The return of Janet McTeer

Janet McTeer and Liev Schreiber did a TimesTalks tonight [insert hyperlink here] to promote the soon-to-open Dangerous Liaisons [insert French title here] on Broadway. Harriet Walter did not appear, although it's possible she was hiding in the rafters [there were no rafters].

Janet McTeer on being told as a young actress that she'd have trouble getting parts because she's tall: "Make the fucking stage bigger!" [She's pretty tall.]

Liev Schreiber on what it's like to work with Janet McTeer: "Any road Janet takes me down is going to be better than the one I was on." [Liev Schreiber: also tall.]

Anyway: drama, costumes, wigs, looks smokin' hot. Attend, attend!

The Summer of Harriet Walter concludes

One of the benefits of living here—one of the reasons I moved here—is the opportunity to be thisclose to those types of creative endeavors that bring me, as they say, unalloyed joy. Could I be such a snob as to call it "culture"? I am officially from the Midwest, so I think I can. I think I've earned that right by virtue of my smalltown America Wisconsin-ness. And this summer, for better or worse, such joy was manifest in this Broadway production of Mary Stuart, and also in the oddball roundabout lineage that brought into being the Summer of Harriet Walter, factors that have only tangentially to do with either Harriet Walter or Janet McTeer and everything to do with the small, cherished band of dear friends who accompanied me on this adventure and the memories we keep of it. At the same time, if you see a lot of theater you'll surely understand—much like anything else—how little of it strikes something within you and is actually worth remembering—and even less revisiting and celebrating—and therefore how regrettable it is to finally see it go. Thus, today, the end of Mary Stuart. Alas.

Here is SarahB inquiring, rather bossily, after the the window card the Earl of Leicester (John Benjamin Hickey) somehow managed to procure for himself, when in fact such things were nowhere to be had by the general public. Undoubtedly she would have snatched it out of his bag had it been dark outside, and not 1000 degrees in the shade.

Here is the delightful Maria Tucci (who played Mary's nurse, Hanna Kennedy) with the Real Harriet Walter.

This photo was taken just after I actually said, "Harriet Walter, you were my favorite thing about this summer," to which the Real Harriet Walter replied, "That's very sweet; then you'll be my favorite thing, too." P.S.: That is Sir Mortimer (Chandler Williams) in the background. But this was not "The Summer of Chandler Williams."

Here are Roxie and Chelsea with the Real Harriet Walter. This was taken after Chelsea shouted "HEY, HARRIET WALTER!" out loud in the public sphere, right there on the sidewalk at the Broadhurst stage door. Chelsea PR's things for a living, so she knows how to get the word out there.

After dinner—where we were seated for a short time at a table next to Janet McTeer and Marian Seldes, and were later told to pipe down by a certain crabby apple at another nearby table—we were strolling up 44th St. when Roxie suddenly glanced at the sidewalk opposite, spied the actual Janet McTeer, and hollered, "Oh hey, Janet McTeer, WHAT UP?" Which is not typically what one does when one spies a famous person at random in New York City but might in fact be the single most fabulous thing I have ever been lucky enough to witness in person. Truly the perfect Harriet Walter close to the perfect Harriet Walter summer.

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It pains me to say this, but: THE END.

The Summer of Harriet Walter continues

Chelsea and Roxie came to town to see "Mary Stuart" last night, and SarahB and I tried to make it worth their while. We sat in Row D of the orchestra, and director Phyllida Lloyd was in the row behind us, which was terribly exciting since she also directed "Mamma Mia," which means she has a lot of money. (Also, during intermission the woman in front of us turned to ask Roxie and me if we could please talk about smelly feet when the man sitting next to her returned to his chair, in the hopes of convincing him by proxy to keep his shoes on during the second act. We assured her we would take care of it and let's just say, MISSION ACCOMPLISHED.)

We stagedoored after the show because, come on, and if you've never been so lucky as to meet theater nerds up close and in person, I think this pretty well demonstrates that they are a special breed.

Here Chelsea and Roxie stand slightly in terror and much in awe of the Real Harriet Walter. I believe SOMEONE told Harriet Walter that as Queen Elizabeth she reminded her of her boss, and then Sarah said we watched "Sense and Sensibility" earlier in the day and loved it when she pinched the nose of Miss Lucy Steele. Harriet Walter just laughed and laughed, as what else could the poor woman possibly do. (You'll notice the wide moon of POTO waxing just over her shoulder, which adds an extra dose of awesome to the whole affair.)

The Real Harriet Walter further humored us by signing my 1936 copy of "Gaudy Night." She starred as Harriet Vane in the BBC TV adaptation 20 years ago so it's not totally random yet not terribly apropos of anything at all, but this is what happens when you cross-pollinate a theater nerd with a book nerd and a TV nerd; i.e., NERD SPARKS FLY. The ultimate nerd note, of course, is that she actually signed it "Harriet Walter (Vane)." Which means that she understands what it is to stand in front of someone you admire and ask them to bless something you love.

