She’s a hometown girl, and she’s back performing on the Metheny Stage at Studio Theatre as Edie and Edith in Studio Theatre’s production of Grey Gardens. An excerpt from their phone interview is below. Read the entire conversation here.
Joel: How difficult is it to try to put your own stamp on roles that other actresses have created – playing Joanne in the revival of Company, which was created by Elaine Stritch, and Edie/Edith in Grey Gardens, created by Christine Ebersole?
Barbara: Honestly, I don’t think about it. I didn’t see Elaine do Joanne [in Company].We are so completely different, so that took the burden off me. I believe these women who create these roles and put their own “stamp” on them – that’s fantastic – but once the role is out there, others are going to respond in different ways. When I am performing the role, I don’t think about it. Elaine saw me do Joanne in Company, and she couldn’t have been kinder and more generous to me. She was so sweet, and I’ll never forget that. I didn’t see Christine (Ebersole) do the role in Grey Gardens. I saw Maureen Moore do it.
And she was brilliant. I am sure Christine was astonishing. It’s not something I think about. It’s my role now…
Joel: How would you describe your interpretation of Edie and Edith, and how much of the real Barbara Walsh is in the way you play these characters?
Barbara: I think at heart, these two women are entertainers. You see that in the documentary, and you see that in the storytelling in both acts. And, that’s something that I am. I have always been – partially – an entertainer, someone who needs an audience and likes an audience. I don’t, Thank G-d, have the dysfunction they have.
Joel: So, is your house clean?
Barbara: I am very, very neat! I haven’t seen my performance, so I can’t judge. I don’t read reviews, and so all I can tell you is how I feel – what the sensation is. (read more)
Serge Seiden, Associate Producing Director of Studio Theatre, responded to Joel’s questions by written interview. Read the entire interview here.
Joel: This production is among the first seen outside New York. You have created a Grey Gardens that is quite different from the Broadway production. Tell us how you approached directing this unusual musical.
Serge: We wanted to unite the style of the two acts. So we set both acts in a set design “frame” that evokes 1973. To me, Act I is more like a flashback of Big Edie’s…that’s how I staged the transition from the Act I Prologue into the first 1941 scene…Big Edie swirls on the turntable upstage as she sees herself at 45 years old sweep onto the stage.
Joel: Why was Barbara Walsh the perfect choice to play Edie/Edith?
Serge: She can CHANNEL Edie Beale and she has the delicacy and taste to play Edith in Act I. Plus she’s a dream to work with: collaborative, creative, brilliant and warm. I’m totally smitten.
Joel: The whole cast you selected is so brilliant, and I adored Jenna Sokolowski as Little Edie. Did you have her in mind, or did you find her in the casting process?
Serge: I love Jenna too and she is perfect for the role. I was so thrilled that she said, “yes!”
Joel: Speaking of auditions, how many actors auditioned for Edie/Edith?
Serge: About 150! And we had thousands of submissions from agents.