Something happened to me at this event which was awesome to the extent that I will remember it for my entire life. But more about this later.
The Theatre Communication Group (TCG) was founded fifty years ago to serve as a national theatre movement comprised of resident theatres, training programs and artists. TCG presently encompasses a network of more than five hundred member theatres and twelve thousand business and academic affiliates. I attended the premiere of the new TCG Salon Series at The Players Club where guest were invited to drink signature cocktails made with Alacran Tequila. Going to The Players is an event in itself in that it was founded in 1888 by incorporators who included Edwin Booth, Mark Twain, and General William Tecumseh Sherman.
After taking in all the beautiful portraits and antiques which contribute to The Players’ time machine ambience, I settled in to listen to the Salon panel. I was treated to hearing VAMPIRE LESBIANS OF SODOM star Charles Busch, MASTERPIECE THEATRE host and THE GOOD WIFE star Alan Cumming, Artistic Director of the Steppenwolf Theater Company Martha Lavey, and producer Jeffrey Richards. NEW YORK POST theater columnist and PBS THEATER TALK host Michael Riedel was the moderator.
Riedel presided over a wonderful panel structure. Participants were individually introduced and had the chance to take an applause-filled solo walk to the stage before answering their own specific question. In other words, each panelist enjoyed a personal spotlight. The panelists provided jaunty and interesting responses to Riedel’s questions about initial professional motivation, the hypothetical chance to be Chairman of the Board of the agency which controls the theater world (the Schuman Commission), and the power of theater critics. Alan Cumming provided the evening’s most memorable remark. His response to Riedel’s question about responses to bad reviews: “One of my reviewers wrote ‘I found dirt on the rock that is Alan Cumming.’”
Even though I was listening intently, my eyes wandered three rows in front of me to the back of a woman’s head. Her hair was short and black and vaguely familiar. And then it hit me: this head looks exactly like Liza Minnelli’s head. I half-heartedly thought about this woman’s striking resemblance to Liza. I took a double-take when I heard her speak to the woman sitting next to her (who I later learned was Arlene Dahl). She looked like Liza. She sounded like Liza. And, drum roll, wait for it, here it comes: she was Liza! Riedel introduced her. She commented that “spectacle productions should be simplified.”
At the conclusion of the panel, I remained in my seat staring transfixed at the real one and only Liza. Even my usually blasé husband was mesmerized. As she walked past him, Liza responded to my husband’s rapt attention to her. “Hello,” said Liza to my husband as she touched his shoulder. “Hi,” I rasped to her as she walked ahead with Ms. Dahl.
Riedel ended the panel by noting that Hal Prince said, “Don’t give people what they want, give them what they can’t imagine.”
I love Liza Minnelli. I never imagined that I would ever have the chance to meet her in person. I will never forget my opportunity to do so—to become Marleen with a “Z” in that seeing Liza caused me to fall into big time plot “Z” mode.
– Marleen Barr