Interview: Susan Sullivan Talks LATW's WATCH ON THE RHINE

By: Oct. 09, 2017

Emmy and Golden Globe nominated actress Susan Sullivan has been delighting audiences onstage and on television for many years. She is currently a part of LA Theatre Works production of Lillian Hellman's Watch on the Rhine. In our chat she talks about her role and others that she has played in her varied career.

Tell us about your role in Watch on the Rhine. This character really makes a great sacrifice. Talk about that.

I play Fanny Farrelly in Lillian Hellman's classic, a timely play Watch On The Rhine. I feel as if I have slipped into Ms. Hellman's skin which is a prickly place to be because she uses so much of her own unique and difficult personality in creating this role. This is what an actor longs for in a character...detail, nuance and complexity. While the play takes place in 1940 it translates to our time because it is beyond time... Dealing with the privileged and isolated Farrelly family who must now recognize that their world is not the simple cozy place they assumed it was. When Fanny is forced to deal with the realities of a world and a family in crisis she comes to discover what she actually stands for and what she must sacrifice to survive. Now you have the foundation for a drama that crosses into many of the dilemmas that inform our time. Perhaps all time.

Do you think people become as involved in foreign affairs as they should? Right now it seems that some people are not doing enough to help save our world.

I think people are more involved in both foreign and domestic affairs than they have ever been. We're also more aware of hot spot crises around the world and the vulnerabilities of everything from madmen with guns to climate change science. I do think we are all obligated to be informed and to vote for those reflecting our values and priorities. What's to be learned from this exquisite play is the necessity of finding the ground you can hold and the unique way you can contribute. But you have to see the whole picture to understand how you fit into it and where you might have something to offer and a sacrifice to make that is authentic and meaningful.

What is your favorite recording for LATW to date? How much preparation do you do? As much as for a regular play?

My favorite play at L A Theatre Works was Assembled Parties. I played a Jewish mother from Long Island and found myself reconnecting with not only my New York roots but my New York and Long Island rhythms. I did grow up and went to school on Long Island so go figure. As for preparation -- I love exploring a character and that takes time and interacting with your fellows so it is a bit short circuited by limited rehearsal. Learning the lines also deepens the character and, without that discipline, it can be tempting to skim the surface. But when a play and a character are this interesting I have a hell of a good time working with myself in the bathroom mirror!

Do you have a favorite play that you have done? If so, which one? Why?

I have several favorite plays I have performed in: A Delicate Balance, The Glass Menagerie, and several of Mr. A. R. Gurney's plays. All of these have been interesting and challenging for different reasons. And now the glorious and talented and truthful Ms Hellman!

Is there a role you are yearning to play?

The part I am yearning to play at the moment is none other than Fanny. This play offers a world that enriches the actor and I trust, the audience that enters it's realm.

What about your favorite TV/film role? Do you have one?

I have been blessed to play several women who have informed my life by living through and in each of them. Each enhanced by playing for an extended run. Maggie in Falcon Crest; the truly "good woman" Kitty Montgomery in Dharma and Greg. My first comedy allowed me to be arch but amusing. And finally my actress friend from Castle, Martha... an homage to my career and my mother... I have been one lucky girl. And I bathe in the wisdom of gratitude daily!

What's up next for you?

Not sure what the road ahead holds which is sort of the good news/bad news part of being an actor. But I continue my Twitter adventure giving unsolicited advice on a daily basis. It keeps me centered and hopeful. Because hope is an important ingredient in the mix that is our life...

Anything you wish to add about Watch on the Rhine?

I think this is a special and dare I say important play for today and probably tomorrow since we appear to be slow learners.


Watch on the Rhine

• Written by Lillian Hellman
• Directed by Rosalind Ayres• Produced by Susan A. Loewenberg
• Presented by L.A. Theatre works

• Thursday, Oct. 12 at 8 p.m.
• Friday, Oct. 13 at 8 p.m.
• Saturday, Oct. 14 at 3 p.m.
• Saturday, Oct. 14 at 8 p.m.
• Sunday, Oct. 15 at 4 p.m.
James Bridges Theater
UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television
235 Charles E. Young Drive
Los Angeles, CA
(enter UCLA from Hilgard just south of Sunset Blvd.; park in Lot 3 on the lower level)
310-827-0889 or
• Join us on Facebook at
• Follow us on Twitter @latheatreworks

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