HOW NOT TO GIVE AN INTERVIEW
September 3, 1998
Rising Stars: Robin Paige
At Age 19 She's Moving from Actress to Director, Don't Get in Her
In Rehearsal with The Rehearsal; Drema Paige is Back, and Ready to Remind Us Of What We've Been Missing
Join a Discussion on Theatre and the Performing Arts
by The Galactic Sardine
We arrive at the rooftop rehearsal room above the Drema Paige Theatre this
glorious late summer morning, anticipating the pleasant prospect of
chatting with what we have been informed is a beautiful and charming young
lady. Word on the street has it that Robin Paige is worth keeping an eye
on. Beautiful? Yes, without question. Charming? Possibly, in other
circumstances. The morning does not turn out as expected.
She may be only 19, but she is already a force to be reckoned with and she
is resolutely determined to have her own way. That much, at least, is
clear from the start. Robin Paige, daughter of Millicent Paige and
granddaughter of Drema Paige, has yet to learn how to give an interview.
Rather than the prearranged quiet hour of questions and answers, we are
treated to a rare backstage glimpse of what goes on during the creation of
a musical, a project the none too demure Robin Paige has just been hired
to direct. We are greeted with a casual "I'm afraid everything's a bit
chaotic this morning. Tag along and I'll try to get to you as soon as
possible." Protests are met with a disapproving glare and a sharp "You
need me as much as I need you. Either keep up with me or get out of my
We have, it must be admitted, apparently arrived at an awkward moment. The
creative team behind the musical in development, Neverland, seems
to be falling apart. Miss Paige has just fired Annie Wynter, the
composer, who has stormed out in tears. And several phone calls
concerning the whereabouts of the show's lyricist, missing for the last 48
hours, have this moment been resolved with the unpleasant information that
he has been arrested earlier this morning, at one of Chelsea's seedier gay
bars, for attempted rape.
Miss Paige ends a phone conversation with her producer with the
observation "I may move back to England; Americans lead such complicated
David E. Leigon, the actor playing Noël Coward in The Rehearsal,
rehearsing next door, stops in to ask about Drema Paige's condition. Robin
explains, "Drema was admitted to hospital last night, coughing up blood.
She's sedated and under observation. We won't know anything until the
test results are back this afternoon." They speak privately for a few
minutes, then David leaves and Robin fixes herself a cup of tea and
settles down to talk.
"Poor David. Rehearsal is scheduled to open for previews in two
weeks, and now everything is on hold pending Drema's condition. They are
at a loss for what to do next door."
We remark that, under the circumstances, she seems remarkably calm and
"I'm worried, of course. But, until we get the test results back, the
only thing to do is wait and take care of other business."
Robin Paige is known in England as a promising young actress. Why the
sudden desire to direct?
"It isn't all that sudden, you know. When you're first creating a
character, it's fun and very rewarding. But, if you're lucky and the
production is successful and runs on and on, even in rep, it ends up being
just plain, hard work. After 50 or 60 performances I'm going crazy with
boredom and the stifling routine of eight shows a week. I've done it for
years, and I don't want to do it anymore. With directing, at least you
have the chance to move onto something else fairly quickly. There's
always another project ready to go."
Are there that many job opportunities for a 19-year old director?
"Explain this obsession everyone seems to have about my age. I have a
resume better than most actors twice my age. I've got over ten years
worth of solid legit credits to my name with some of the best companies in
the English-speaking world. Doesn't that entitle me to be taken seriously
in this country?
"My grandmother had it right. She always told me to go out and create my
own opportunities. That's what she always did. That's the secret. I just
hope my career is half as interesting and rewarding as hers has been."
What are the problems associated with being the third generation of what
has become a theatrical dynasty?
"Expectations. People always assume I'm a clone of Millicent or Drema.
I'm not. And I don't think I'd call it a dynasty. We're just three
women, from different generations, who have all independently decided to
work in the theatre. The only thing we have in common is a common set of
references when we're arguing about something."
Who usually wins these arguments?
"It depends who's arguing with whom. Most of the time either Drema or I
win. Millicent says neither one of us know when to give up. But isn't
that the secret of winning most of the time, not giving up?"
Why Neverland as your directorial debut?
"Philosophically or technically?"
