Thursday, January 7, 2010

All in the Family | Review | Tucson Weekly

All in the Family | Review | Tucson Weekly:

The great Lynn Redgrave explores her mother's 'Romeo and Juliet' obsession
by Sherilyn Forrester

Lynn Redgrave

What's in a name?' inquires Romeo in the Bard's famed tale of doomed love.

The answer, if the name happens to be Redgrave: Quite a bit, actually.

The family Redgrave is chock full of actors, awards and genuine fame borne from an impressive body of work spanning five generations. And if your name is Lynn Redgrave, you're also a skilled and passionate storyteller.

Lynn Redgrave, sponsored by the Invisible Theatre, is bringing her most recent venture to town for two performances. Rachel and Juliet, a one-woman show, is a tribute to her mother, Rachel Kempson, a highly respected actress, though she was not as storied as her husband, Sir Michael Redgrave. According to Lynn Redgrave, Kempson had a lifelong fascination with the role of Juliet, and would launch into passages from Romeo and Juliet throughout her life. She died in 2003, a few days before her 93rd birthday.

Redgrave, in a phone interview from her home in Connecticut, says Rachel and Juliet is still in development. She first workshopped it with an audience in June 2008 at Manhattan's Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College. Then last spring, it ran for five performances at the Folger Shakespeare Theatre in Washington, D.C., the location where she launched her career as a playwright.

'In 1991, the Folger had asked me to come and give an evening of readings, and I got to thinking what it might be like to actually write down something, give it form,' she says. 'So I set to work on a one-act play using Shakespeare's words to take the scenes from my life to another plane—a play about my father and my search for him.

'I didn't tell anyone about this, even the Folger. It was just an experiment. I had never considered myself a playwright.'

This experiment went on to become Shakespeare for My Father, which in 1993 embarked on a 30-city tour and ended up at the Helen Hayes Theatre on Broadway. (She also performed Shakespeare for My Father in Tucson in 1996 at the Temple of Music and Art.)

The show received a Tony nomination and won Redgrave numerous other nominations and awards, both for acting and writing.

'I just was obsessed with my father when I began this process. I wanted reconciliation,' she explains. 'I did all these shows for all these years, and then suddenly one day, I felt it had happened: I was at peace with our relationship. And I didn't need to perform this anymore. So I haven't.'

So is Rachel and Juliet an attempt to come to grips with issues with her mother?

'Oh, no, no. I had a perfectly lovely relationship with my mother,' she responds. 'This piece is entirely different.'

Susan Claassen of the Invisible Theatre directed Redgrave when Chamber Music PLUS brought her to town in 2003.

'Lynn is a remarkable person as well as a fabulous performer,' Claassen says. 'She is so willing to be open and honest. And she is an exquisite writer. She creates vivid pictures, and she pays so much attention to the musicality of language.'

As a youngster, Redgrave says, she had no urge to pursue the 'family business.' Instead, she wanted to be a professional equestrian. 'I had been riding since I was 5, and I simply loved it and had actually been offered a position.'

So what changed her mind?

'I went to see a very young, 22-year-old-Peter Hall-directed production of Twelfth Night. I saw it 17 times. That was it. I knew this was for me. It affected me so profoundly. I even call my home Illyria, and I have a dog named Viola.'

She debuted in A Midsummer Night's Dream at London's Royal Court Theatre in 1962. In 1963, she appeared in the movie Tom Jones; in 1966, she starred in Georgy Girl, for which she won the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Musical/Comedy, and the New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress; she was also nominated for an Academy Award. Later this year, she will be inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame.

Although she authored her autobiography, This Is Living, in 1991, playwriting efforts are a fairly recent addition to her professional output. Besides Shakespeare for My Father, she has written The Mandrake Root and Nightingale. The focus of her work is usually her family—and she does not hold back or sanitize.

Nonetheless, members of her famous family have never been critical of her work, she says. 'They have always been totally supportive. Really, all playwrights write about their families—Neil Simon, Eugene O'Neill, Tennessee Williams. I certainly don't put myself in their class, but we write about what we know and what we care about.

'In Rachel and Juliet, I had the benefit of mother's own words published in her memoir. In some of the pieces, like Nightingale, I had to imagine so much. But every word in Rachel and Juliet is true.'

So why was her mother so obsessed with Juliet, anyway?

'Oh,' she demurs, 'I can't tell you. You have to come see the show.'

Rachel and Juliet

Presented by the Invisible Theatre

8 p.m., next Saturday, Jan. 16; 3 p.m., next Sunday, Jan. 17

Berger Performing Arts Center

1200 W. Speedway Blvd.



Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Redgrave to Perform Rachel and Juliet in Arizona -

Redgrave to Perform Rachel and Juliet in Arizona -

By Andrew Gans
05 Jan 2010

Lynn Redgrave
Lynn Redgrave
photo by Joan Marcus

Lynn Redgrave
photo by Joan Marcus

Lynn Redgrave, most recently seen in the Manhattan Theatre Club production of her solo show Nightingale, will bring her new one-woman evening, Rachel and Juliet, to Arizona's Invisible Theatre later this month.

