Theater Talk


2018 Tony Award Predictions Gala

Esteemed Theater Talk regulars Jesse Green (The New York Times), Michael Musto (, Patrick Pacheco (OnStage) and Elisabeth Vincentelli (Three on The Aisle and The New Yorker) gather with co-hosts Adam Feldman (Time Out New York) and Susan Haskins to predict who will win the coveted TONY Awards and why.

AIRED: May 22, 2018 | 0:27:42

>> HASKINS: Coming up on

"Theater Talk"...

>> GREEN: So, as part of your

process in rehearsals,

did you have to spend a lot of

time watching each other?

I mean, of course, you do in

rehearsals, watch each other.

>> JACKSON: Well, we've

nowhere else to go.

We're all on stage all the time.

[ Laughter ]

>> HASKINS: From New York City,

this is "Theater Talk."

I'm Susan Haskins.

And I am joined by my

co-host, Jesse Green,

co-chief theater critic

ofThe New York Times.

>> GREEN: Hi, Susan.

>> HASKINS: Hi, Jesse.

And as we know, there is

a wonderful revival of

Edward Albee's

"Three Tall Women,"

now on Broadway.

And we are so honored to be

joined by all three of the

tall women.

We have Glenda Jackson.

You play "A."

>> JACKSON: I do.

>> HASKINS: Laurie Metcalf. "B."

>> METCALF: "B."

>> HASKINS: And Alison Pill,

the plucky "C."

>> METCALF: [ Laughs ]

>> GREEN: Welcome to

"Theater Talk."

As Susan just indicated, your

character names are a little

unusual, "A," "B," and "C."

I wonder, is it fair to say,

and any of you jump in and

answer this, that despite those

different names, you are

playing variations or

aspects of the same woman?

Does that seem a fair way

to look at it?

>> JACKSON: Well, in as much

as -- as their ages are

markedly different.

And their development as

human beings, in that sense,

is defined for you.

But one of the really

interesting things about the

play is how you kind of pick up

clues about your character

from the others.

>> GREEN: So, as part of

process in rehearsals,

did you have to spend a lot of

time watching each other?

I mean, of course, you do in

rehearsals, watch each other.

>> JACKSON: Well, we've

nowhere else to go.

We're all on stage all the time.

[ Laughter ]

>> GREEN: But was it important

to you to identify in each

other aspects of this shared

character that you would want to

use in your own development of

your part of the character?

Or was it more important to

separate yourselves?

Or did you not even think along

those terms?

>> METCALF: Well, the play is

in two parts, so we morph into

the one character

in the second half.

The first half, as I recall,

in the rehearsal room,

gave us the most trouble,

finding those relationships.

But Joe Mantello, our director,

early on, also did want to

look occasionally for a gesture,

maybe, that was similar

between the three and then

repeat it in the second act


Not to help the audience figure

out where we've gone,

who we've evolved into by the

second half, but I think just

those little, tiny callbacks

must be kind of fascinating for

an audience to watch.

They're just very gentle and

go by.

They're like, "Oh, I've seen

that little penguin walk before.

Where was that?

Oh, yeah, I remember that."

>> GREEN: So, did you think of

the -- while working on the

first act as if it were a

separate play from the second

act, particularly, for your

two characters, "B" and "C,"

who you could say they change

the most between the first act

and the second act?

>> PILL: Well, yeah, because

we're different people.

The tricky thing about the

first part is how realistic

to have made it.

It's deceptively realistic


It's a deceptively realistic

situation of this homemade and

this, you know, lawyer in the

same room with this old woman,

but it's not -- it's heightened.

It's not reality.

The second part, because it is

all in this kind of fantastical

limbo, and we are all very clear

on who we are, which is

the same woman,

the clarity of that was obvious,

kind of from the begin--

I mean, from the first read.

Not that it hasn't changed and

morphed as we've gotten to know

each other and been able to

call back, you know, gestures

between us and hear the echoes

from the first part.

But I wouldn't say they're

separate plays, because it is

all one.

But it was much harder to deal

with that...deceptive realism.

>> JACKSON: He uses such very

simple words, and he uses

them constantly.

And he structures sentences

in completely different ways,

but still using the same words.

