Transcript: Nora McLellan | Feb 22, 1998

(Rhythmic string and wind music plays)

In animation, a word in pink slides by against a gray background as hands paint strokes using paintbrushes, play a piano, and touch as in a ballet performance.

The title of the show reads “Dialogue.”

The title of the episode pops up against an image of Richard Ouzounian and a guest sitting in a backyard: “Nora McLellan. Actor.”

Nora and Richard sit on garden chairs by a small round table with two glasses of water. The garden is grassy and the sun shines.

Then, Richard appears facing the screen. He's in his late forties, clean-shaven, with short side-parted blond hair. He's wearing rounded glasses, a cream suit, striped blue shirt, and matching striped blue tie.

He says WELCOME TO
DIALOGUE.
I'M RICHARD OUZOUNIAN.
THERE ARE SOME PERFORMERS
WHO JUST MANAGE TO LIGHT UP
WHATEVER STAGE THEY ARE ON.
YOU ARE ABOUT TO
MEET ONE OF THEM.
WHETHER SHE IS IN VANCOUVER
WINNING AWARDS FOR PLAYING
MARTHA IN
WHO'S AFRAID OF
VIRGINIA WOOLF, OR STOPPING
THE SHOW NIGHTLY AT THE SHAW
FESTIVAL, IN A VERY UNIQUE
PRODUCTION OF
Mrs.
WARREN'S PROFESSION,
YOU'RE GOING TO WANT TO
GET TO KNOW THIS PERSON.
THIS
DIALOGUE
IS
WITH NORA MCLELLAN.

Nora is in her late thirties, with chin-length curly red hair. She’s wearing a loose patterned blue dress.

Richard continues OKAY, NORA, WE HAVE TO DO WHAT
THEY CALL TOTAL DISCLOSURE.
I HAVE KNOWN YOU FOR OVER A
QUARTER OF A CENTURY, WHEN YOU
WERE, I THINK, THREE.

Nora says YES, YES.
AND YOU WERE FIVE.

Richard says DO YOU REMEMBER THE VERY
FIRST TIME I EVER ENCOUNTERED
YOU PERFORMING?

Nora says NO.
GOSH.
WAS IT A
YOU'RE A GOOD
MAN CHARLIE BROWN?

Richard says NO, IT WAS IN A LITTLE SHOW
IN A NOW DEFUNCT THEATRE IN
VANCOUVER CALLED
O GAS TOWN.

Nora says YES.

Richard says NOW, I HASTEN TO ASSURE
EVERYONE IT BORE NO RELATION
TO
O CALCUTTA, OTHER THAN
THE O IN THE TITLE, AND YOU
LEFT ALL YOUR CLOTHES ON.
YOU WERE STILL IN
SCHOOL AT THE TIME.

Nora says I WAS STILL IN HIGH SCHOOL.
YEAH, YEAH.

Richard says IT WAS A CABARET THEATRE.
YOU COULDN'T EVEN LEGALLY
DRINK, BUT YOU COULD
PERFORM THERE.

They laugh.

Nora says I COULD PERFORM THERE, YES.
IT WAS A GREAT TIME.
YOU KNOW, THAT THEATRE, IT
WAS THE GAS TOWN PLAYERS,
I THINK.
AND THEY HAD TRIED TO GET
TOGETHER A PERFORMING COMPANY
IN GAS TOWN.
AND ONE OF THE CO-FOUNDERS WAS
MY HIGH SCHOOL DRAMA TEACHER,
COINCIDENTALLY.
PREVIOUS TO THAT, YOUR PARTNER
AND WRITING PARTNER, GOD
ALMIGHTY, YOUR WRITING
PARTNER, NORMAN, NORMAN'S
MOTHER FRANCES, WAS
RESPONSIBLE FOR GETTING ME
INTO THE PROFESSIONAL
THEATRE, BY PUTTING ME
IN THE VANCOUVER OPERA.
SHE WAS MY TEACHER, AND SHE
SAID, I THINK YOU NEED TO GET
OUT OF CLASS AND
GET ON A STAGE.
BECAUSE I THINK SHE COULDN'T
STAND SOME BOBBING WEAVING --
SHE SAID, YOU'VE GOT A VERY
LOUD VOICE, AND IT'S ON PITCH,
BUT A LOT OF ENERGY.
LET'S JUST GET YOU
ON TO THE STAGE.

