Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS

Stage on Screen - home
About Stage on Screen The Series Current Feature
The Women . Backstage
The star-studded Broadway comedy comes to PBS -- jungle red nails and all!
the women backstage clare boothe luce credits resources


The Women - Backstage

Take seven show business veterans, bring them together for a backstage chat, and roll the camera. Two hours later they're still going strong -- and that was producer Judy Kinberg's dilemma when she had to whittle Jason Alexander's interview with the leading ladies of The Women down to a 15-minute intermission feature for STAGE ON SCREEN: THE WOMEN. Following are some excerpts and banter from their lively conversation that didn't quite make the final cut.

Meet the Cast On the women in

Cynthia Nixon: It's a story about Mary, my character, getting her man back, getting her life in order and getting rid of her terrible friends and finding new ones -- real great women friends who help her...

Jennifer Tilly: ...and more fabulous outfits, too, as she gets wiser! These women knew what they wanted and how to go after things and get them. They're really intelligent, witty women, very articulate, and people respond to that.

Meet your host, Jason Alexander On Isaac Mizrahi's costumes

Jennifer Tilly: We begged Isaac to make us clothes for real life, but he won't do it.

Cynthia Nixon: I think they're going to auction them.

Jennifer Tilly: If they are, I have a big built-in mega-girdle in my last outfit I think I'll have to cut out so people won't realize I need support.

Jason Alexander: Well, your secret is safe now.

On the curtain call (the cast is dressed in lingerie):

Jennifer Tilly: This is what Scott Elliott [the director] would say, his official line: "It's a celebration of femininity. It's a celebration of womanhood." And I think that is what it is; it's just a celebration.

Rue McClanahan: I think it's brilliant! For one thing, it keeps the audience from leaving. It also shows we're not afraid to make fun of ourselves.

Jennifer Tilly: People see it as a real political statement ... It's the opposite, because it's fun. It's like a big slumber party, I think.

On developing ensemble

Kristen Johnston: Actually, our first rehearsal was September 10th ... when we came back to work, I was so happy to be amongst these people. I really think it helped it along ... we got much more intimate very quickly.

***

Jennifer Coolidge: The great thing about this cast was there was sort of a mutual admiration society here. Everyone has a different thing going for them.

***

Cynthia Nixon: I think Scott was really clever about pulling in different kinds of women who have different backgrounds from stage or TV or film or musical theater, because there are so many characters, and there are so many types of women.

On stage fighting

Jason Alexander: What I liked about it is that usually stage fights are taught with such safety and security that you can't believe them.

Kristen Johnston: Well, that was the problem. It was really Scott's thing; he's like, "I want an actual fight." So we basically took this core that the fight coordinator did, but you know, it just wasn't a girl fight. So we took some short cuts, and I said, "No -- really kick my ass -- literally! You know, make contact!" People think that somehow the fight has gone wrong.

Jason Alexander: I was just admiring your ability to take the kick. On the five-show weekend...

Kristen Johnston: ...Yeah, I know! It's no fun by Sunday.

On theater versus television and film

Jennifer Coolidge: The great advantage of stage is that you lose laughs that you had in the beginning that you can't quite get back, but you also get laughs three months into the play that you could never get in the beginning.

Kristen Johnston: I've never been able to recreate [the stage experience] in film or television. Every night there is such a sense of pride in oneself. Not ego -- just like, "I did it again, I didn't screw it up!"

***

Jennifer Tilly: One thing the audiences won't get at home is that, before the show every night, they infuse the theater with a rose smell. It's really imperceptible, but it puts everyone in a euphoric mood before the show even starts.

On how Broadway has changed

Mary Louise Wilson: The big change for me, in my ancient years, is the addition of microphones in theaters. I had always prided myself that I could be heard in the top balcony with no problem. A lot of times at music halls I can't hear what anybody's saying because of the sound system. And I miss the overture, the live orchestra ... now the music comes on and the audience talks louder and louder.

***

Rue McClanahan: Remember that article we were given to read about Clare Boothe Luce that told us of what was playing the night that "The Women" opened on Broadway? There were, like, 34 wonderful things that I would go see now that were playing that very evening.

***

Mary Louise Wilson: It used to be, you starred in a show, then you went to television.

Cynthia Nixon: Without SEX AND THE CITY I would never be doing this part in a million years.