And we found it --

I think my colleagues will

agree -- absolutely exhausting.

It's a play with virtually

no physical extension at all.

But we were absolutely

exhausted, because your brain is

constantly on this treadmill.

Because, you know, the --

I mean, well, I still do it,

I sometimes chew up.

But nonetheless, you know, you

think, "I've just said that,

haven't I?

Didn't I just say --

No, no, I didn't say that."

And so the repercussions of

that -- I mean, I know it sounds

ridiculous, but, I mean, they're

quite profound when you're

actually trying to find the


Do you know what I mean?

And the relationship with the

other characters, that was

really, really tough.

>> HASKINS: Does "chew up"

mean "forget"?

>> JACKSON: Yeah.

>> HASKINS: Yeah.

>> JACKSON: Or "mangle" is

another word.

You know what mangling does?

>> HASKINS: Yes.

>> JACKSON: They save me.

Every time I've chewed up or

mangled, they save me.

>> METCALF: No, I think you've

looped right back around

and found where you were.

>> HASKINS: Now, 'cause

you have what is a huge

almost monologue

in the first part.

>> JACKSON: Oh, but we all do.

Oh, in the first part.

>> HASKINS: No, in the first

part, in the first part.

There were times -- I mean,

Mr. Albee's no longer around

to check on you.

Could you just chew up and go

off and it wouldn't matter?

>> JACKSON: What do you mean,

chew up and go off?

You mean, go off the stage? No.

>> HASKINS: No, no, no.

If you get lost in your lines,

and --

>> JACKSON: Well, as I say, they

save me.

They always come up with


Then I think, "Oh, yeah, I know

where I am now.

Thank you, ladies."

>> GREEN: But that is a kind of

realism at the same time.

I mean, if you actually listen

to the way we speak in real

life -- and I'm also thinking

of the way my grandparents

spoke at a certain point --

that kind of cycling was quite

realistic, and...doesn't make

it easier to memorize or --

>> JACKSON: I mean, that's -- I

mean, what Alison said.

That is the trap of the first --

what we think of the first act.

It is not realistic.

It isn't real in that sense.

Realism -- I mean, there is

a realty to it, of course, but

it can delude you into thinking

that it's realistic

in that way, and it isn't.

>> METCALF: I found the

first act -- probably you also,

Alison -- really difficult,

because our characters are there

to serve "A," and she's telling

us stories, and my character has

heard them a million times.

And so there was trying

to find that fine line about

when am I listening, when am

I not, when am I supplying

answers to things that I've

heard over and over again.

Because at first, we were very


>> PILL: Just attentive.

>> METCALF: We were just being


Just, you know, very still,

listening, hanging on

every word.

And then, as a group, we

decided, well, it's not really

the reality of the scene,

and so, what happens if there --

can you -- can you play a game

of Solitaire and still be

doing your job and not be

taking away from the scene,

but adding to the experience

for the audience, of,

"Oh, they've -- you know --"

>> PILL: Like, the importance

of the tedium.

>> METCALF: Yeah.

>> PILL: You know, like, that's

the real...

You cannot enter into the

second part until you've

experienced yourself going like,


Because that is how we deal

with old people.

We want them to shut up

and go away.

[ Laughter ]

You know, for the most --

Like, you're just like, "Ugh!


But then you peel back that

layer of, you know, kind of

doddering old lady, and there's

this vital, amazing, brilliant,

ambitious woman underneath it

who's been there the whole time.

And I think that's the -- that

journey of the play and how

important it is to be able to

be trying to write off this

woman for, you know.

>> HASKINS: Because in the

first part, you're kind of mean.

>> PILL: "Kind of"?

>> HASKINS: You are abusing.

I'll say, my mother is well into

her 90s, and I'm watching your

character and thinking,

"Thank God my mother's not like

that." [ Laughs ]

She's a kindly old lady.

But you're giving everybody --

I guess that's Albee's mother

he's portrayed -- a very bad


>> JACKSON: Well, he says,

he wrote the script

that we worked on, that --

I'm paraphrasing here the

last three lines, that

during her life, his mother's

life -- and as we know, he was

adopted -- during his mother's

life, he never met anyone who

liked her.

He never met anyone who saw the

play who disliked her.

What have I done?

