BWW Interview: Actress Peri Gilpin & MIRACLE ON 34th STREET
Actress Peri Gilpin, best known as Roz on the now classic TV series Frasier, is currently preparing to open at The Pasadena Playhouse in a radio play of Miracle on 34th Street December 15. She took time out of her busy schedule to talk about her role in the play, her director Cameron Watson... and of course, Frasier.
LET'S TALK ABOUT MIRACLE ON 34th STREET AND YOUR ROLE IN IT.
I am playing Doris Walker in a Radio Play version of the 1947 film. The way the story was told has always struck me as very original. It's almost like a commercial for a sermon about a commercial for a department store. But, because it never denies that about itself it stays relevant, rooted in authenticity, and honest. It also feels so American. Doris is a very buttoned -up single Mom. She works as an "EXPERT P.R." person for Macy's department store. This working, single mom with a high powered job doesn't feel anachronistic if you are familiar with Katharine Hepburn or Maureen O'Hara, the original Doris Walker, movies, but by more recent standards, she does feel unusual. She has very, very, strong opinions about parenting. There is no ex-husband or father to her daughter in the picture at all. No emotional life. Emotions are silly. And life is pragmatic and on schedule! She seems perfectly capable of juggling all of the responsibilities of parenting alone, excelling at a very creative and demanding job, being put together like a Vogue model, keeping her home immaculate, getting dinner on the table and keeping her daughter neat as a pin, adorable, respectful, reliable and thoughtful. The fact that this woman is doing all of this on her own, (even given talented art, scenic, costumes, hair and make up departments) somehow, is what exonerates her from being despised as an over bearing mother, determined to control and dictate her daughter's every thought. Especially her thoughts about Santa Claus! Doris wants to protect her daughter and we can see that in her actions.
IS THIS ROLE CHALLENGING OR DO YOU RELATE READILY TO THE MOTHER OF THAT LITTLE GIRL?
I relate in a big way to this character as the mother of two thirteen year old twin girls! But that is pretty much where Doris and I part. I struggle with the basics of parenting. When I am working, my parenting skills get even sloppier and I wouldn't presume to ever tell my kids what to think. Though I can be persuasive if I have strong feelings about something, I would never go so far as to tell them whether or not to believe in Santa Claus. Of course I want to protect my kids from anything negative or anyone who might cause a negative experience for them (even though I know I can't). I also have a fantastic partner in my husband, who is always there for all of us and is the best dad I've ever met. That is the fundamental difference between Doris Walker and me. I have empathy for her. Raising kids alone has to be the hardest job in the world.
WHAT IS THE MESSAGE OF THE PLAY IN YOUR OPINION?
The message is about Faith. Faith in love. Faith in yourself. Faith in others. Faith in the future. Faith in the things you want. Faith means believing in something even though you can't see it, hear it, touch it, smell it or taste it but you can feel it. Faith in what you feel. Faith in Faith.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR DIRECTOR AND CAST.
Well, the director, Cameron Watson, is like family. He is one of my oldest and dearest friends. The cool thing is, he is my kids' Godfather and I know how he feels about Christmas, the Holidays, the Season and Santa. He is a fantastic director. I'm lucky to get to return with him to Pasadena Playhouse. The last time we were here we did AS BEES IN HONEY DROWN together. So this is meaningful in many ways. Beth Grant and Jim Rash and Larry Poindexter are old friends and Alfred Molina, whose performances in too many movies to name, I'll try... Enchanted April, Not Without My Daughter, An Education are always revelatory, and he made me laugh so hard once backstage at a benefit I have willed this.
WHAT ROLE DO YOU REALLY WANT TO PLAY ONSTAGE OR ON FILM OR TV? WHY THIS PARTICULAR ONE?
I have never been able to answer this question. Whatever it is, I'm looking forward to it. And thank you for asking because I do believe in putting it out there!
DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE CHARACTER YOU HAVE PLAYED? A FAVORITE PLAYWRIGHT? WHY THESE CHOICES?
Well, I have to say I loved playing Roz Doyle on "Frasier". It is so amazing to me when I watch it now how much the character is written like a very good friend of mine. None of the writers knew her, but I always thought of her when I was making choices. I used to say it often. But Roz was very much a woman of her time. So, we all knew people like Roz in those days. I hope that women like her never again seem out of the ordinary. Extraordinary women are the norm and extraordinarily written female characters should be the norm! I recently played Mrs. Page from THE MERRY WIVES OF WINDSOR at a benefit for a Shakespeare Theatre here in Los Angeles and rediscovered that Shakespeare is my first love and will always be my favorite. Endless feels.
IS THERE ANY TALK OF A "FRASIER" REUNION? DO YOU THINK THE SHOW MIGHT COME BACK LIKE WILL AND GRACE? WOULD YOU WANT IT TO? TALK A BIT ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCES ON THAT WONDERFUL SHOW.
It's always a pleasure to talk about "Frasier" because it was so much fun in every way. Every member of the "Frasier" world was a character in their own right. There was over 5000 years of combined experience, there were second generation comedy writers and the first generation was there too and there were writers there who went almost as far back in TV as you can go. The creators of the show cut their teeth on some of the iconic shows of the 70s...And that isn't a reference to age, but to experience and wisdom and knowing what plays. There were young whippersnappers there too experimenting and trying to keep up and hoping to "hit one out of the park" and succeeding and also feeling like losers because they were young and inexperienced. Just the way it ought to be and the way it always is. And it was that way in every single department. There has always been talk of a "Frasier" Reunion, even when we were doing the show. As on every show! And there has always been a certainty that there will never be one. As much as every one involved would love it and probably wishes it could be.
Miracle on 34th Street will play from December 14, 2017 - December 23, 2017. For tix and more info, visit: