Interview by Carole Di Tosti. . .
The pandemic has impacted everyone on the planet. Some individuals have used the situation to strike forge new pathways. Others have been in a static state of dysfunction. However, many are thrilled that with vaccinations, the situation has progressed immeasurably. With spring comes new life and renewal.
Such is the “stuff” that Dorothy Lyman’s new play is made of. We Have to Hurry directed by Patricia Vanstone, showcases a couple who takes the utmost advantage of the pandemic by embracing the adage that, “Life is short, so make the most of it now!” The acclaimed Elliott Gould and Kathleen Chalfant star as the mature couple. Despite obstacles, they find a way to reignite their spark in life’s third act.
The production, whose profits will be donated to The Actors Fund Home East and West will live stream via Broadway on Demand for two performances only, Saturday, May 1 at 8 PM and Sunday, May 2 at 3 PM. Tickets are priced at $15 per household and are valid for one live stream performance only.
I had the opportunity to interview the playwright via email about the play and other topics.
TP: What is a highpoint of your storied career as a quadruple threat: actor, director, producer, playwright?
DL: The high point of my newest/latest career as a playwright is right now, with this production of We Have to Hurry. ZOOM live streaming is a dream come true! And to have actors of the stature of Elliott Gould and Kathleen Chalfant saying my words and inhabiting my characters is beyond thrilling.
I got my big break as a Producer/Director in 1980 with John Ford Noonan’s A Coupla White Chicks Sitting Around Talking. It ran for a year at the Astor Place Theatre and revitalized a dying off-Broadway. The next year, I got my big daytime drama break on All My Children, playing the wacky Opal Gardner for 2½ years and winning 2 Emmy Awards. Opal Gardner was the best role I have ever had or expect that I will ever have. Luckily, I knew at the time that I was making TV history, with the first seriously comic leading character on a soap, and I relished every day I went to work.
My performance as Opal led to my role on Mama’s Family, because Carol and Vicki would take their lunch break from the Carol Burnett Show to watch All My Children. They got a big kick out of me, so when they created Mama’s Family for Vicki, they asked me to join the cast as Naomi, her daughter-in-law. The night my phone rang, and an inimitable woman’s voice said “Hi, Dorothy, this is Carol Burnett. We’d like you to come out to Hollywood”, changed my life for good!
Fran Drescher came to take my acting class in Hollywood in the early 1980’s. I had started a non-profit waiver theatre space and was giving acting classes to pay for our productions. Frannie and I became friends long before she became the iconic TV star of The Nanny. When she did get her show, she gave me the chance to direct an episode, and on the strength of the response to that one episode, I was given the privilege of directing three complete seasons of that hit series.
Those Nanny years were the last great chapter of my years in Hollywood. As a woman over 50, I found my options shrinking, but my appetite for my own work increasing. In 2003, I found myself divorced, an empty nester, unemployed and so I left LA and its promise of a swimming pool I never managed to build on Vista Street and moved to an old dairy farm in upstate New York. I embraced country life, being an old hippie from the “Back To Nature” 1970’s, and I
started an egg farm. My move back east brought me back to New York theatre once again.
Have you worked with Kathleen Chalfant and Elliott Gould before?
No. I have only admired them both for my whole career.
Have you worked with Patricia Vanstone, the director before this production?
Trish and I became friends in Mexico one winter when we were both doing plays in San Miguel de Allende. She has been by my side through the development process of this script and is a well-known actor/director in her native Canada.
How is ‘We Have to Hurry’ a reflection of our time in quarantine without the divisiveness and the
politics that have defined COVID-19?
My play is about the anxiety and uncertainty that the pandemic has brought to some of us, and the exuberance, focus and joy that it has brought to others of us. “Do you want to be a professional sick person, or a vibrant well person? Please choose!” One character says to the other. We Have to Hurry is about making human connections in a time of isolation.
What are some advantages of these performances Streaming Live? Might your play also be adapted to a time when there is no pandemic?
I LOVE ZOOM! It is like watching a film in all close-ups, which is what I always wish there were more of in almost every film I see. Maybe because I am fascinated by the human face, by the aging female face in particular, this format suits me fine!
When I go to live theatre, I often find all the blocking and stage craft distracting from the human story. Maybe because I could only afford the cheap seats in the balcony and was too far away to feel the performances, or maybe because my career has been primarily in front of a camera, and I’m used to a closer, more intimate view of the story.
Zoom has become my new best friend and I feel it is the ideal way to watch the play. I tailormade the play to be experienced in this format, and I hope the audience will find it a satisfying theatrical experience in the comfort of their own living room theaters.
Who are some playwrights who have influenced your work?
John Ford Noonan, of course, because he trusted me with his play, A Coupla White Chicks Sitting Around Talking, and made me producer and a director for the first time. And Snoo Wilson, the great English surrealist playwright and novelist, who left us too soon. He was a very powerful influence. I was his American producer and our collaboration lasted until Snoo’s death.
How has this pandemic been a blessing in disguise?
The pandemic gave rise to this play, so I have to see it as a blessing, not a curse. Whatever success my play may or may not enjoy is completely due to the fact that COVID-19 made me sink or swim. I had to fight back in the only way I know how, by being creative, by making something life-affirming in the face of so much loss.
Now you know Dorothy Lyman and the dreams she has manifested her entire life. You must not miss the acclaimed Elliot Gould and Kathleen Chalfant in We Have to Hurry, live streaming on Broadway on Demand for two performances only, Saturday, May 1 at 8 PM and Sunday, May 2 at 3 PM. Tickets are priced at $15 per household and are valid for one live stream performance only. You’ll be thrilled you treated yourself to the joyful uplift and renewal in this production that captures the possibility of springtime at any age.
For tickets go to this LINK: www.wehavetohurry.com