PBS’ ‘Great Performances’ presents play about
Q: Feminism icon Gloria Steinem — portrayed by you in the “Great Performances” presentation “Gloria: A Life” — also was a figure in the recent drama series “Mrs. America.” What do you think of her re-entry into the public consciousness in such a big way?
A: Gloria’s had an amazing couple of years. There’s also a Julie Taymor(-directed) feature film called “The Glorias.” Gloria, I mean, she’s everywhere … and she needs to be everywhere. I’m so thrilled for her at this age that everyone’s beginning to really learn about her.
Q: You change your look a number of times in the course of playing Steinem through the years. How was that process for you?
A: Anytime I can look more like Gloria Steinem, I love it. I had great help with hair and makeup and, of course, the costumes. It was really fun. Gloria’s a friend of mine, so it was a little more daunting, I think, than usual. The first run-through, I remember I was so nervous, and my heart was beating (rapidly). I was so dry-mouthed because it was my friend, and she hadn’t seen it. Then, she was so gracious and so generous that after that, it was smooth sailing.
Q: Especially knowing her well, do you find it paradoxical that Steinem wasn’t a public speaker by nature?
A: Gloria has a phobia, still to this day, about public speaking. She was this sort of reluctant activist, because that’s not what she did. She was a writer, so she went to a speech therapist, and she actually describes it in the play by saying that she feels like she has an angora sweater around every tooth. That’s how dry her mouth was.
She comes with lots of throat lozenges and cough drops, just to keep her mouth moving and lubricated .. but I think she’s come into her own, obviously. At the age of 86, she’s now able to speak in a quite relaxed and, of course, passionate way.
Jay Bobbin has decades of experience covering the television and movie businesses, winning Tribune Media Services’ Crown Jewel Award in 2008 for his performance in the company. Over those many years of interviewing and writing, he has spoken with everyone from Robert De Niro and John Travolta to Paul McCartney and Tony Bennett … from Meryl Streep and Julie Andrews to Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood.