Wife when it premiered in 2000, running off-Broadway, Broadway, and a national tour. One of the breakout stars was then 80-year-old Shirl Bernheim.
When the play was casting, Bernheim through her hat in the ring and became a fantastic anecdote in the process. As relayed by Seth Rudetsky of Playbill.com, it was quite a fortuitous moment:
“She didn’t have any Broadway credits, but she was fantastic and had her own walker. She got the gig and did the show on Broadway and on national tour.
Charles said she was “quite a character”! As a matter, after she passed away, there was a memorial for her, and her understudy told everyone that before each performance, she would check in on Shirl. The conversation would be this:
Understudy: How are you tonight, Shirl?
Shirl (whirling around): What? Are you hoping I’ll break my hip?
“I’m interested in the theater because I’m interested in communication with audiences.”
Otherwise, I would be in concert music. I’d be in another kind of profession. I love the theater as much as music, and the whole idea of getting across to an audience and making them laugh, making them cry — just making them feel — is paramount to me.
The process of putting something down on paper is very important in keeping the stuff alive in your head. You can improvise and think, ‘Wait, that A-flat doesn’t sound right,’ and you change things as you go along, even though you’re just sketching.
“I believe that telling our stories, first to ourselves and then to one another and the world, is a revolutionary act.”
It is an act that can be met with hostility, exclusion, and violence. It can also lead to love, understanding, transcendence, and community. I hope that my being real with you will help empower you to step into who you are and encourage you to share yourself with those around you.”
“I’m a writer. I figured that out young, and writers write.”
They speculate. Engage ideas. And at that moment in time, in the ’80s, I was hearing a lot about what people would like to do if they got into power, and having been born in 1939 and been through WWII and its aftermath when we were all trying to understand what happened, I knew Hitler spelled it all out in the 1920s, in his book, what he would like to do if he got power, and people did not take that seriously.”
So I believe if someone says they will do certain things, unimaginable things to many, they will, in fact, do them when they get the power they’re after. That is what you’re seeing now. What’s going on now with those in charge in this country was forecast then and since: They told us what they were planning and now it’s in progress. We can’t say we’re in a totalitarian state now, not yet, because we wouldn’t be talking—I wouldn’t be talking as much as I am—I’d be in jail.
Margaret Atwood on writing “The Testaments.” Interview by Amy Grace Loyd for Esquire.com, 9/24/2019