Marian Seldes on Patti LuPone


Envy arises. How do you control someone like Patti? Of course you can’t, so even the wisest and kindest of people at Juilliard felt compelled to denigrate and limit Patti–simply so they could force her into a corner or a small space over which they could exert some control. What I now realize is that Patti arrived with so great a talent that all we needed to do was to harness and husband it, to clean it up, so that she could share it. Anna Sokolow, with whom I know you’ve dealt, once joked that if Juilliard should catch fire, we should run to save Patti first, because everything else in that building could be easily replaced.

From a conversation in 1997


Marian Seldes: Refuse to Criticize


If you refuse to criticize others for one week, you will be healed in a way you would never have imagined. The greatest poison is hatred, I guess, followed by criticism, which is hatred in a silk glove.

From a conversation in 1989

Marian Seldes: I Believe in Things


Marian Seldes and Blythe Danner in The Royal Family at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, in 1996, directed by Nicholas Martin. Photo by Richard Feldman.

I don’t want to hear negative things–not about people or the theatre or the world. Anything. I just don’t want to hear it. We can repair things, but we repair from respect or love, never from negativity. I think if a person really hates something, they should just get out of it.

I believe in things.

From a conversation in 1987

Marian Seldes: Standing Guard


Marian Seldes in A.R. Gurney’s Ancestral Voices, at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, 2000.  Photo by Richard Feldman.

Standing guard over your thoughts means that you are standing guard over your life. I have never understood why so many people believe what others suggest or demand they believe. Who says they are right? I know I can never play certain parts or do certain things, but I don’t see myself as limited. I’m going to be full over in the area where I can be. We measure all the wrong things. The Oscars just ended, and already people are asking if they were ‘right’ to give the award to certain people. Would they live up to the award? As if it were an election, and promises must now be kept. The reward is the performance, the work. What is your reality for yourself? State it, believe it, live it.

From a conversation in 1992

Marian Seldes on Katharine Cornell: A Place in the Dream


Marian Seldes and Katharine Cornell in That Lady, from 1949.


I have never forgotten how special she [Katharine Cornell] made me feel. Kit and Guthrie McClintic [Cornell’s husband and director] adopted me as a daughter of life and of the theatre, and they let me be with them, with their friends. For someone as shy and awkward as I was, this was extraordinary. I finally felt like an adult, even as I went home and collected my clippings and made my scrapbooks. I was terribly starstruck.

One of the greatest gifts you can give someone is confidence. To affirm their dream and their place in the dream. Everyone needs some space in the dream.

From a conversation in 1984

Marian Seldes: Whatever Is Yours


The hardest thing to each a student–and the hardest thing to believe consistently–is that there is nothing ‘out there’ to go and get. There is no part, no career, no opportunity for which you should be searching and scrounging and coveting. All of the preparation is within, and you keep yourself mentally and physically fit; you remain generous with yourself and others; you stay deeply in study about your craft. Whatever is yours will then arrive.

From a conversation in 2008

Marian Seldes on Faith


Do I teach acting? Can anyone teach such a thing? I think I encourage faith: faith in the theatre; faith in literature; faith in humanity; faith, primarily, in ourselves. I want so much for people to see in themselves what I see in them, and I want them to understand that none of us has any idea how the world will want or use our gifts. But the world will need them, and we have to have the faith that the best channels for our talents will be good for us. Nothing can be forced, only recognized.

From a conversation in 1991marianseldeslookingupboa

Marian Seldes on Anger


You won’t always be recognized for kindness, or repaid. It doesn’t matter. The reward for kindness is the act itself.  The wisest people abandon anger as soon as they can. Anger toward an idea might work in a creative function, but human beings cannot function, much less survive, on anger.

From a conversation in 1994

Marian Seldes on Frances Conroy


Marian Seldes and Frances Conroy in Tony Kushner’s A Bright Room Called Day, at the Public Theater, 1991.

We talk about impact: Well, she [Frances Conroy] had impact. She had it as a student; she has it now. I watch her on Six Feet Under–I hate to admit that my interest fades if she is not on the program–and I can still see, and sense, all of that inventory that she brings with her: talent and imagination and curiosity and intellect. The best sort of baggage. A huge investment of self toward her character. She is the most generous of actors, and I remember her in class, struggling toward a character, reaching to make a scene work, and you could almost feel all that she was using and reaching for and throwing into the scene. She is a very rich actor, a very detailed actor, and all that she has loved and learned rests in her work, like lovely footnotes, and we all leave her work richer and wiser.

From a conversation in 2002

Tennessee Williams on Marian Seldes


Marian, captured by Susan Johann

Fabulous Marian. True Marian worship–what the Catholics reserve for the Blessed Virgin– can and should be applied to her. Take this Rosary and this prayer to her, and let her know that she has been–more often than I’m sure she cares to realize–the light on the shore that got me back home, safe and sound. I adore that woman.
From a conversation with Tennessee Williams in 1982. Marian carried the small, wooden rosary that Tennessee bought for her–crafted in Jerusalem–with her all the time.