>> GREEN: Yes.

Were you at all interested in

bringing into your work

any of the bi-- the actual

biography of Albee's mother,

or was everything you needed in

the words that he provided

in the text?

>> JACKSON: Everything's in

the text.

>> PILL: But it's also --

I mean, everything's in the

text, and that was their life.

>> GREEN: So, knowing that you

didn't really have to do

external work...

>> METCALF: No, I just find it

really grounding when you know

that every line that they're

saying at different ages

happened and was told to Edward.

>> GREEN: Even the bracelet


>> METCALF: I assume so.

>> GREEN: I'm not going to let

viewers know what that story is.

They'll have to get it for


>> PILL: I imagine all of it

is --

>> METCALF: Yeah, the affair

with the groom.

>> PILL: Yeah.

>> GREEN: Speaking from the

audience perspective,

the social interaction that

you were describing of,

not just sort of serving this

woman "A," but having your own

lives that are reacting with it

in boredom or annoyance or

whatever it might be

is where the audience gets to

have a great deal of fun.

Which is a long-winded way of

saying it's a comedy, among

many other things.

I've rarely laughed out loud

so much at a, basically, tragic

vision of a woman's

life and of human aging.

Did you have to think about it

as a comedy in that way, or did

you let that all arise from

doing the work of finding

these women?

>> JACKSON: Well, you hope you

get the laughs.

I mean, your greatest educator,

teacher is an audience.

>> METCALF: Yeah.

>> JACKSON: And they tell

you whether you've got it right

or not.

But the inherent humor in it,

I mean, is there.

I mean, it's just, you know.

>> HASKINS: Well, that's why

they like your -- they like your

mother, but not his real mother,

because you have the great


>> JACKSON: Well, I mean,

I would imagine that she had

those great jokes, too.

I mean, one of the members

of the cast, I mean, knew Albee,

worked with him a lot, and knew

his mother.

And clearly, she was -- I mean,

she was a popular social,

you know, butterfly in her

own particular strata of


And we see it now.

I mean, you know, you see people

where their standing is such

that they really only ever meet

the same kind of people,

and that was the world that

she inhabited.

And they were -- they could be

quite viciously funny, I think.

>> GREEN: This is a play

about a woman, or several women,

by a man.

Laurie, you recently played,


>> METCALF: Nora.

>> GREEN. Nora in

"A Doll's Life, Part 2."

>> JACKSON: "Doll's House."

>> "Doll's House."

Sorry, I'm thinking of the

musical sequel for

"The Doll's..."

>> HASKINS: He doesn't want

to think about --

>> GREEN: Very, very sorry for


"Doll's House, Part 2."

You've played Mary Tyrone in

"Long Day's Journey."

Other -- those are other

great female roles

written by men.

And you've also recently been in

a movie with a great female

role written by a woman.

>> HASKINS: And Alison was in

"Blackbird" -- oh, my God.

Talk about female roles written

by men. [ Laughs ]

>> GREEN: And then we can also

weave into this discussion the

"King Lear" that Miss Jackson

recently did.

The kernel of a question in

here is, given that these

are individual males -- not

all males that have written

these parts -- and an individual

woman -- not all women --

is it still possible to see

a difference in the way a woman

creates a female character

and the way the men who have

written those other plays did?

Does that make any sense

as a question?

>> JACKSON: None whatever.

>> GREEN: Yeah, I could see that

you weren't going there.

>> METCALF: I don't think that

in the three that you mentioned,

for me, I don't think that

I could have 100% said this

is written by either a man

or a woman.

I don't think that I could.

"Lady Bird," maybe that one,

I would've ventured a guess that

that was written by a woman.

>> HASKINS: Oh, I was seeing

clips of it yesterday.

I certainly think that cries

out, "Written by a woman!"

[ Laughs ]

>> METCALF: Well, it was very

personal, and all of the

characters in that movie were

so three-dimensional and --

>> GREEN: Well, that's what

I mean -- the authenticity

of the writing.

Not that Albee is not


>> PILL: And I guess that's the

thing, is that while looking

at -- looking at this play,

in particular, he has studied

and been obsessed with his

mother, but he's also studied

and been obsessed with himself.

>> GREEN: Mm.


