Remembering Marian Seldes

10 Oct

MARIAN SELDES, A RULER OF THE BROADWAY STAGE, DIES AT 86
—N.Y. Times Obituary, October 8, 2014

This obit reminded me that a few years ago I took my play to Edward Albee’s Last Frontier Play Lab on Prince William Sound in Alaska. It was a chance to direct my own play, attend playwriting workshops, and mingle with other writers, but after sitting in on a discussion in which actress Marian Seldes took part, I, like a duckling imprinted with a stranger’s shape, followed her around tirelessly, crashing her lectures, listening in on her panel discussions, and even eavesdropping on her social moments. She was one of those people you’d never get enough of. At the end of the week I went to watch a scene prepared by two young actors for her critique. After they’d finished, she took them aside and talked to them, patting them on the back, stroking their necks, whispering in their ears. They came back and did the same scene again–only this time strangely different, with more wild energy, shouting, prodding, throwing themselves on the floor, and spending a long time tying their shoelaces. What on earth had changed?
I followed the two actors out and begged them to tell me what Seldes had said to them. They refused. I told them I would be discreet. “Just tell me what she whispered at the end.”
They looked at each other, nodded, and said:
“She said to play it as if we were five-year-olds.”
So that was the difference.

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One Response to “Remembering Marian Seldes”

  1. literaryeyes October 13, 2015 at 9:24 pm #

    I saw her perform on Broadway. Exquisite. And I asked her to autograph her book on the corner of W. 46th and 8th Ave NYC, and she did, graciously.

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