Catching up with Mercedes Ruehl
Posted by McCarter Theatre Center on January 24th, 2011
I had the pleasure of interviewing Mercedes Ruehl for a story about The How and the Why for Timeoff . We chatted during rehearsals in the weeks leading up to the holidays, and the Oscar- and Tony-winning actor was a terrific interview. She was so generous with her answers that I had to leave out some interesting things she said about acting and The How and the Why, so I thought I’d share them here…
One of the play’s themes is the difficulty women have establishing careers in male-driven fields. Zelda Khan, Ruehl’s character, is a brilliant scientist who had to battle to make her mark in her field. I asked her if there were comparisons to make between her acting career and Zelda’s career in science. Her answer began with the words “yes and no.”
“You are entering into a male-dominated world,” she said. “Any place where there’s a lot of money to be made is a male-dominated world.” But she added that it would be impossible to create drama without women, so there’s always been opportunity in acting that might not have existed for a young, female scientist.
She also noted that in some ways, female actors may have an advantage over their male counterparts. She had read that great actors like Marlon Brando and Laurence Olivier dealt with the perception that performing wasn’t a proper occupation for men.
“It’s continuing the child games of make-believe,” she said. “I think we women get away with that aspect or way of looking at it more indulgently than men do.”
On a lighter note, we talked about performing in a two-hander. I asked about being on stage for an entire play, always talking and always listening. She, however, brought up something I hadn’t thought of.
“There’s no break in rehearsal, you don’t get to sit outside and work your Blackberry while someone else takes over for 15 minutes,” she said. “It’s also a hell of a lot of memorizing.”
Mercedes Ruehl is the recipient of the Sallie B. Goodman Prize at McCarter Theatre.
Written by Anthony Stoeckert
Anthony Stoeckert is the assistant editor of Timeoff, the arts and entertainment section of The Princeton Packet and other Packet-owned newspapers.