>> PILL: And that self-knowledge

that comes through.

I mean, his maturity in dealing

with his mother is something

I don't think 99% of humans

are capable of.

>> GREEN: Well, I don't know

that he was, either.

I mean, he is in the play.

But if you --

>> PILL: No, I don't think --

But, I mean, just the ability

to write about it in this --

in that kind of mature way.

Do I think --

I mean, he was also, you know,

somebody impossible to get along

with, from most people's

perspectives, and also, again,

viciously funny and...

So, I think -- I mean, I think,

all of this to say, I think it

does come down to the

individual, and I think it does

come down to writing these

personal things.

And so you could say "Lady Bird"

couldn't be written by a man.

Of course it couldn't.

Because a man didn't grow up

in Sacramento with, you know.

[ Laughs ]

Wasn't a teenage girl.

>> JACKSON: Carrying on this

idea, because you mentioned

Laurie doing

"Long Day's Journey,"

for which she justifiably --

Regrettably, I didn't see it,

but she got absolutely rave

notices for doing.

But there's O'Neill, who is

writing a play about his family,

and absolutely defines the

errors, the faults that caused

that family to be

the way it was.

He had that knowledge of his

own family, and he proceeded to

re-create it for himself.

He learned absolutely nothing

when it came to his own family.

I mean, it was another

mishmash 'em and it was,

you know, terrible disasters.

So, there's something here,

which is really, really

fascinating, in one sense, that

you know and you learn

absolutely nothing.

>> GREEN: I think there's

a false notion somehow that

plays better the author by

allowing them to express

and get rid of their demons,

but it doesn't seem in these

great plays like they actually

do get rid of them, but they

just clarify them for other


>> JACKSON: They can share them

with us.

I mean, we can see them, but

they are still left on that

lonely desert island.

But then, that's true of

everybody who's a creative

spirit, isn't it?

I mean, just think about it.

You're a writer.

Well, you know, and that

blank page stretches to

infinity, doesn't it?

>> GREEN: Oh, yes.

>> JACKSON: Well, you know,

you're a composer.

I mean, those five lines -- God,

do they ever end?


A canvas -- where is its edges?

Whereas we who are privileged

to work in plays, we may not

have an absolutely detailed map,

but at least we vaguely know

the borders.

>> HASKINS: Being a writer seems

so courageous,

in a certain sense.

I mean, I know the great ones

are compelled to do it, but what

a lonely, frightening place

it can be.

>> JACKSON: Well, absolutely.

>> HASKINS: You worked with

Edward Albee.

You were just talking about --

>> JACKSON: I was in a play

which he purported to direct.

[ Laughter ]

>> HASKINS: Won't you tell us

about that?

'Cause she was discussing

his reputation, but you

experienced it.

>> JACKSON: He was, with all

due respect, a completely

enclosed human being.

He -- you can't walk in a glass

case, can you?

But there was absolutely no,

absolutely no kind of

human interchange.

And, of course, I blew it on the

first day of rehearsal.

'Cause the couple come back and

they're drunk --

>> HASKINS: "Virginia Woolf,"


>> JACKSON: "Virginia Woolf,"

right -- me and John Lithgow

come on to

wherever we were rehearsing.

And Albee said "And,

you know, she should" -- I'm

paraphrasing again -- "She

should stumble.

I mean, she's got to put her

coat down."

I said, "Hang on a minute.

Doesn't she live here?

She'd know where the light

switch was, wouldn't she?"

[ Laughter ]

That was not the right approach

to take.

But in a way, I had

sympathy for him, because,

of course, "Virginia Woolf" was

his greatest curse, as well as

his greatest, you know, prize,

in a sense, because everything

else was compared to that play.

And we were doing it in

Los Angeles.

And, of course, that play then

had the Burton and Taylor logo

all over it.

So, for him, you know, I think

that was something very


But I think his honesty in

the play we're doing is just


>> GREEN: I didn't work with

him, I wasn't a friend of his,

but I interviewed him many

times later in his life.

And I think it's

relevant to "Three Tall Women,"

my experience, in that as he

aged, I feel like that

glass case he almost wore began

to disintegrate.

