(The following interview with Jane Alexander appeared 4/14/09 in New York Magazine.)
Jane Alexander on Snoring Through Chasing Manet and Simulating Sex in Tell Me You Love Me
Jane Alexander is, at 69, perhaps the oldest person ever to simulate oral sex onscreen (in HBO's, Tell Me You Love Me). She's back on the New York stage in Primary Stages' Chasing Manet, a nursing-home caper that opened last week. Alexander spoke to Vulture about napping on the set, why she was never drawn to The Golden Girls, and how it feels to break into action flicks as a near septuagenarian.
In Chasing Manet you play a famous modernist Boston painter. Are you from fancy Boston stock?
Oh, no. In fact, my mother was a Boston Southie and my dad was from North Platt, Nebraska. My character, Catherine Sargent, is from the old-world Bostonians — she married a Lowell. It's clear she has a gusto for life and she's rather egocentric, but she's a survivor and she's wants to live life to the fullest.
Did you have experiences with your own parents aging?
My father, Bart Quigley, was a very well-known surgeon in Boston, a doctor for the Harvard football team. He had a massive stroke. To make a long story short, a lot of doctors are not good patients. He was in seventeen nursing homes in the course of three years. I got a call from the woman who ran one of them, who said, "Come get your father today. He rang the night bell 72 times." A lot of my character's feistiness and mischievousness is totally relatable to my dad.
You're sleeping in bed for the first few minutes of the play. Is that relaxing?
I can't really go to sleep, because I have to listen for my cue. But I found it a delightful rehearsal process because I was in bed most of the time. And it's an extremely comfortable bed. [Co-star] Lynn Cohen and I are of a certain age that we like to take a nap, so in between matinees and evening shows, we crawl into our beds onstage and go to sleep. We have a fabulous stage manager who announces, "Quiet time!"
Do you snore loudly like your character does?
I'm not a snorer. And it's not an easy thing to do [onstage]. It requires a lot of breath.
(Tina Howe’s work appears in DUO!: The Best Scenes for Two for the 21st Century out from Applause Theatre and Cinema Books in August.)