Why Tony Nominee Jessica Lange Feels ‘Wild and Liberated’ in Broadway’s ‘Mother Play’

Jessica Lange has starred on Broadway before — winning a Tony for her most recent appearance there in “Long Day’s Journey Into Night” in 2016. But according to Lange, now back on Broadway in a Tony-nominated turn in “Mother Play,” she feels like a different actor that the one audiences have seen before.

Listen to this week’s “Stagecraft” podcast below:

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“I do feel as though something has changed in the last couple years, in the last couple projects I’ve done,” Lange said on “Stagecraft,” Variety‘s theater podcast. “It feels to me like I’ve moved into a different area. I have a freedom and a kind of unselfconsciousness that feels much more wild and liberated than it ever has before.”

Her latest Broadway stint also sees the actor originate a role in a new play on Broadway for the first time after appearing in a string of revivals of great American dramas. In Paula Vogel’s semi-autobiographical “Mother Play,” Lange plays a woman and mother (to children portrayed by fellow Tony nominees Jim Parsons and Celia Keenan-Bolger) in scenes that span decades.

“The idea of creating a character over 40 years in her life was very appealing to me,” the actor said. “And to do it not like we do it on film, which is with prosthetics and wigs and hair and makeup and everything that can create this illusion that you’re either younger or older. This really had to be an exercise in finding how to do it through energy level, through voice, through the physical life of the character and the movement. That became one of the most interesting things for me to investigate.”

In one of the play’s most notable sequences, Lange is alone onstage in a long, wordless scene in which her character struggles to occupy herself — playing cards, making a TV dinner, and, every now and then, allowing herself a martini. “That scene is one of my favorite moments on stage,” she said. “She’s in the throes of this terrible loneliness. How does she fill an evening at home? And coupled with that is the fact that she drinks and she has some self-imposed hour where she cannot have her first drink until then. It’s very rich, that sequence. I love it.”

Also on the new episode of “Stagecraft,” Lange looked backed on her Broadway debut in a 1992 revival of “A Streetcar Named Desire” that many critics panned. In 20/20 hindsight, she said she would have done some things differently.

“Oh, I wish I had gotten more advice when I first started in theater!” she said good-naturedly. “I just kind of threw myself into a situation I should have been way better prepared for, because I was terribly inexperienced and naive. I didn’t have the help that I needed. Coming from film, I just wasn’t prepared.”

Also on “Stagecraft,” Lange explained her enduring interest in the character of “Long Day’s Journey” matriarch Mary Tyrone, remembered her time on “American Horror Story” and revealed how her work as a photographer informs her acting.

To hear the entire conversation, listen at the link above or download and subscribe to “Stagecraft” on podcast platforms including Apple PodcastsSpotify and the Broadway Podcast NetworkNew episodes of “Stagecraft” are released every other week.

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