And something that moves me in

"Three Tall Women," it's tragic

in a way, I mean, in the way

that life is tragic, but there's

also something wonderful and

brave about the way "A"

begins to accept what's

going to -- what

the next steps are and death.

It's a play about death.

And I felt that something

wonderful happened to him, too.

>> JACKSON: Well, we had this

really very moving letter that

was sent to us, I think, by the

chief executive of his trust,

wasn't it, who brought to see

the play the woman who had been

Albee's carer at the last part

of his life.

And they had this kind of

relationship -- he would fire

her, and they'd go to

extraordinary lengths not to

fire her.

Anyway, she came to see the

play, and she was in tears

throughout the whole of what we

think of as the second act.

Because, yes, I mean,

obviously, those kinds of

relationships became available

to him towards the end of his


I mean, you mentioned "Lear."

One of the interesting things

for me was, when I was a member

of Parliament, I would visit

old people's homes and

day centers and things of

that nature,

and the barriers, the gender

barriers just begin to fray.

I mean, the extreme ends

of life -- age, rather.

The older we get, they just

become murky and foggy, and they

split and they break.

And exactly the same way,

you know, when children are

born, we teach them that they're

boys or girls, don't we?

Do you know what I mean?

There aren't those gender

barriers there.

And that's, I think, one of the

things that's interesting

about age.

>> GREEN: And in

"Lear," the fact that it was

written as a man becomes

unimportant, in a way, if you --

>> JACKSON: Well, nobody ever

mentioned it.

I mean, I have to put it in the

context that there have been

brave companies in my country

who've really taken on the

gender bender issue, and have

fought, and I think, won that

battle, you know, doing all the

histories women, all-female cast

and things of that nature --

the Shakespearean histories.

And nobody ever, ever

mentioned it.

It was never an issue.

No member of the audience said

it in any way, shape, or form

to me.

Nobody else did.

But then it is

just a remarkable play.

It's such a privilege to be

allowed to do it.

>> GREEN: It would seem that the

gender would be the last

interesting issue in that play.

>> JACKSON: Yeah. Exactly.

>> HASKINS: Did you work with


You didn't work with him, but

did you work on his plays?

>> METCALF: I've never done an

Albee play, and I never had the

opportunity to meet him.

>> HASKINS: Don't you want to

play Martha sometimes?

>> METCALF: Oh. Well...

who doesn't?

Pick your brain about that,

about how intense that

must have been.

>> HASKINS: I don't know if

you'd be a good Martha, Alison.

I'd see you as a Honey.

>> GREEN: Well...

>> HASKINS: You seem just

too nice.

>> JACKSON: Hang on a minute


>> HASKINS: Maybe later.

>> JACKSON: Just a minute.

You said, before we came into

this studio --

>> HASKINS: Yes?

>> JACKSON: You justifiably

heaped praised on her

performance, right?

And that's what everybody does.

Everybody says how marvelous she


We -- to go back to when

I did "Virginia Woolf,"

Cynthia Nixon's understudy

came to see the play

the other night.

Now, she was the original "C"

in the first production at

the English language theatre

in Vienna all those years ago.

And I said to her, because she'd

been, you know, there with us in

"Virginia Woolf," I said,

"Did he manage to crack a smile

at you or anything?"

This is Albee we're talking


No, she said, "No, but he gave

me notes," and I said, "Oh,

that's interesting.

What was it?"

I can't remember the second one

he gave her.

The first one was, "I don't want

the audience to like her."

>> HASKINS: Interesting.

And you are very likeable.

>> JACKSON: Go to work on that.

>> GREEN: To the extent -- and

I don't want to caricature

actress, but to the extent that

there's a natural tendency to

please audiences, it must be

useful to be freed from that,

by being told --

>> JACKSON: Oh, no, it's more

subtle than that.

I mean, A, I don't actually

agree with you, that we want

audiences to like us.

We want them to listen, and we

want them to laugh in the right

places and be quiet in the

right places.

We don't necessarily want them

to like us.

But, I mean, that was

a profoundly important thing,

I think, to say to an actress --

"I don't want the audience to

like her."

>> HASKINS: Do you agree,

Laurie Metcalf?

