Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Maureen Stapleton on Acting

I'm reading A Hell of a Life, Maureen Stapleton's autobiography right now. She originated the TONY-winning legendary role of Serafina in The Rose Tatoo before Anna Magnani, who Tennessee Williams originally offered it to, made it an Oscar-winning role in the movie version. Her thoughts on acting from great writing:
It's always special to appear in a great writer's play; having Tennessee as the author was like a gift. He gives the actor so much, and yet it's hard to describe any of it.

A line in The Rose Tattoo provides a good example. In the first scene of act 3, Serafina and Magniacavallo are out on the porch. She walks into the house and he follows her inside and asks what's the matter. She answers, "I got a feeling like I have -forgotten something." Now that line has absolutely no connection with anything else in the play; there's nothing that subsequently happens from it and there's nothing leading up to it. You can't later put your finger on whether she forgot to do this or do that. What it boils down to is, the line is a gift. You can do whatever you want with it. I don't mean the actor should go into a big number or anything like that; It simply provides the actress with something utterly attractive, a beautiful pocket of space in which to move.
"a pocket of space in which to move"... that's beautiful. Elsewhere, Maureen is less elegant. She had a mouth on her that one.


StinkyLulu said...

I've come to love Maureen, in all her contradictions. I think of her as the Foul-Mouthed Fairy Godmother of Supporting Actress Sundays...

Anonymous said...

one of the best supp actress wins ever for reds,loved her in woody allen's interiors too and as streisand's mum in nuts.