Saturday, November 6, 2010

2005 Interview with Jill Clayburgh

The following interview ran in NoHo LA
 in March, 2005 before Miss Clayburgh
filmed Running with Scissors.
We mourn her passing on November 5,

Interview with Don Grigware

Angry Young Teen-Age Girl Gang’s Jill Clayburgh
Beloved actress Jill Clayburgh (An Unmarried Woman) will
host a gala benefit concert performance of Angry Young
Teen-Age Girl Gang at the Barnsdall Gallery Theatre in
Hollywood Tuesday March 22. Proceeds from the benefit will
be used to send the hit L.A. musical back to New York to
Off-Broadway’s Lucille Lortel Theatre. Originally presented
last year in NoHo, Angry Young Teen-Age Girl Gang went on
to the New York International Fringe Festival where it ran for
four performances at the Lortel, receiving critical acclaim.

With book by Mark W. Knowles, who also directs, and music
and lyrics by David G. Smith, Angry Young Teen-Age Girl Gang
tells the story of a teenage girl in San Francisco during the ‘50s,
who is sent to reform school where she sinks into deeper trouble.
The musical explores the darker aspects of teen culture and the
‘50s, while utilizing the gender bending technique of casting all
of the youth roles with women and all of the adult roles with men.
When we talked about the show, Knowles added, “It’s specifi-
cally more a sub-genre which was based on girl films. Mamie
Van Doren had done a couple. There are a handful of them.
I wanted to do something really fun, but I also love drama.
When we played New York, it kind of took people off guard.
What’s nice is that it pulls them in dramatically.”

Could he give me a ballpark figure of what it will take to get the
 show back to the Lortel and when? “We need about $260,000,
 and the Lortel Theatre is asking for 80% of it up front, so realis-
tically we are shooting for summer 2006.”

As far as the gala itself on Tuesday March 22, Knowles’
dear friend, renowned Academy Award-nominated actress
Jill Clayburgh will serve as hostess. He continued, “We’re
doing a concert presentation, a condensed version of the book.
Jill is going to read the narrative of what we’re cutting out.
Also, it’s a backers’ presentation, so it’s serving a double function.”
According to Knowles, Clayburgh has been extra generous in
helping to promote it. “The kind of thing Jill does is, for example,
she went down to Florida in November and volunteered to drive
people to the poles during the presidential election. She really
gets out there and does stuff.”

Long before they became friends, Knowles was first taken
with Clayburgh in a very special way. “It’s so wild. Her film
An Unmarried Woman was really instrumental in …I mean
I don’t want to sound dramatic...but I saw it at a time where
it really affected me and put me on the right track, ‘cause I was
living in a very small town in Oregon. When HBO aired the film,
here was this woman who is wrecked by circumstance and yet
she manages to take it and turn it into something…like alchemy
…that positive turn for the good. I was 17 and gay and all that
stuff that comes with it. Closeted, I was also from a very strict
religious background, and that didn’t help. After watching the film,
I got a therapist. So, the film got me into therapy”.

An artist can and at times truly does make a difference. Clayburgh’s
humble reaction to her effect on changing Knowles’ life for the better
 was, “I can’t believe it!”

Angry Young Teen-Age Girl Gang is produced by Angry Girl
Gang Prods and Emerge Arts Projects, Inc. The evening begins
with a cocktail reception beginning at 6:30pm, followed by the
concert performance at 7:30pm. There is a $100 suggested minimum donation which is tax-deductible to the fullest extent allowed by law.
The Barnsdall Gallery Theater in Barnsdall Park at 4800 Hollywood
Bl. ((just west of Vermont) in Hollywood. 818-553-5190.

It was a genuine thrill for me to chat recently with Jill Clayburgh via phone from her home in Connecticut. It came as no surprise to film aficionados when in 1999 Entertainment Weekly named Clayburgh in its list of Hollywood's Greatest Actresses.

JILL I’m so excited about Angry Teen-Age Girl Gang. Mark
(Knowles) wants to bring it into New York again. It’s a really
edgy, enjoyable, terrific, terrific show. And I said I’d help him.

DG I know you love edgy material. What do you find intriguing
about this show?

JILL I’ve only seen it once on film, but it’s pretty unique. It’s kind
of campy, very original.

DG You sang beautifully in Pippin on Broadway back in the ‘70s.
Are you going to sing at the gala?

JILL I’m not going to be performing in this. I’m going to be helping
with the segue-ways from one scene to another. He hasn’t asked
me to sing. Tell him to ask me to sing!

DG I will. What’s your next film project?

JILL I’m going to do a movie in LA called Running with Scissors
directed by Ryan Murphy who just won a Golden Globe for
FX’s Nip/Tuck. It’s an amazing story.
Did you read the book?

DG No. Tell me about it.

JILL It’s a book by Augusten Burroughs. Sort of a crazy, funny,
dark autobiographical novel of his childhood, and Ryan (Murphy)
adapted it. It’s about this teenage boy who has a very disturbed,
troubled mother. That’s going to be Annette Bening. She gives
her son to this family whose patriarch is the mother’s psychiatrist. He adopts the son, and I play the wife of the psychiatrist. The boy has to live in this sane family. Finally, he gets out. It’s one of those
stories like Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man. You learn about
how the writer as a young man finally escaped from his incredibly
difficult situation.

DG Because of Unmarried Woman and Starting Over, you have
become associated with the burgeoning feminist movement. How
does that make you feel?

JILL It pigeonholes you to a certain extent. On the other hand,
it’s nice to be known for something so important. It’s got two sides.

DG Do you have a favorite role?

JILL Not really. Every movie is such a little journey.

DG Shy People is one of my favorites.

JILL I loved that movie. It was so difficult to make. You were
always out on the water. The cinematographer, Chris Mengyes
said he had never done anything like this. I mean if you had to 
pee, it took an hour, because you had to get off your little boat 
on to another boat. Everything was very slow.

DG Who are your favorite actors?

JC There are so many great actors. I really can’t say one or 

DG Some actors believe that American actors are under-trained
compared to those say from Great Britain or Australia.

JILL I don’t agree with that. There are a lot of amazing theatre
schools in America – Julliard, Yale... It’s a different kind of training. When I was starting out, there weren’t as many amazing actors. It’s hard to find a bad one now.

DG How did you like doing Nip/Tuck?

JILL I loved it, loved it, loved it. It’s the kind of show where you
can get really involved in the story.

DG What are your recent stage appearances?

JILL I originated in New York a wonderful play called The
Exonerated and I did All My Sons with Richard Dreyfuss at
Westport. I actually did a couple of plays with my daughter
as well at Vassar and in Glouchester, Mass., written for us by
Israel Horovitz.

DG Do you prefer working in theatre or film?

JILL I’m loving the theatre right now.

DG: But it takes a lot out of you.

JILL It gives you a lot back too.

DG Yes, the audience. What’s left career-wise for Jill

JILL I want to keep doing plays. The older I get, the
more I actually love acting. So I would like to continue.

DG What advice would you give to young actors?

JILL Start with the theatre. It gives you a good basis.
Don’t get caught up in the Entertainment Weekly-ness
of it all. Stick with the work, because the rest is so

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