BWW Q&A: WHITE'S LIES' Betty Buckley
BroadwayWorld recently caught up with stage legend and screen star Betty Buckley, who is preparing to open the world premiere of Ben Andron's debut play, WHITE'S LIES, at New World Stages on Thursday, May 6, 2010.
In WHITE'S LIES, some guys are scared stiff at the prospect of settling down, getting married, having kids & Joe White is no exception. He's a divorce lawyer, representing one of his many ex-girlfriends & above all else, he's a bachelor who wouldn't have it any other way. So when his mother, played by Buckley, desperately wants him to start a family, he'll do the next best thing: make one up! What could go wrong?
Betty Buckley is a Tony award winner who has thrilled audiences for years with acclaimed performances in such Broadway shows as Sunset Boulevard, Cats, The Mystery of Edwin Drood and 1776. Recently her highly praised starring role in the M. Night Shyamalan feature film The Happening, joins her other memorable film performances which include Tender Mercies, Frantic, and Carrie. She also has an extensive concert career, and recently received rave reviews for For The Love of Broadway at New York City's prestigious Feinstein's at Loew's Regency nightclub. In 2009, Ms. Buckley was honored with the Texas Medal of Arts Award for Theater and was inducted into the Texas Film Hall of Fame in 2007.
Buckley has been a teacher for 37 years and has taught numerous singers, actors and professionals including investment bankers, athletic coaches and persons who want to perfect their ability to effectively communicate in their work and in relationships. The class also welcomes auditors who participate in all aspects of the class except the individual singing coached by Buckley.
She is also an Emmy-nominated television (Eight Is Enough, Law and Order:SVU and HBO's Oz) and film star (Tender Mercies, Carrie, Frantic, Another Woman and The Happening).
The Actor-Singer works regularly in concert with her ensemble of musicians. Her solo CD, Stars and the Moon: Betty Buckley Live at the Donmar Warehouse, received a Grammy nomination. In 2007, she released a new CD Betty Buckley 1967, which hit the Billboard charts. Her newest recording Quintessence, with long-time collaborator Kenny Werner and her quintet was released by Playbill and Sony BMG Broadway Masterworks in Spring 2008.
In the interview, Buckley chatted about all things LIES, her favorite on stage moments, and what it's like to (really) raise cutting horses.
Tell us about White's Lies.
Whites Lies is a new Off-Broadway play by Ben Andron. We play at New World Stages. This is Ben's first play. It is a very funny comedy With a 7 person ensemble that stars Tuc Watkins, Peter Scolari, Christy Carlson Romano, Jimmy Ray Bennett, Andrea Grano, Rena Strober and me and is about a guy, Joe White, who is a bit of a womanizer and won't settle down because he is kind of commitment-phobic. Mrs. White is really tired of her son's womanizing ways & really wants him to settle down & get married.
How'd you personally get involved with the project?
The producers contacted me via my agent and sent me the script to read. They had done a reading previously with Elaine Stritch, but Elaine wasn't available this spring for the production. The producers wanted to move quickly, so they offered it to me. It was kind of off-again, on-again, but we're here, and we're previewing now!
Many of our readers have written in to ask what it's like working with Tuc Watkins.
It's a very pleasurable experience. Tuc is a beautiful man. He is great to look at, as everyone knows, but he's also a real sweetheart and a lovely human being. He's a wonderful wonderful actor - it's effortless, a pleasure.
What tricks or techniques do you use for learning your lines?
It's just torture! It's just repetition, you know. It's always just practice, practice, repeat, repeat. I'm a very visually oriented person, so I have to know where I am in space and what I'm experiencing as the character for the lines to really take root.
Everyone knows (or should know) that you got to originate the role of Fran Kubelik in the London production of PROMISES, PROMISES - and on the great London cast recording - have you seen the new production yet?
I haven't, but I'm dying to see it. I saw Kristen Chenoweth on GLEE last night. I heard all the Burt Bacharach music and was happily reminded of that wonderful score. I loved doing it in London. I was 22! It stirred up a lot of remembrances that are really rich for me.
One of the moments that theatregoers enjoy is when things ‘go wrong' at shows - do you have any favorites?
Yeah, quite a few. Well, in Sunset Blvd, the machines broke down with regularity - especially in London. So we would go out and entertain the audience until they got the stuff fixed. I could write a book about crazy the things that go wrong in theatre, which are some of my favorite stories. I remember one of my favorite things Alan Campbell did was when the eleven ton house wasn't coming in. He delivered this monologue to the audience, and he turned to go into the house, but it wasn't coming in. So, he kind of forgot where he was in the monologue and he turned to the audience and said, "And then, the house came down." I live for those moments where everything goes crazy on stage.
We know that you spend a lot of time in Texas raising horses, how are you splitting your time now between New York and there?
I'm in New York for the three months of my commitment here, but holding down the operation at the ranch at home. I have different animals staying with different people. I have a wonderful ranch worker that is holding down the fort - a young girl who is coming in and riding my horses to keep them in shape. I have 4 horses and a donkey. The two show horses and a momma horse who had this baby, that is my joy, she my first baby horse and she is very well bred. Her name is Honey Bear, but her registered name is gonna be Bit O Honey Boon. And she is quite beautiful. She seems bound and determined to be quite a show horse. I'm really excited about her.
What advice do you have for young actors about making it in the business - and surviving in the business?
If a young actor is really engaged in the craft of acting--if the person's goal is a dream from the heart and not just some random idea, then I think they should proceed. If the vision they have for themselves is genuine then that dream will be manifested--maybe not in the time frame they imagine. Growth takes the time it takes, and it's different for each person.
But I suggest a really good fine arts school, but not majorly exclusive in theater. I think a really broad-based education that includes a real understanding of the world - history, psychology, sociology - is just as important to being a performer. It's really about learning to become a better and better human being so that they have something to offer to the community, because being an artist is about serving the community.
Everyone we know who has taken your master classes raves about them - any chance that you'll be doing them in New York?
I hope to be teaching a class here, once we open WHITE'S LIES, on my days off in May and June. I'm not sure yet, but I think it might be possible.
How long are you signed with the show?
Originally it's an 8 week commitment from the first performance. This is the beginning of our third week. Then, at the end of the 8 weeks I have the option to extend for another 4 weeks if all goes well. So, in all, twelve weeks, possibly.
And lastly, how have audiences been reaction?
They're loving it, they just laugh throughout. Come see WHITE'S LIES. It's a great show, you'll love it!
Starring in WHITE'S LIES alongside Buckley are Tuc Watkins, Peter Scolari, Christy Carlson Romano, Jimmy Ray Bennett, ANDREA GRANO & Rena Strober. Set Designer is Robert Andrew Kovach; Lighting Designer, Solomon Weisbard; Costume Designer, Michael Bevins; Sound Designer, Nathan Leigh & Video Designer, Ron Eyal.
For tickets and more information, visit www.whitesliesonstage.com.