance! So you have to. That’s the toughest thing, is to do a good
show, when you think the audience is not good enough for you. (ISABELLE LAUGHS) And that happens in a long
run. Yes! A lot. Yeah, I hear. You’ve got to constantly fight against that. And you should never let down. And I won’t do that. I learned that the hard way. (GENERAL AGREEMENT) That – I actually – What? Sorry, go on. Go on. I want to know what you have to say now. I kind of enjoy sometimes when the audience
isn’t very active. Like yesterday’s matinee, for example! It was like – They were dead! They were dead! They were dead, actually dead. There actually are dead audiences. There was nothing going on. There was actually a point where a huge laugh
comes, at one point. Stan said his line, (LAUGHS) there was absolutely
no laugh! And he looked at me and went (DEMONSTRATES
BIG SHOCKED EYES; LAUGHTER) And I was like, “I don’t remember you ever making that
face before, in any other run!” But something happens where the play becomes
mine again. Yeah. Yeah. (GENERAL AGREEMENT) And I’m like, “All right! They can join us, or clearly, they’re not
gonna or whatever. So now I can actually – ” Yeah, then you really just do it for you. That’s right. You have to play it for yourself. Just have a very full emotional experience
of this play for myself. Yeah, you play it for yourself. That’s what I do, to fight against it, is
to play – Yep. And it is true, I get a – like yesterday’s
performance, the same for me. Although – well, anyway. I didn’t do the matinee! (LAUGHTER) How many shows a week do you do? I don’t do any of them! I’m just here to get – this is not being
broadcast, is it? No, no! (LAUGHTER) That’s very funny. We have another question here from this young
Hi, my name is Graham Skipper (PH). My question is for the panel. I was wondering what your views are on the
amplification of shows. Ah, sound. Microphones! Ooh. Okay! I love my sound guys, I love my union! I’m not going to discuss sound at all today! (LAUGHTER) Anybody here want to take it on? I’ll do it! I’ll do it. There are two schools of thought, and we have
people in our theatre who just disdain having to wear a microphone and absolutely hate it. Hate being amplified, saying that “I’ve
trained for so long to learn how to amplify with my own body! I should be allowed to do it!” And my school of thought is this: winter,
flu season. Microphone, best friend! (LAUGHTER) There are a lot of different ways
of doing it. Eastern philosophy! (LAUGHTER) I chant this with candles in front of me,
with my legs crossed! Microphone is my best friend! I mean, but, you know, seriously! I can see microphones.
(PH) (TO EDIE AND STANLEY) How do you guys hide
microphones? But I guess you don’t. (LAUGHTER) Don’t ask. (MUCH MORE LAUGHTER) No, I guess there’s, you know. But I mean, especially when you’re doing
a musical, and you have the orchestra, and even without amplification, they can really
overpower you, you’d better be Ethel Merman or you won’t be heard without amplification. And she was one of these rare people that
I’ve been told that could just fill a house with her voice and with her presence, without
a microphone! And I’m like, “How did she do it?” I mean, “How can I do it?” I’m five foot three, I don’t know how
I’m going to be able to reach the back of the house without amplification. But in SAIGON, when we did it in London, and
the house was two thousand, two hundred and fifty people. Oh, Jesus. Or was it two thousand, five hundred and fifty
people? But it was one of the biggest houses in London. And because of the way they were built, those
old houses, they’ve got the best acoustics. So they really minimized the amount of amplification
that they gave us, to the point where you could feel like you were singing in a vacuum. So you didn’t know necessarily if you were
in tune or not. So my thing is, amplification’s okay if
it helps, you know, to reach the back of the house. But you have to work to get something out,
because I also disdain it when an actor is over-amplified, because you might as well
just put a CD on and have them lip-sync on stage. And that’s not theatre, and that’s cheating
an audience for me, to do it that way. Because they expect that live performance
coming from the stage, and they want to hear it like it’s coming from the stage, not
from the speaker all the way in the back. Any other thoughts on mikes? Well, I agree. I think that the technique of miking people
has gotten a lot better. It’s interesting to me that we’ve always
had the equipment on Broadway, but we haven’t had the operators that could really use it
like the rock stars or the ones that learned how to use sound much better than we did. I go back to when I would work with an actress
who was wearing what they called in those days a Vega (PH)? Is that what they used to call them, Vega
mikes? A lapel? A chest mike. And I would play from the front mikes. So I would sing like this (FACES FRONT) and
then when I talked, I was, you know, like this (TURNS HIS HEAD AND MUMBLES; LAUGHTER). But I did PRIVATE LIVES – I shouldn’t
tell this story. Oh, tell it! I did PRIVATE LIVES with [Richard] Burton
and Taylor. And I had scenes with Elizabeth Taylor, but
nobody knew I was on stage at the time. (LAUGHTER) But we played the Opera House in
