Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Marian Seldes and the last of the grande dames

When I took a course on Fairy Tales in college, we spent a class session performing scenes from Ondine, by Jean Giraudoux. I secretly hoped to be cast as Ondine because Audrey Hepburn originated the role on Broadway, and I'd idolized Audrey since I was four years old. So at first, I was slightly disappointed to be cast as Bertha, the "other woman" in the play's love triangle. Then I saw that the role of Bertha was originated by Marian Seldes, and I decided that that was probably better, anyway. Wasn't it better to be a complex and passionate human woman instead of a naive, unworldly water nymph?

I never got to see Marian Seldes onstage, and this memory may not sound like much, but I remember it as a decisive moment in my personal development. Be striking, be "handsome," be impressive. Don't be a Manic Pixie Dream Girl.

With the passing of Seldes, Elaine Stritch, and Lauren Bacall this year -- grande dames who each, in their own way, exuded a larger-than-life theatrical personality -- it truly feels like the end of an era.

RIP, Ms. Seldes.

Seldes as Bertha in Ondine, 1950s.

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