>> METCALF: What I find really

fascinating is, like, take "A's"

character -- the more abusive

that she is, obviously, it's


>> HASKINS: Yes. Yes.


it's also weirdly endearing to

me, in a way, that she's --

she's alienating everybody

and just plowing forward,

plowing forward.

And we see, you know, how she is

going to be at the very

end, with her son, who's kissing

her for the chauffeur and the


And she's aware that she's

doing it and still can't stop.

>> JACKSON: And doesn't care.

>> METCALF: And I think that --

and doesn't care.

And the audience,

I think finds it, um...

It makes an audience

sympathetic, I think.

>> HASKINS: That's the trick.

>> JACKSON: Yeah, well, as he

said, you know, he'd never met

anyone who saw the play who

disliked her.

>> HASKINS: Now, I saw the play

originally, and Marian Seldes

played your part

so radically different.

I mean, the wonderful

Marian Seldes, but you come at

it from a radically different


>> METCALF: Yeah, I wouldn't

know, because I haven't seen it,

and I should -- I should go

look it up after our run.

[ Laughter ]

Because I know that there is --

>> HASKINS: Yeah, she didn't run

around in sneakers and wasn't --

She didn't have your thing.

Your -- that you're --

>> METCALF: Well, you know,

knowing, I think that --

because we are going to morph,

you know, later in the second

half, that, kind of an acting

challenge was, "Well, how

different can I be, then?"

Let's work backwards.

So, if I know I'm going to look

like this in the second half,

what would be the extreme

opposite of that?

>> HASKINS: And not only your

clothes, but you're very casual.

>> METCALF: Yeah, the

body language.

>> HASKINS: Body language, and

then you're so different

because you're so buttoned-up

in the beginning.

Now, we have the

famous one minute left.

So, I throw it to you,

and then to --

>> GREEN: Well, great.

I was just thinking back to --

you alluded to Peter Brook,

and I read something that

you wrote that you said

about him, that "Working

with is like coming across an

oasis in the desert.

Like all great directors, he

creates the kind of world in

which everyone's responsible

for the whole play."

>> JACKSON: Absolutely.

>> GREEN: And that seemed

like such a wonderful idea.

And I don't know --

>> JACKSON: Well, it was

wonderful to work in that


You know, I mean, he --

All good directors always know

what they don't want, and they

expect you to show them

what they do.

And the great thing -- one of

the great things about him

is he never, ever let you go

down the wrong path

for too long.

I mean, one of my fellow actors

in that original company said,

you know, the great thing about

him is he just takes you --

he stops you going down the

wrong path.

His favorite word, actually, is


[ Laughter ]

He'll go, "Oh, no. No."

>> GREEN: So, there's the "No,"

which is helpful.

But there's also a feeling

of society

or of the group work, that you

are all in this together.

>> JACKSON: Yes, we are.

I mean, everybody's responsible

for the whole piece,

whatever it is.

It's not dependent on what how

much you have to say or how

little you have to say.

You are all equally responsible

for trying to make whatever

it is you're engaged in the

best it can possibly be.

I mean, actually, Liv Ullmann

gave me a perfect description

of what really good directors

can do.

She was in a play -- film -- she

was playing a very vain woman.

She had to walk down a corridor.

There was no dialogue.

And as she walked down the

corridor, she checked her

appearance in every

reflective image.

He'd set up a camera where if

she chose to do that, he got it.

That's perfect, ain't it?

Ain't that the sort of person

we all want to work with all

the time?


>> GREEN: There's our perfect


>> HASKINS: And you are all in

it together in

"Three Tall Women,"

a magnificent ensemble


And that guy, I'm not --

[ Laughs ]

>> GREEN: Shh!

>> HASKINS: But it's just

wonderful, and I really

appreciate you all coming.

Alison Pill, Glenda Jackson,

and Laurie Metcalf,

thank you for coming back.

>> JACKSON: Oh, thank you.

>> HASKINS: Lovely to see you.

Thank you, Jesse Green.

>> GREEN: Thank you, Susan.

>> JACKSON: [ Laughs ]

It's Mutual Admiration Society.

>> HASKINS: Our thanks to the

Friends of "Theater Talk"

for their significant

contribution to this production.

"Theater Talk" is made possible

in part by...

>> ANNOUNCER: We welcome your

questions or comments for

"Theater Talk."

Thank you.


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