Washington, this enormous house. And it was extraordinary, because (IMITATES
A HUGE, REVERBERATING MUMBLE), “Where you going whoa-whoa,” because they had to mike
her so loudly. And she came out beautifully, and I would
go, “Who-oh-oh-aw, who-oh-oh-oh-aw.” (LAUGHTER) It was just ringing off the walls! But they’ve gotten a lot better with the
use of mikes. I think you have to join ‘em now. I think the thing to remember also is – I’ve
never done a musical and never will do one. You hope I never do one! (LAUGHTER) We’ve got a place for you in URINETOWN! (LAUGHTER) Well, maybe I’ll just do your matinees! (LAUGHTER) Naked. (LAUGHTER) I think with our play, with a straight play,
you know, we’re in an old house. We’re in the Belasco, which is 1907, and
the acoustics are very, very good. But the problem is that plays are very different
now from (LAUGHS) what they were in 1907 and acting is very different now. Mmm-hmm. Acting is very naturalistic. And a lot of our play is theatrical, certainly
what my character is doing. But there are moments of real, real intimacy,
here, almost a cinematic intimacy. And we have booster mikes on the stage, which
we do make use of. I think it’s important to have them, because
the style of acting is very different than it was when that house was built, and I think
you have to account for that. I prefer things not to be amplified, if possible. But a little help that isn’t noticed, I
think is okay, because of where things are now. Next question. SARR PRICE
Hi, I’m Sarr Price (PH), and this question is for the panel. When you’ve had to audition for roles in
the past, maybe when you first started out as actors, how did you go about choosing a
monologue, when you had to bring one in? Where would you find them? How long did it take you to pick a monologue? Okay, who has a monologue? I came from drama school with five. (LAUGHS) So that’s how I did it. And never used them! Did you have a monologue? I would read something, and I’d end up making
stuff up. (LAUGHTER) I did, I like, I was never, I couldn’t
– no, I never did monologues. Stanley, did you have a monologue? I did have monologues, but they weren’t
really – I mean, I had them at school, but I never really used them in New York. But never used them. They just give you something to do, you know. Seldom were they used. Mmm-hmm. I always auditioned for musicals, so I had
songs instead of monologues. Oh, okay, so you had a song. But you had a song that you had chosen? Sometimes, yes. Depending on what I was auditioning for. When I was auditioning for SAIGON when I was
seventeen, I came in with “On My Own,” thinking “It’s a Boublil and Schonberg
show, I’d better come in with a Boublil and Schonberg song!” (LAUGHS) And then they asked me to sing something
else, and I’m like, “Um.” And I said, “Uh … ” Complete blank out,
I said, “Okay, can I do ‘The Greatest Love of All’ by Whitney Houston?” And I thought I was going to have to do it
a cappella. And then by sheer divine something or other,
somebody left their music on the piano. No! No! And I used it. And it was perfect. It was in my key, I sang it, (LAUGHS) and
I got the part! It was meant to be! (LAUGHS) Edie, did you have a monologue? It’s been such a long time since we’ve
had to use monologues to audition. As Stan said, they give you stuff. I get an anxiety attack just thinking about
it. I know! (LAUGHTER FROM THE PANEL) Those days! But what I would recommend, if that’s I’m
being asked to do in any way here, is to pick something close to yourself, something that
you might actually [play]. Around your age, and the lifestyle that you
might understand, because I think those are the best way to represent yourself, if that’s
what you’re being asked to do, rather than doing a huge stretch. My experience was, picking stuff that was
close to me. Did you have a monologue or two? No, actually, when I came to New York, I had
such a strong Tennessee accent, (DOES IT) I talked kinda like this. And the only time it disappeared [was] when
I would do Shakespeare, and that’s all I was in (LAUGHTER) for a few years. And I don’t ever remember auditioning for
a play. You didn’t get to audition for plays. You had to be invited to, when I first came
here. Musicals, you could audition, and I only knew
the last sixteen bars of “On the Street Where You Live.” For two years, that’s all I sang. (LAUGHTER) And you sang that? (LAUGHS) I managed to screw it up every time,
Okay. My name is Christina Lind (PH). This question is for Stanley Tucci. In your opinion, what are the major differences
in your acting or directing choices, from film to theatre? Next? (LAUGHTER) I don’t – the difference between
the choices in acting, as an actor? CHRISTINA LIND
And/or directing, acting and directing, yeah. I think as an actor, I gravitate towards things
that are going to be challenging and that are going to make use of a part of myself
that maybe I haven’t used before. You hope never to repeat yourself. Of course, you do end up repeating yourself
sometimes, inevitably, because maybe there aren’t parts available, and I’ve had that
happen at certain points in my career. And that was one of the things that actually
brought me to directing, was that I was feeling dissatisfied with what was available to me