Performances at the Tucson venue are scheduled for Jan. 16 at 8 PM and Jan. 17 at 3 PM.

In Rachel and Juliet, Redgrave, according to press notes, 'pays tribute to her mother, actress Rachel Kempson, whose love affair with the role of Juliet and search for her own Romeo lasted her entire life. Interweaving remembrances, Ms. Kempson’s own words and passages from Shakespeare, Ms. Redgrave has created an unforgettable companion piece to her Tony Award-nominated Shakespeare For My Father (which traces her relationship with her father, the late Michael Redgrave).'

Redgrave is also the author of The Mandrake Root.

Redgrave is a 2006 Tony Award nominee for Best Actress in a Play (The Constant Wife), a 1993 Tony Award nominee for Best Actress in a Play (Shakespeare for My Father, which she wrote) and a 1976 Tony Award nominee for Best Actress in a Play (Mrs. Warren's Professsion).

She is a two-time Academy Award nominee (1999, Best Actress in a Supporting Role for 'Gods and Monsters' and 1967 Best Actress in a Leading Role for 'Georgy Girl').

Rachel and Juliet will be performed at The Berger Performing Arts Center (1200 W. Speedway Blvd., Tucson). Tickets are priced at $42 and are available by calling (520) 882-9721.

For more information visit

Sunday, January 3, 2010



by Chuck Graham

The attraction of family holds Lynn Redgrave in its iron grip. She has always been fascinated by parent-child relationships, wanting to explore just how strong those bonds can be and how the experience of living these roles for a lifetime will shape the people who play the parts that strengthen the bonds that shape the people...

Being the third sibling in one of the theater world’s most distinguished families gives Lynn Redgrave plenty to work with. She comes to Tucson Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 16-17, to present another of her one-woman shows, “Rachel and Juliet,” about her mother, the actress Rachel Kempson. Both performances are presented by the Invisible Theatre in the Berger Performing Arts Center, 1200 W. Speedway Blvd.

Although everyone agreed Kempson was quite talented, the best known of Lynn’s family members are her distinguished father Michael Redgrave and her sister Vanessa. Lynn and Vanessa's elder brother, Corin, performs mostly on the English stage.

Lynn recently told the Washington Post her mother was a funny and perceptive woman, but was also afflicted with self-doubt.

'She (Kempson) suffered from her lack of security, making room for my father's career,' said Lynn. Perhaps being so selfless herself led Kempson to identify so strongly with the romantic idealism of young Juliet. In her early 20s in the 1930s, Kempson made a famous debut playing Juliet at Stratford-upon-Avon. Throughout her life she returned to Shakespeare's most famous ingenue for inspiration,

'Even in her 80's she would perform pieces of Juliet,' said Lynn. At age 90, Kempson recited one of Juliet's speeches at the wedding for one of Lynn's three children.

As Lynn grew up in the family of England’s most revered Shakespearian actor, the girl always wondered where she stood on the list of subjects that were most important to her dad. Lynn always knew she wasn’t number one.

Those bittersweet experiences were recalled in writing and performing the Tony Award-nominanted “Shakespeare For My Father” in the 1990s, her onstage accounting of that lifetime relationship, described by theater critics as both “poignant and painful.”

Lynn agrees writing that play, and her other family plays, has had therapeutic value.She also wrote “The Mandrake Root,” only loosely based on her mother, and “Nightingale,” a work that's largely fiction inspired by her maternal grandmother Beatrice Kempson.

“I don’t know if I’m the family historian, but I’ve always had a steel-trap memory. I remember stuff,” said Lynn cheerily, on the phone from her Connecticut home. “I’ve just always had that.

“I think of my mind being like a magpie’s nest, the way magpies keep shiny objects in their nests. There are all these moments I’ve stolen from my childhood and stored away, then they suddenly pop out.

“I can be really surprised at what pops out. Sometimes I’ll ask my sister Vanessa about something from our childhood and she won’t remember it at all.

“Rachel and Juliet” has become the companion piece to 'Shakespeare for My Father,' Lynn’s tribute to her mom -- a talented woman who many felt could have had a more prominent theater career if she hadn’t been content to let her husband hold forth at center stage, instead. Interwoven into the play are Lynn's remembrances, Kempson’s own words (“The play is totally based on fact.”) and passages from Shakespeare.

Invisible Theatre brings Lynn Redgrave with her one-woman play 'Rachel and Juliet' to the Berger Performing Arts Center for performances at 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 16, and 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 17. All tickets for both performances are $42, with discounts for groups of 10 or more. For details and reservations, 882-9721, or visit