Marian Seldes is a noted teacher as well as an acclaimed actress, and it has been said that watching her perform can be the equivalent of a master class. So folks who make their way down to The Salon at 45 Bleecker Street (at Lafayette) on Monday, January 14, stand to learn a lot. In this space on that evening at 7pm, A Very Special Evening With Marian Seldes will be offered as a benefit for The Acting Company, founded in 1972 by Margot Harley and the late John Houseman.
I recently spoke with Seldes about her final performances in 45 Seconds From Broadway (the show closes this weekend) and about what she has planned for the Monday event.
TM: You have less than one week left in 45 Seconds. How has the audience been reacting during these last days?
SELDES: Oh, the audience is always wonderful--the ones who are there. The difficult thing is to fill such a huge theater. It's funny: From an actor's point of view, if there were 10 people there and they loved it, you'd be happy. But you can't have that frame of mind when you're doing a Broadway play. I'm such an optimist, I thought the show would run at least a year. Mondays were my day when I could do other things. Margot Harley had the idea for this event and, of course, I said I would do it.
TM: Did you put a program together especially for the event?
SELDES: Yes. I've done this sort of thing before at The Players' Club and in Westport at Lucille Lortel's theater; but this one is special to me because The Acting Company is an outgrowth of that first class at Julliard, where I taught for 22 years. I think the theme of the program and the kind of audience that will be there will make it very personal. I make up each program according to the place I'm going to be and what I'm feeling at the time; I don't have, quotation marks, a "one-woman show." What I do is about the playwrights I've worked with and the poetry that I love. It's more about other people than about me. I'm really looking forward to it because it gives you a chance to do what you want to do in the way you want to do it. I know it sounds funny, but that's rare. Normally, the duty of an actor is to fit into an ensemble...to do what the director and the other people need, yes? But this is different.
TM: The first time you presented a solo program, was it difficult?
SELDES: Well, you are on your own. On the other hand, it isn't like creating a character; the character is you, and it's real. You don't have to ask the audience, "Believe me as this." You are the person already. Once you start, it's lovely--just like having a conversation about what interests you most. When you do that in real life, I think you're terrified that people will get bored and turn away!
TM: In the case of this type of show, especially, we can assume that anyone who attends really wants to be there.
SELDES: That's exactly the point. It's like a party: You don't come if you don't want to come. Here in New York, we're so spoiled. We have so many choices, and you can never see or hear as much as you want to. There are things like opera and concerts and ballet that I crave to go to--but, because I'm fortunate and I work a lot, I can't. The only advantage of the Neil Simon play closing is that I'll get to see everything I want to see.
TM: Will your program on Monday include a question and answer period?
SELDES: Yes, at the end. I think it takes the "me, me, me" out of it a little. Also, there are funny things in my life that I can talk about, like my movie and TV experiences. My work in theater doesn't seem to be as funny. You know what I mean? I can't send it up because I love it too much. But when you are on the fringes of a film, it's hysterical.
Tickets for A Very Special Evening with Marian Seldes are priced at $100 (preferred seating) and $50 (general admission). Phone The Acting Company at 212-944-5517 for reservations.