as an actor. Though I had worked pretty consistently, I
was finding that I was not creatively satisfied, so I felt the need to be satisfied in a different
way. I look now to things that are really going
to challenge me and things that I have never done before. And as a director, I am interested in directing
films that are, I suppose, outside the studio system – not suppose – that are outside
the studio system. Films that are more intimate films, that are
not plot-driven films but are character-driven films, and have characters that are ambiguous,
that aren’t sort of black and white. And usually, the ending is ambiguous also. I mean, that’s the kind of stuff that attracts
me. And those really, ultimately, are the roles
that attract me, too. The role of the hero, quote unquote, doesn’t
attract me. And I’ll never be cast in it, so it’s
perfect. (LAUGHTER) But I think roles that have ambiguity
and complexity, roles that the audience can’t quite put their finger on, those are the most
interesting, ultimately. Yes. MALE VOICE
And to wrap up! The wrap-up! MALE VOICE
A question for the panel. What do you think, or hope, that the theatre
is heading towards today? New York City theatre, Broadway, Off-Broadway,
where do you think it’s going? The future of the American theatre. Who wants to tackle that? (LAUGHS) I’m not touching that. John, you’ve been around. Oh, I can only talk about the past. (LAUGHTER) My hope for the theatre is that
it outlives me. And it will. It will, it will. It will, believe me. I have great faith in the theatre. Well, Lea, you’ve been around doing it. I’ve been around a lot. You’ve been around a lot, too. You started so young, so you actually have
a tremendous amount of experience. I know. How has it changed? I just wish there was more musical theatre
out in L.A., because I’ll be moving there after I finish FLOWER DRUM SONG, ‘cause
I’m getting married next year! Oh, congratulations! Yeah, my fiancé’s out there, so of course,
I’m like, waah!, really sad being here. But you know, I’m just really happy with
how theatre is changing now. We have a couple of chorus guys in our show
who remember the day when they would be the only Asians, or like maybe one or two of them,
in an audition. And now, they come into auditions, and there’s
a whole roomful of people who are taking on the challenge of being actors in the theatre. And of course, I’m going, “Yay! There are more of us now!”, you know? And the community is just getting bigger,
and there’s a lot of interest from the Asian community to get into this business. So I just hope that it continues. More musical theatre in L.A.! That’s all
I wish for. (LAUGHS) Marissa? Well, you’re just starting. Yes. We’ll see you in a long time. But how have you seen it change? Well, I would like the opportunity to work
in more plays. Yes. I miss living in New York City. I know I moved to Los Angeles because I did
not have work to do here, satisfying work to do here. And I would like to see far more plays for
everyone, but especially for people of color. And not just plays for people of color, but
plays that include people of color. In my play the other night, a woman came out
and she goes, “Well, Ethel, it wasn’t a black play after all!” (LAUGHTER) I mean, people, what’s going
on here? It’s a wild thing that’s happening here,
in this theatre, right now, for me, and I have to live far away and come back and do
maybe a play a year, or write them, you know what I mean? For myself and for friends. That’s it. You’ll have to do that. I mean, I know that’s what has to happen,
is we have to write them. Yes, you have to write them. But they are being written, but they have
to be produced. They can’t just be workshopped. They’re being workshopped all over the country,
wonderful plays. But someone has to take a chance and say,
“And we’re going to produce this play, so that everyone in New York can see it.” I’m always so surprised when an August Wilson
play comes out, and there will be six or eight African-American actors, and they are so good! And I always think, “Where have they been? Where are they working?” Yes! Yes. They are so incredibly good. That has to change. There was a time when it was – They have to wait only for August Wilson and
you. It’s got to change, you know? It’s just got to change. And our playwrights are doing really great
work, but more of them need more exposure. Because I really want to be a part of the
new American classics for the stage. I want to help create those. I love our revivals. I love the work that’s been put up before
us, so that we can just do that. We know that’s fabulous, that’s wonderful,
we can just do that, it’s flawless now. But I’d love to be a part of the new American
classics that are about to be born. That’s a great place to end. We all hope for, you know, optimism in the
theatre, and I think you’re right. Thank you so very much. This was great! I learned a lot, and it was a lot of fun! You were all very good. Thanks so much. This has been the American Theatre Wing’s
seminar on “Working in the Theatre.” We thank you so much for watching. We come from the Graduate Center of City University
of New York. Thank you.

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