"You're not asking for much, are you? Well, in a technical sense what
attracted me initially was the scope, the time frame. Neverland
tells the story of a man's life from traumatic childhood to old age and
death. It was originally written in three parts: the childhood, the
middle years (which are interesting and fun, but in which nothing much
that moves the story forward happens), and then the final years, when the
trauma and the story resolve.
"However, Neverland cannot be presented effectively in a
chronological or linear fashion. You'd end up with a fascinating first
act, a second act that's just marking time, and then a good strong third
act. Our solution is to play acts one and three concurrently with, but
against act two. In other words, the entire story is told during act two,
with any number of flashbacks to the events of act one and flash forwards
to the events of act three used to establish the context and meaning.
It's not easy, but it seems to work dramatically.
"Philosophically I'm drawn to it because it presents a very positive and
strong argument for a man's ability to survive and triumph over
devastating emotional problems by the simple act of belief, both in
himself and some higher being."
Are you saying Neverland is a musical about God?
"No. Actually, in Neverland, our higher being is Peter Pan. But
when you think about it, they could be or mean the same thing, couldn't
they? But belief - faith, if you want to put it that way - is really why
I wanted to involve myself with this project. From what I've seen,
somewhere in their twenties, everyone seems to lose the capacity for naive
belief - "
"Whatever. Anyway, for those who continue to be able to believe in
anything, their . . . innocent belief . . . seems to be replaced with a
belief system founded on compromise. Experience - which isn't
necessarily always the great teacher it's supposed to be - has shown them
too many times that, yes it's good to believe, but always have a backup
plan just in case. From a practical standpoint, that's probably a bloody
good idea. But from an emotional or spiritual viewpoint, it's the
beginning of a lifelong sense of loss and depression, and the end of the
ability to believe in oneself. This innocent belief is the core of the
story Neverland tells. It's what I'm bound and determined to make
sure the audience actually sees on stage."
Isn't all this a bit heavy for a musical?
"Is it? Give me the name of a successful musical that doesn't at least
partially address this issue. Lion King and Ragtime, Les
Mis and Phantom, hell even Cats all speak directly to
it. In a sense Gypsy isn't about anything else but."
I wonder if Betty Buckley knows about this?
A new comedy by Wilbur Valentine, starring Drema Paige
with David E. Leigon as Noël Coward. Previews begin September 18 for a
September 24 opening at the Drema Paige Theatre.
A new musical in development by Neverland Theatricals.
At the Hospital
Drema? Are you awake?
"Of course, darling. Come in. I'm waiting to be rolled out to have a CAT
scan, whatever that is."
A sort of x-ray, I believe. Do the doctors have a diagnosis yet?
"Nobody's saying the word, but I can tell they're thinking cancer."
"Get that tone out of your voice right now! I will not suffer
anyone, including you, feeling sorry for me. The very thought is
intolerable. And, speaking of which, what the hell has that granddaughter
of mine been doing giving unsupervised interviews?"
You read it?
"This morning, after some strange young man came in thinking he was
going to give me a bath. I told you not to leave her alone with the
media! She doesn't have the slightest idea how to handle them yet."
I know. He slipped in yesterday morning, while I was here waiting for you
to come out of the emergency room. Apparently she set the interview up
"Then she deserves what she got. The little fool. Who the hell is this
Galactic Sardine, anyway? Doesn't anyone go by their real name
If you wrote interviews like that, would you?
"Lord knows what goes on in that twisted brain of his. Who is he?"
A pretentious fringe theatre critic with a BA in Mass Communications
from City College and a penchant for deservedly little known wine
labels, so I'm told. He occasionally freelances for the Trib.
"Well, I'll deal with him later. What's this I hear about you
Honestly, I have been thinking about it. With your condition -
"My condition is exactly what it should be. I'll be out of here
tomorrow and rehearsals will resume Monday. Is that understood?"
Monday's a holiday.
"Tuesday, then. No arguments."
Of course. Tuesday.
"And get that damn condescending tone out of your voice. What's that?"
This? A book I picked up for Robin.
"Leave it with me. I need something to read, stuck in this antiseptic
excuse for a third rate hotel room. They don't even have Bravo on cable.
Barbarians! And don't forget, rehearsals will continue Tuesday morning!"