Bob and I saw Patti LuPone at SUNY Albany when the Acting Company was touring and later summers in Saratoga. We were very impressed with the then unknown actors and particularly with Patti LuPone. The first show we saw her in was The Hostage where she played the tuba. One season they did The Cradle will Rock with her in it and it was a thrilling experience. Therefore reading her autobiography was particularly intriguing. I have included an interview she did five months ago as well. The theme of women in theatre is worth revisiting.
Patti LuPone: A Memoir with Digby Diehl
Published in 2010, this is Patti’s story of her life until then. It is very honest and direct and one believes that one is hearing her voice. At first, it seems like everything was painful for her. When she is having a good time, she says that, of course, something terrible is going to happen and it does. I kept thinking that she spent her life being miserable. She had a lot of difficulty with Juilliard, particularly John Houseman who didn’t like her and who was very insulting to her continuously. She did enjoy the Acting Company and being in Saratoga. She also had a good romantic relationship with Kevin Kline for a good number of years. However, she had problems galore with Evita, in terms of singing and it seems that she was always storming out of situations or leaving or threatening to leave. There seemed justification for her reputation of being difficult. She is clear about whom she likes and whom she doesn’t. That is putting it far mildly than she does.
In the middle of the book, however, everything changes. First, she meets her husband whom she adores and who seems like a steadying influence on her. Even though Le Miz had its problems, she enjoyed the work. Then there is the Sunset Boulevard fiasco. Andrew Lloyd Webber is so obnoxious that you are all on Patty’s side. She was always getting bad reviews from the New York Times despite her success with audiences. One feels for her and understands why she wrecks her dressing room. Then she has really wonderful professional experiences. She loved doing Sweeney Todd. Working with Arthur Laurents in Gypsy was great and she even gets a good review from the New York Times. This time it is from Ben Brantley and not Frank Rich. She loved working with Mandy Patinkin and really enjoyed North as a director. Being a mother and a wife certainly mellow her a great deal in the course of the book. One ends up appreciating her.
Life in the theatre is hard. She also did a television program with a costar who hated her and whom she hated. She played Lady Bird Johnson with Randy Quaid. So, her experience has been varied. She was even in a Steven Spielberg movie. She really likes Sondheim and was happy doing his shows. Glenn Close comes across as really insensitive even though Patti never meets her. It becomes clear that acting is hard work, but that when it works, there is a sense of companionship and trust that is unique and quite special. Bob was surprised at my initial negativity about the book because he liked it and by the time I finished it I did too and had a lot of admiration for Patti, not only for her talent which was evident when we first saw her with the Acting Company in Saratoga, but in her work since then, but also for her spirit and her honesty.