 And here is Janet McTeer, with whom these two now enjoy a special relationship.

After the show we were desperately in need of cocktails, and as we walked through the window of the restaurant who should we find sitting inside but John Benjamin Hickey, who plays the shifty Lord Leicester. And no sooner were we shown to our table when Sarah said, Look who's at the hostess station, pointing to director Phyllida Lloyd and the Real Harriet Walter, who were ushered away to a special table and later joined by Janet McTeer and more of the cast. Much later than that, Phyllida Lloyd came back down to the bar to pay their bill and I got to thank her for bringing us this wonderful production, although she declined my invitation to cover our tab.

Somewhere in the midst of all this we actually managed to accost the good-humored and gracious John Benjamin Hickey as he passed by our table. He seemed very excited by how excited we were about the show, and he chatted and signed autographs and posed for pictures. For some reason all I could think to say as he put his arm around me was "I'm sorry I'm wearing my glasses."

"Not a problem," said John Benjamin Hickey as he quickly donned his specs. "So will I." At which point SarahB hit him with the spotlight.

Ah, Broadway! Unfortunately for all of us, in two weeks' time the Summer of Harriet Walter officially comes to a close. 

The Summer of Harriet Walter

I'm sorry. Some of you will get this and most of you will care not even a wee little tiny bit. Such is life; it's 2:23 in the morning and I am of no mind to explain inside jokes cogently to the world. You can either accept a certain degree of ambiguity and roll with things or be on your merry way. And P.S.: I am way too tired to spell check.

Nutshell: Thanks to either some shoddy camera cues or mistaken seating agreements on the recent Tony Awards broadcast, Harriet Walter and Janet McTeer—both nominated as Leading Actress in a Play for Mary Stuart—were misidentified to the viewing audience (i.e., a very specific, highly gay slice of America) as each other, meaning Walter = McTeer and vice versa. And at SarahB's Tony Party, naturally we took this to mean that the British are interchangeable. Therefore and many beers later, it seemed only logical that Harriet Walter would shortly be taking to the streets of Manhattan to commit all kinds of mayhem under the auspices of poor, innocent Janet McTeer, who according to the laws of interchangeability would be found guilty by virtue of her Britishness. Multiply that simple notion times a factor of (boredom + TXT + Twitter), and a random exclamation of "Harriet Walter!" becomes at once a rallying cry, excuse, and MacGuffin of sorts for a small, self-referential band of theater nerds, which is to say that Harriet Walter is now both the question and the answer to everything. (To wit: "Harriet Walter rigged the Iranian election!" or "Harriet Walter gave me swine flu!" or "Guess who stuffed a firecracker down my shorts? Harriet Walter!") I warned you; Such Is Life, Part II.

FFWD: when SarahB and I tried queuing up for tickets to Twelfth Night this morning (at 7:00 A.M.; I was told anything later would be foolhardy), we were forced to give up almost before we started and decided to take a return trip to Mary Stuart tonight instead, to see exactly what the Real Harriet Walter was up to. Would she recognize us? Confess to her many crimes? Who knew?

Anyway, here is Harriet Walter as represented by the Broadhurst Theatre. Seems harmless enough on posterboard, I guess. 

Here's SarahB and me with Harriet Walter. OOPS! I mean Janet McTeer, who plays Mary, Queen of Scots... Lovely, amazing, presumably innocent; likely has neither keyed cars on Eighth Avenue nor done body shots off Raul Esparza. ALTHOUGH WHO CAN TELL, REALLY? Anything's possible in this crazy town.

And here, at long last: the Real Harriet Walter! Also lovely and amazing while looking super sweet and totally innocent, right? That's what she wants you to believe! Meanwhile she's busy picking your pockets or turning you over to the Feds for gun running or illegal shrimping or something.

Trust me: it would be so much simpler for all of us if I could just grab you by the hand and shout this into your ear: "HEY, HARRIET WALTER!" Maybe then, through sheer force of enthusiasm and weirdness, you would understand what it all means. Suffice it to say that Harriet Walter has leant a sort of screwy, mythic significance to our summer—through no fault of her own—and thus both SarahB and I were practically levitating off the sidewalk as this photo was being taken. But what the camera shows is mostly nerves. Because HEY HARRIET WALTER!

At any rate. The only actual moral of this story is how very much I love this motherflippin' play, because I haven't had the energy to stagedoor anything since god-knows-when. Mary Stuart is my true love of the summer. And long, long may she they reign.

Mary Stuart on Charlie Rose

"The throne of England is desecrated by a bastard!" Perhaps my favorite parting line ever; I'll find a way to use it this weekend, and damn the context. Perhaps it will be SarahB's birthday toast. She'll have a tough time forgetting that one!

Says Charlie Rose of Janet McTeer and Harriet Walter: "They are exceptionally well equipped not only to command an audience's attention, but also make the case that historically, she who would be queen has always of necessity been a great actress." And now I have to go see this again. Curse that Harriet Walter for being such Trouble.