Patricia Wettig Is Ready to Play
The Emmy Award-winning actress discusses writing her new play, F2M.
THEATERMANIA: Your play concerns a transgendered college student and her parents. What was your inspiration for tackling this subject?
PATRICIA WETTIG: I have a friend who has a daughter, who was involved with someone who is transgendered. And I've known the daughter since she was three years old, and in thinking about this, I just became fascinated with it. It made me think a lot about identity and how that affects everyone. So the play is about more than just being transgendered. It's about how to be a good parent and support a child, and how a parent holds onto that identity, and how a child becomes his or her own person.
TM: So do you consider this a personal play?
PW: I think it's very personal and very revealing on how I think about the world and my philosophy in life. I think once you see it, you'll know a lot about me.
TM: Were you always interested in being a writer?
PW: Writing has always been important to me. I did the earliest production of Crimes of the Heart in St. Louis, I played Babe, and when I got my check for $300, I took it and went to this little store in St. Louis and bought a typewriter. And then a few years later, I got my masters in playwriting.
TM: Speaking of playwrights, Jon Robin Baitz created Brothers & Sisters and is an old friend of yours. Did you ask him for advice about writing?
PW: No. But I had dinner with him the other night right before I started rehearsal for this, and the one piece of advice he gave to me is, "When actors ask you about something, just say I don't know." Isn't that great!
TM: It's funny. One of our cast members, Phoebe Strole, said to me at our first rehearsal that this is the first time she's ever done a play with a female writer, a female director, and a female head producer [Johanna Pfaezler]. And I told her I haven't ever experienced this either. So we'll see if the play ends up being more feminine because of it. I don't know yet.
TM: You have some other great women in the cast, including Deirdre O'Connell and Keira Keeley. What can you tell me about them?
PW: Dede's character has lots of monologues, and before we did the reading, I thought maybe I needed to cut them. But once she read them, they became people's favorite part of the play. She has such spark, energy, and a great sense of humor; she's just brilliant. With Keira, she also did the reading, playing the transgendered student, and then I saw her as Laura in The Glass Menagerie after we did the reading, and she was so completely different! I was amazed how much she transforms herself.
TM: Your husband, Ken Olin, is in the play as well. You have worked together as actors, and he's directed you on TV, but this professional relationship is something new, right?
PW: Yes. When we did the reading last summer, on the very first day, he said to me, "Oh, wait, you're in charge now." And I said "yes." And later he said, "Wow, you know what you're doing." And I said, "Yes, I hope so."
TM: You two also worked together on Brothers & Sisters. Are you going to miss the show now that it's been canceled?
PW: Not really. It just became too limiting. The part I was playing couldn't expand out, which is no one's fault; it was just the nature of the beast. I wrote the play because my own creative needs had outgrown the show. And while I think the show had run its course, ABC could have been a little kinder in how they ended it. The last episode wasn't filmed to be a last episode, which I know because Ken directed it. At least there was a wedding, so we had a celebration of sorts. But it would have been nice to have a few episodes at the end where the stories could have really culminated.
PW: People don't realize this, but I never wanted to have a film or TV career. I always imagined a life in the theater. I was a member of Circle Rep. Everything changed when Ken got his first series [Bay City Blues] and we moved to California. I love the theater. I love rehearsal rooms, being on the subway with the script, getting my coffee and climbing the stairs to the rehearsal room. And now that Ken isn't tied to California for the first time in over 25 years, we can do what we want. So I can act on stage, or he can act on stage, or we can act together on stage. I like the idea of acting on stage again, but I still have a lot of ideas I want to write. My dreaming and imagination are being called by that right now.