×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Listen: Joan Allen on Broadway, Screen Acting and Women’s Roles in Hollywood

It seems safe to say that Joan Allen has a pretty good handle on screen acting — she’s been nominated for three Oscars, after all. But on the latest episode of Stagecraft, Variety‘s theater podcast, Allen revealed that it took a long time for her to get comfortable in front of the camera.

“I found film completely opaque,” Allen recalled. “I [didn’t] understand how you have an emotion and do it out of sequence, and there’s all this chaos, and there are marks that you have to hit, and how do you not look down and hit your mark? … I would say it took me a good four or five years before I really felt, ‘Oh, the penny’s dropping. I think I understand this better now.'”

Allen took several years off from doing theater after her breakout Broadway roles in “Burn This” and “The Heidi Chronicles,” but she’s now back onstage in New York as part of the starry cast of “The Waverly Gallery.” The well-received production centers on an older woman, Gladys (played by Elaine May), gradually deteriorating due to Alzheimer’s, with Allen starring as Glady’s daughter. Audiences might think the show is tough territory for actors to visit every night, but Allen says it’s not that simple.

“I had lived through something like this and I thought, ‘Oh gosh, do I want to go there every night?'” the actress explained. “But ultimately, when you are in a situation like that, you really are troubleshooting a lot. Even with my own mother, we weren’t sitting there crying all the time, wringing our hands. It’s very active, actually. ‘What can I do? Maybe I can get her a cat.’ Or ‘I can’t fix that, but I can make dinner.’ You’re really looking for proactive things to do. And sometimes it is actually very funny. You have to laugh at the situation. I almost think that in some ways [the play] is maybe more difficult to watch than to be in.”

She also discussed the evolution of the kinds of roles she’s played across her film career — from meaty “wife roles” to political candidate to CIA team leader — and made her pick for the one movie of hers that she considers “close to perfect.”

New episodes of “Stagecraft” are available every Tuesday. Download and subscribe to “Stagecraft” on iTunesStitcher, or anywhere finer podcasts are dispensed. Find past episodes here and on Apple Podcasts.

More Legit

  • The Play That Goes Wrong review

    BBC Orders Comedy Series Based on ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’

    The BBC has greenlit “The Goes Wrong Show,” a new series based on Mischief Theatre’s popular “The Play That Goes Wrong” stage production about a troupe that puts on disastrous plays. The stage show has transferred from London’s West End to Broadway for a J.J. Abrams-produced version described by Variety as “a broad, silly and [...]

  • By the Way Meet Vera Stark

    Off Broadway Review: 'By the Way, Meet Vera Stark' by Lynn Nottage

    After writing two harrowing Pulitzer Prize-winning plays, “Sweat” and “Ruined,” Lynn Nottage is entitled to have a little fun. But while this revival of her new play, “By the Way, Meet Vera Stark,” walks and talks like a screwball comedy, it has a real brain in its head. Before we get too serious, let’s meet [...]

  • Merrily We Roll AlongRoundabout Theatre CompanyMERRILY

    Off Broadway Review: 'Merrily We Roll Along'

    Like the optimistic youths at the end — or is it the beginning? — of “Merrily We Roll Along,” creatives keep going back to this problematic Stephen Sondheim-George Furth musical, re-imagining the show in the hope that the end results will be different this time around. They’re not. But disappointments are often off-set by new [...]

  • My Fair Lady Laura Benanti

    Listen: Laura Benanti on 'My Fair Lady' and the Secret to Her Melania Trump Impersonation

    Laura Benanti is now playing her dream role on Broadway. At the same time, the Tony winner (“Gypsy”) is also playing her toughest part ever. Listen to this week’s podcast below: “It’s the most demanding part I think I’ll probably play,” said Benanti, now appearing as Eliza Doolittle in Lincoln Center Theater’s well-received revival of [...]

  • Hamilton West End Production.

    'Hamilton' Panic Over Mistaken Reports of Gunfire Injures Three in San Francisco

    Three people were injured after mistaken reports of an active shooter at a San Francisco production of “Hamilton” caused attendees to flee the theater. CNN reported that a woman experienced a medical emergency — later determined to be a heart attack — during a scene in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s play wherein Founding Father Alexander Hamilton is shot on [...]

  • The American Clock review

    London Theater Review: 'The American Clock'

    Time is money. Money is time. Both come unstuck in “The American Clock.” Arthur Miller’s kaleidoscopic account of the Great Depression, part autobiography, part social history, crawls through the decade after the Wall Street crash, dishing up snapshots of daily life. In the Old Vic’s classy revival, director Rachel Chavkin (“Hadestown”) tunes into the play’s [...]

  • Jake Gyllenhaal

    Off Broadway Review: Jake Gyllenhaal in 'Sea Wall/A Life'

    Comfy? Okay, let’s talk Death: sudden death, painful death, lingering death, accidental death, and whatever other kinds of death happen to come into the receptive minds of playwrights Simon Stephens (“Sea Wall”) and Nick Payne (“A Life”). The writing in these separate monologues — playing together on a double bill at the Public Theater — [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content