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Ana Gasteyer Gets the Royal Treatment

The former Saturday Night Live star returns to the stage as part of the star-studded Broadway revival of The Royal Family. logo
Ana Gasteyer
(© Joseph Marzullo/WENN)
Having first entered the public consciousness on Saturday Night Live, where her impressions of Martha Stewart, Hillary Clinton, and Celine Dion quickly made her an audience favorite, Ana Gasteyer is now devoted to the stage, having tackled such iconic roles as Elphaba in Wicked, Mrs. Peachum in The Threepenny Opera, and Fosca in Passion. Now, she's showing off her talents in another well-known role: Kitty Dean in George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber's classic comedy, The Royal Family, which is being revived by Manhattan Theatre Club at the Samuel J. Friedman Theatre. Theatermania recently spoke to Gasteyer about this singular experience.

THEATERMANIA: People are really excited about this revival. Why do you think that is?
ANA GASTEYER: It's such a beloved play; I know lots of people want to be actors because of it. It creates a world that you want to live in -- especially if you're a child -- and it encapsulates the seduction of the bizarre world we live in, as well as all its challenges and all the hard things we do. For example, our opening night weekend is my father-in-law's 80th birthday, and I'm missing it. When our director, Doug Hughes, first sat us down, he gave us this moving opening speech about the sacrifices we make to be in this business. He said that "as a child of two actors [Barnard Hughes and Helen Stenborg], I was acutely aware throughout my life I wasn't the only blessed event in my parents' lives."

TM: How familiar were you with the play before this production?
AG: I wasn't. But when I first read character description of Kitty, I laughed out loud. I love characters who are not aware of themselves; that can be incredibly challenging for an actor. The Deans are ignorantly blissful, yet they get this full arc where their needs are met at the end. And I love that there is some optimism to them. Kitty is much freer than I am; she's sort of the kooky aunt who eats and drinks too much and dresses outrageously.

TM: Is doing this show easier than doing a musical for you?
AG: No. I hadn't done a true blue comedy on stage, and for the first week or so, I was paralyzed. I feel like I'm terrible comedian, but the truth is I'm an actor who acts comedically. In musicals, I always feel like I am surprising people, because people don't know I can sing. So there was more expectation here.

Ana Gasteyer and John Glover in The Royal Family
(© Joan Marcus)
TM: Kitty is a supporting role. Did you purposely not want to do something where you're the star?
AG: I have two children, including an 18-month old, and shows are a lot of work. And I really wanted to be part of this ensemble. I knew working with this cast that I'd be well-protected. It's like a high school play with everyone working together -- and that's a really euphoric feeling. The surprising thing for me is the mountains you have to climb every day for what is essentially a boulevard comedy. You really have to carry your responsibility to lift up a part of the boat and keep it in the water. And you also need to bring the fizzy bubbles to keep it moving.

TM: What is like working with actors like Rosemary Harris, Jan Maxwell, and especially John Glover, who plays your husband, Herbert?
AG: To be part of this ridiculously talented cast is really insane. Jan is really good at what she does, and Rosemary is so intelligent and grounded and such an easy person to work with. I'm so lucky to be partnered with John. He's so good, and he's such a lovely, generous actor, who is really committed to our onstage partnership. His support has been phenomenal. I was afraid he'd be irritated to be saddled with me. But we both have sense of humor about what we're doing and we have compassion about the people we're playing.

TM: Are you considering doing another television show?
AG: No. I don't think I could move back to the world of television now. I feel like my home is in the theater. I am happiest when I'm in New York, and I am very happy to sing and act every day. And I feel like I get better at it every day.

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