Marian Seldes, Terrence McNally, and Angela Lansbury, 2007.
Fate decides where you’re born and how you look–all the biological markers. That is fate, and you find ways to work with it. Fate, however, bends to our minds. I believe this. I’m not talking about miracles: I cannot make myself Duse or will myself into having the beauty of Katharine Cornell. But my mind, my heart engaged in thought, can create a world and a home and a room in which I can be fulfilled, and in which I can fulfill others.
Decide today how you feel about yourself and others. If it is positive and generous and patient, your world will change, and the perception people have of you will improve. You can then go confidently toward any goal you might have.
We look for teachers all our lives. I know I do. We need them. But the great change comes from within. We are the architects of the raw material fate has left for us. Build the proper temple.
From a conversation in 2004
I used to hear students talking about their lives as if life was something, like a train or a bus, that hadn’t arrived yet. It was coming; it was down the way, waiting. I know that they felt that life hadn’t begun–couldn’t begin–until they were working as actors, until they had been recognized. But their lives had begun long ago, and what we’re living today, every day, is everything. I can’t sleep all day and then get up and go to the theatre, and then go home again. That wouldn’t be living to me. You move among people and events and then you use it all in your work. That is what I would call full living. What you see as you walk about and live is what fuels what you do, whatever it is. The answers are out there.
From a conversation in 2002
I have experienced happiness many times. People ask me what I mean by happiness, and for me, I am happy in that period of exhaustion that arrives after I’ve done something important for someone or something I love. Happiness arrives to comfort and renew the generous, exhausted people.
From a conversation in 2001
We all walk on bridges that have been built by the good wishes and good will of others. Parents, friends, teachers, lovers. The bridges are built of love and encouragement. I want to build bridges for others, and I’m never discouraged because I know that I have work to do. I know that someone needs me. I know that I have a bridge to build.
From a conversation in 2007
Marian with a student at Fordham.
I never say or think something of others that I wouldn’t want said or thought of me or of anyone I love. I try to love everyone as a family member when I come to know them or work with them. I absolutely believe that when people we love and admire succeed, we rise with them, and I am happy when they are happy. I’m now invested in a new group of people who are now in my family, or more firmly in my family. I’m going to be doing whatever I can to see that they succeed; that they are happy; that they have love of the theatre in their lives. If I have a creed or a motto it is this: Everything happens and grows from love.
From a conversation in 2002, during the time Marian was appearing in Ellen McLaughlin’s Helen at the Public Theater.
Marian Seldes with Charles Busch, with whom she shared a birthday.
If I ever did anything intelligent or bold, it was to go into the day, into the world, expecting people to surprise and change and delight me. And they always did. They always will. I cannot wait to get out into the world.
Marian Seldes in The Royal Family at the Ahmanson, in Los Angeles, 2004.
More than anything–anything at all–I wanted my students, my friends, to be full human beings. I wanted them to be curious and eager to fill the curiosity; I wanted them to read and watch and listen and share; I wanted them to seek and cultivate friendship; I wanted them to love the ground on which they and their friends and families walked; I wanted them to know, always, that they mattered. And from that, from that perspective, pursue their work, do their work, love their work. Nothing begins with work: Work is the reward and the fulfillment of all you’ve loved and thought and done. I wanted and I want magical lives for everyone, and I want everyone to know it is possible to have one.
From a conversation in 2006
Marian in Thornton Wilder’s The Skin of Our Teeth, at Williamstown, and directed by Darko Tresnjak.
The goal is to love–to love the work and the people with whom you’re working. Love life–love every precious moment of it; be aware of it as you’re in it and as it is passing. Along the way to love, you will find friendship and work and, perhaps, some recognition, but all of that will pale in comparison to the love.
No one has ever disappointed me, because I will not allow that to happen. I know there is virtue in everyone, and I look for it, I dig for it, I find it. I cannot be disappointed in others.
From a conversation in 1986
Lily Rabe and Marian Seldes in 2010. Photo by Jake Chessum.
Our primary fear should be that there isn’t enough time to be kind to as many people as we should.
From a conversation in 2007