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    Posted March 9, 2015

Celebrating Women On and Off the Stage

Reflecting on a Career

Tyne Daly in Mothers and Sons, which ran from March until June 2014 at the John Golden Theatre.

Photo credit Joan Marcus

Tyne Daly first joined Actors’ Equity Association in 1963 after apprenticing for Bucks County Playhouse and the American Shakespeare Festival. She went on to make her Broadway debut in a brief, 12- performance run in That Summer –That Fall in 1967. In honor of Women’s History Month, the Tony Award-winning actor talks with Equity News about female inspirations, opportunities for women in the field and why she would love to play Captain James Hook.

Equity News: How did you earn your Equity card?
Tyne Daly: I earned half my Equity card at Bucks County Playhouse being an apprentice with a little part in a play, which was kind of a trick because my dad and my mother and my little sister and brother were in it, too. I might have earned my first half by apprenticing at the American Shakespeare Festival. But in those days if you did two summers of apprentice work you would sort of earn your card, and that’s how I got my Equity card.

EN: Is there an AEA member(s) – specifically female - who’s inspired your career?
TD: Well my mother, Hope Daly, who got a dispensation from Equity once to do a play with me out at the old Helen Hayes Theatre in Nyack, New York. That was another summer’s work. We took the Helen Hayes and did A Taste of Honey together. But, yes, she was my first actress as dad was my first actor. So certainly mom is there at the top of the list. I’m thinking about Nancy
Malone in terms of a union mate. Nancy just passed from us. She was very active in the Screen Actors Guild, too, but hand in glove with Equity. Nancy was just one of those wonderfully energetic women who felt that actresses should consider the idea of having power.

EN: Are there specific playwrights, directors or theatre companies that showcase or have changed the theatre landscape to showcase the talent of women in leading roles?
TD: I would say Zelda Fichandler, certainly. I would say the Delacorte Theater, which was started by Joe Papp. I think Joe Papp was aware of the value of all different kinds of actors and tried to promote that, including actors of the female persuasion.

EN: Is there a character(s) you’ve played or would like to play that you believe is a symbol for women’s rights?
TD: Every character that I’ve played stands up for women. Every one. What you find in that woman is where her heroism is. Even if she’s an axe murderer, you have to find the hero inside anybody you play.

EN: Are there any roles that are traditionally played by men that you would love to sink your teeth into?
TD: I do have a dream role and I’ve had it for probably more than 60 years — and it’s Captain James Hook.

EN: Why’s that?
TD: Why’s that? I adore the smiling villain, the comic villain. The comic villain is really fun. He also has the best speech about fame. The fame speech just knocks me out, and I quote it every once and a while.

EN: Tell us about your character and the show you’ll be starring in, It Shoulda Been You, coming to Broadway in March.
TD: Yeah, she’s a momma. You know, I’ve played every kind of momma in the world, except sort of a specifically Jewish momma, whatever that means. My sister Glynnis says the “ish” people are the same. So you know the Irish, Jewish, Spanish, Swedish — it’s all the same mother. She’s the mother of the bride and that’s going to be fun. I’m about to actually be the mother of the bride later on this year in October; my last-born daughter is getting married. It’s an art imitates life situation. My character thinks she’s loving and generous and nice and her daughter thinks she’s impossible. You know, that’s all.

EN: What do you hope to inspire in today’s generation of theatre actresses and audience members?
TD: Well I think it’s pretty basic: interest in the living theatre. We live in a mechanized world where you can get anything and anybody right in front of your eyes. But the living theatre, live theatre, both for the performer and for the audience is a tradition that I hope never gets replaced by shadows on the screen. I’ve done both. I’ve been in a couple or three movies and a lot of television and that’s all shadows on the wall. When you come to the theatre, and I come to the theatre, with “hey, guess what, we’re both here” — that is irreplaceable.

EN: What advice could you offer to actors — specifically female — who want to forge a career on stage?
TD: Keep your heart high. I have no secret formula for making a career. But, I think if you honestly explore all of the different women that you are interested in playing it will grow you as a woman, it will make you into a better woman if you really look at them. About how to forge a career? I don’t know. How to forge an interesting life? Look around. It’s all out there.

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