Marian Seldes: The Goal Is To Love


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.


Marian Seldes on Disappointment


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

Marian Seldes: The Real World



On the set of The Extra Man.

I feel that what most people call the ‘real’ world is what we’re left with when we give up; when we accept things too quickly; when we take the ‘natural order’ of things and accept the oldest facts. So many people are told to not trust people and things; so many people are told how difficult or worthless things are. You can’t fight City Hall–that sort of thinking.

I think we need to create the world we want for ourselves and others. My real world is full of caring, interesting, generous people. My world is full of experiences from which I can learn, and which I can’t wait to share with others. We should never let anyone decide our real world for us.

From a conversation in 2008

Marian Seldes: What We Should Do


Don’t look at someone and think or say, Well, what they’re doing; how they’re living a life; performing a role; treating others is not how I would do it. Don’t then judge them and think or say, Well, they won’t be happy.

Instead, look at them and think, The way they’re living or behaving would not make me happy: It reminds me of how I should live my life. And then promise yourself that you’ll be there for this person if and when they realize that what they’re doing or how they’re behaving isn’t working for them.

We see things to learn what it is we should  do.

From a conversation in 2001

Marian Seldes: I Work At Being Kind


Brian Murray and Marian Seldes in Edward Albee’s The Play About the Baby, 2001.

We are all employed all the time. Primarily, the world needs our kindness and our curiosity, both of which will lead us to care for the world and each other. This may be our greatest contribution to the world–far beyond the work we find so important.

I work at being kind. I work at listening to other people. I was taught this. I was told it was important, required, and it has saved me. If I didn’t try to care for others, I would be a mess–self-centered, whining, aware of lack. Instead, I’m always hurrying to fulfill all the needs that I can take care of. I can create a little path of kindness in the world. And others are doing this as well. We’re going to take care of things.

From a conversation in 1988.

Marian Seldes on Getting Better


Marian Seldes with Frances Sternhagen and Zoe Caldwell.

Sometimes people think getting better or stronger means getting meaner, tougher. The mean and the tough merely become meaner and tougher, and their work and their lives suffer. Getting better is a type of letting go of results–work, money, rewards–and focusing on your soul, for lack of a better word. I don’t know if we have souls, but when we lose whatever you think of as a soul, you almost inevitably turn to television. They don’t need souls there.

From a conversation in 1994

Marian Seldes: Roberta Maxwell

THE CARPETBAGGER'S CHILDREN, Roberta Maxwell, Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater, New York, 2002 (photo by

Roberta Maxwell in Horton Foote’s The Carpetbagger’s Children at Lincoln Center, 2002. Photo by T. Charles Erickson

My inspiration often comes from being chastened by the talent of others. When I saw Geraldine Page, I thought I had no business calling myself an actress. What she had done was so beyond me, I thought, Why bother? The world needs greatness, and she is great. I didn’t quit, but I worked harder: I wanted to attain what she had.

I feel the same way about Roberta Maxwell. I have been on the stage with her, and I have thought, I could never do what she did. I’ve seen her be brilliant in so many ways, and she devastates me. She makes me think I have no business being an actress, but she forces me to become better, to work harder.

From a conversation in 1998

Marian Seldes: Talent Is God

THE TOWER BEYOND TRAGEDY, from left, Judith Anderson, Marian Seldes, ANTA Playhouse, New York, 1950

Judith Anderson and Marian Seldes in The Tower Beyond Tragedy, at the ANTA (now the August Wilson) in 1950.

I loved what Tennessee [Williams] said about Meryl [Streep], and he said that her talent was a sacrament, or that her talent made him realize that all talent is sacramental. I agree with him. I don’t think that sacraments–or God or whatever higher power you need–is ‘out there’ or ‘over there.’ I think an unhealthy person finds God in alcohol or drugs, and I think healthy people find God in other people’s kindness; in talent we find in works of art, pieces of music, great acting. I think talent is God working through us. Life is the church, and we have to do God’s work. Your God’s work; my God’s work. We have to bring the God out in all things.

From a conversation in 1991

Marian Seldes on Her Students


I could never promise my students employment in the theatre. No one can do that. What I offered my students was a belief in the person they were, at that time, and I wanted to know their stories; I wanted to be a part of their lives; I wanted to see them learn and grow and be happy. I could guarantee them a love of the theatre, of acting, of literature, because I would walk them through it, and show them how I fell in love with things. A lot of students from Juilliard–from all of the schools–chose not to pursue an acting career, but they did not fail: Their lives were improved by their studies. More than anything, I wanted students to know they were being seen; they were being respected; they were being loved; they were supported by someone. 

From a conversation in 1990