Shirley Knight brings spontaneity to stage
Shirley Knight is in the cast of Arthur Laurents' new play, but she will not give a single performance.
The actress — a Tony and Emmy winner and an Oscar nominee — will appear at George Street Playhouse in Laurents' drama "Come Back, Come Back, Wherever You Are."
She will create the role of Marion, a psychological therapist who — along with the other four characters in the play — is trying to cope with the implications of the death of her charismatic son, Paolo.
The others are Sara, a professional singer — played by Alison Fraser — who was married to Paolo for 27 years; Richard — played by John Carter — who was Paolo's father; Michelle — played by Leslie Lyles — Paolo's disaffected sister; and Dougal — played by Jim Bracchitta — who competes with Paolo's lingering influence as he courts Sara.
Laurents, 92, who will direct this production, has woven into the play both the kind of introspective and unblinking discourse that has characterized most of his works and an underlying conviction that love is the most important factor in a human life.
The playwright, who has recently directed the Broadway revival of "West Side Story," for which he wrote the book, has introduced several plays and dozens of new characters on the George Street stage.
As Shirley Knight gives life to one of his newest characters, she said, she will approach the opportunity with a mindset that is necessary if Marion is to be spontaneous and, therefore, credible.
"I never give a performance," the 73-year-old actress said. "Each night, I have another rehearsal. And that is essential because if you just do a rerun of what you did the night before or the week before or on opening night, it would be unbelievably boring."
When she appears onstage at any time during the run of this play, Knight said, she won't be acting Marion so much as she will be Marion. And that will mean that she won't anticipate what will occur, no matter how many times she has heard it."There really is only one pure state of acting," she said, "and that's that you don't know what you're going to say, you don't know what you're going to do. You don't know what the other person is going to say or do. You don't know where the play is going. You have to do a play as if you haven't read the play.
"Now, of course, you have read the play — but you cannot be in that state of knowing. You have to be in the state of going absolutely from moment to moment."
Read the complete interview here!
Alison Fraser and Shirley Knight photo by T. Charles Erickson