After touring in Richard III with Kevin Spacey in The Bridge Project, an ambitious transatlantic endeavor between The Old Vic, Brooklyn Academy Of Music and Neal Street Productions, Maureen Anderman returns to The Westport Country Playhouse in the upcoming production of The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion's play based on her National Book Award winning memoir of the same name.
Joan Didion's double loss -- the deaths of her husband and their only child -- is so heartbreaking. What is about the play that made you want to be part of it twice -- first, as Vanessa Redgrave's standby five years ago on Broadway, and now in Westport?
This piece is so important, so powerful. It's laying out a path…. Joan Didion states in the beginning of the piece. "I'm going to tell you what happened…. This is what happened to me." She is giving us this plotline. It seems that's always been Joan's writing. She's always been an astute observer -- very clearly, cleanly, perceptively. It's what she sees from a distance.
We had a wonderful stage manager [during the Broadway production]. It was a wonderful group. Joan would come by quite frequently, usually Saturday matinees. She would bring fried chicken from Jezebel's down the road on 45th street. I watched it all the time. When Westport approached me, I was in London. From that distance, it seemed possible to approach it again. The hesitation? All the material going into that, learning it again. It wasn't in my head anymore. I'm hoping it will work. I will be talking to friends a lot of the time -- people I'm familiar with.
What will people enjoy about this play?
I think the audience will be surprised at how accessible, how human the play is. There is a wry sense of humor and a constant sense of peace in all this turmoil and grief. It's also a chance to hear the words of master. There's no fat. It's lean prose and very powerful. That's worthwhile to hear. We don't hear that very often anymore. It's only 90 minutes. They get into their seats and they're on an emotional ride. They will have an emotional experience.
In what ways can you identify with Joan Didion, other than being married to someone who works in your field? (Maureen is married to actor Frank Converse.)
Your partner goes through the same thing you go through. You're a sounding board for each other. There were no letters because they were always together…. There are certain inner things that speak to her that speak to me, that sense of play.
What are the biggest challenges of delivering a one-woman show?
There's no anonymity. It requires a lot of concentration, a lot of self-confidence. I wanted to get the old Maureen Anderman fearlessness back. After being with the Bridge project for 10 months with that big piece [Richard III), I had stage confidence. That empowers you as an actor. I can do this. No, I will do this. I'm going to challenge myself.
The main challenge is there's no one to hold hands with, to laugh if you made a mistake, to laugh if they made a mistake. The good thing is that there's no one there to tell you that you made a mistake! It requires incredible concentration, just going into the world and staying in that world. At the same time you're talking to the audience. There is no fourth wall.
You appeared in at least four plays by Edward Albee – Seascape, The Lady from Dubuque, A Delicate Balance and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Was that just coincidental or did you seek out those roles?