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Interview: Nancy Travis Bringing Creative Fulfilling Life to LILLIAN

Ensemble Theatre Company (ETC) presents David Cale’s LILLIAN starring Nancy Travis previewing March 3rd & opening March 5th @ The New Vic in Santa Barbara

Interview: Nancy Travis Bringing Creative Fulfilling Life to LILLIAN

Ensemble Theatre Company (ETC) presents the third show of its 2021-2022 season live on stage, David Cale's LILLIAN starring Nancy Travis. Previewing on March 3rd, LILLIAN opens March 5th at The New Vic in Santa Barbara. I had the chance to ask the ever-popular, always working television star about her theatrical beginnings and present stint as LILLIAN on the boards.

Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Nancy!

Is LILLIAN your first foray back onto the theatrical boards since you completed your nine-year run in Last Man Standing?

LILLIAN is the first one-woman play I have ever done. For the nine years I was filming Last Man Standing. I did work at The Geffen Playhouse in Los Angeles in a production of LOVE, LOSS AND WHAT I WORE by Nora Ephron. I loved doing that piece which was directed by Jenny Sullivan. My partners on stage were Rhea Perlman, Conchata Ferrell, Justina Machado and Lucy DeVito.

What attracted you to David Cale's LILLIAN?
I found the themes of the piece to be relatable and somewhat universal - the idea being that things happen to us for a reason; that what may seem random or coincidental has a kind of correctness, including the people that we meet. Lillian, like many of us, searches for a sense of self and home and finds she ends up exactly where she is supposed to be. When I read the piece, I loved the humor and the poetry in Cale's writing.

What would your three-line pitch of LILLIAN be?
My three-line pitch might be: Middle-aged woman has fling with younger man. Disrupts her life. Follows her instincts as life throws her curveballs and ends up exactly where she is supposed to be.

If you were to submit your character Lillian on an online dating site, what qualities of hers would you list?
Lillian's online dating profile might read - reticent person looking for a rough around the edges, wild one for romance and adventure. Ready to take the Big Plunge on the rollercoaster of life!

What flaws would you definitely omit?
Oh, already married, talks out loud to self.

How many characters do you take on in LILLIAN?
As I tell Lillian's story, there are maybe half a dozen characters that come and go whom I give Lillian's 'impersonation' of.

You began your acting career on Off-Broadway, making your Broadway debut in I'M NOT RAPPAPORT in 1985. Would you say that theatre has a special place in your heart?
Theater has always had a special place in my heart - there is nothing like the immediacy of telling a story to an audience and living it together. Cliché to say, but doing theater always feels like coming home in terms of what I love to do and where to hone my craft.

You've had successful careers in film, TV and stage. If financial compensation were not a factor, which of these three mediums would you share your creative talents in?

I really do enjoy acting for television, film and theater. Often the most rewarding work is done on projects for very little compensation. Admittedly, the best is when the two are commensurate, but that is the age-old dilemma, isn't it?

What first gave you're the yearning to start producing?
I don't really have a 'yearning' to produce. It does seem that in order to tell the stories you want to tell and even just get work, you have to create it yourself. When young actors ask me for advice on how to get into the business, I don't know that slipping your picture and resume under a casting office door works anymore. There are so many platforms for creating your own work and sharing it. Those are skills I would encourage, developing - writing, creating, filming and making your own work.

You were a co-founding member of Naked Angels in 1986. How did it all begin? Who was in the beginnings of Naked Angels with you?
Naked Angels, a theater company I was a part of in New York City, that was founded a loooooong time ago, came about because we as a bunch of college graduates and creatives were looking to do work that inspired us. What started as weekly play readings in someone's apartment, ended up being an incredibly talented and diverse group of actors, writers, directors and producers including Jon Robin Baitz, Kenny Lonergan, Rob Morrow, Fisher Stevens, Marisa Tomei, Gina Gershon, Patrick Breen, Jace Alexander, and Jack Merrill to name a few.

Has starting a new theatre company in Los Angeles ever enter your mind? Or are there too many good one existing already?

I have never considered starting a theater company in Los Angeles. I would love to be a part of an existing company, but honestly don't think I have the wherewithal or energy (or idealism) to start one. I sometimes marvel that we ever got Naked Angels off the ground and managed to produce some really exciting work.

What career goals would you still like to achieve?

My career goals have always been the same: I want to keep working as an actress for as long as I can be creatively fulfilled by it. I enjoy writing (when I am disciplined and get out of my own way). I just want to keep telling stories, whether they are my own or someone else's.

What's in the near future for Nancy Travis?

In the very near future for me is, of course, telling Lillian's story! Beyond that, I have a few TV show ideas in various stages of development that I am working on. Other than that, I'll be slipping my picture and resume under casting director's doors...

Thank you again, Nancy! I look forward to experiencing all your future theatrical endeavors.

For tickets to the live performances of LILLIAN through March 13, 2022; log onto

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