Richard says IT WAS PLEASE PUT YOUR
DAUGHTER ON THE STAGE,
Mrs. WORTHINGTON.
GET HER OUT OF CHORUS.

Nora says GET HER OUT OF THE CHORUS.
SO AT ANY RATE, THAT WONDERFUL
TIME OF BEING AT GAS TOWN.
BUT THAT WAS, AGAIN, THE
WONDERFUL THING ABOUT GREAT
TEACHERS, IS THIS WAS A
TEACHER OF MINE IN HIGH
SCHOOL, AND HE HAD ME WORKING
WITH A FOLLOW SPOT AND
EVERYTHING, AND FINALLY HE
SAID, WE'VE GOT THIS LITTLE
SHOW, AND THAT WAS WHERE
I FIRST MET RUTH NICHOL.

Richard says RUTH NICHOL, AND THE WHOLE
VANCOUVER MUSICAL MAFIA CROWD.
BRENT CARVER, JEFF HYSLOP,
EVERYBODY WAS ALL AROUND
AT THAT TIME.
NOW, AGAIN SOMEONE SAID TO
ME, WHERE DID NORA FIRST
ENCOUNTER CHRISTOPHER NEWTON,
AND I SAID, IF I REMEMBER
CORRECTLY, NORA WAS IN THE
VERY FIRST SHOW CHRISTOPHER
NEWTON EVER DIRECTED
IN VANCOUVER.

Nora says THAT'S RIGHT.

Richard says I REMEMBER YOU WERE A
PSYCHICALLY TORN MOB MEMBER
IN
JULIUS CAESAR.

Nora says THAT'S RIGHT.
CHRIS NEWTON DID, I WAS JUST,
HE CAME TO SEE A PRODUCTION
OF
YOU'RE A GOOD MAN CHARLIE
BROWN,
IN WHICH I WAS
PLAYING LUCY.
HE CAME, AND HE CAME
BACKSTAGE, AND HE SAID, YOU
KNOW, COME TO VANCOUVER, I'M
DOING THESE PLAYS, I THINK YOU
SHOULD BE IN THEM.

Richard says OKAY.

Nora says AND I DO RECALL THAT IN THE
GREAT MOB SCENE, WE HAD
DEREK RALSTON BEING A TERRIFIC
JULIUS CAESAR CORPSE.

Richard says HEAVILY MADE UP.

Nora says HEAVILY MADE UP.

Richard says THIS WAS THE FELLINI CAESAR.

Nora says THIS WAS A VERY
CONTROVERSIAL PRODUCTION.
THE MEN WERE COMPLETELY NAKED.
I THINK ALL YOU COULD SEE OF
ME WAS THE TIP OF MY NOSE.

Richard says THE CHIPPENDALE CAESAR.

Nora says BUT I HAD A GREAT TIME
LOOKING AT WINSTON REKERT
IN THE WINGS.
I USED TO JUST
STAND BEHIND HIM.

Richard laughs.

Nora says VERY EXCITING.

Richard says BUT I REMEMBER, AT THE TIME,
I WAS WORKING IN EDMONTON.
I USED TO OCCASIONALLY GET
THESE DISTRESSED PHONE CALLS
FROM YOU AS YOU WERE TRYING
TO WORK OUT YOUR CHARACTER
IN THE MOB.

Nora says WELL, YES.
IT WAS BECAUSE CHRIS SAID TO
ME, I HAD NOT ONLY NEVER BEEN
IN A SHAKESPEARE, I WAS 17
OR 18 YEARS OLD, AND I WAS
REALLY, REALLY TRYING
TO WORK VERY HARD.
AND I KNOW AT ONE POINT, HE
SAID TO ME, I LOOKED AT THE
CAST LIST, AND IT SAID, YOU'LL
BE PLAYING 76th CITIZEN.
AND I THINK I HAD AN OH,
SPITE, OH, HELL, OR SOMETHING
LIKE THAT.
AND THEN HE SAID, YOU'LL
BE PLAYING THE ROLE OF
PUBLIUS' DAUGHTER.
AND I WENT, PUBLIUS'
DAUGHTER, AND I SCANNED
THE SCRIPT.
AND I FOUND TWO LINES OF
PUBLIUS, AND NO MENTION
OF DAUGHTER.
READ IT AGAIN.

Richard says WELL, DARLING, IT'S ONE
OF THESE ROLES SHAKESPEARE
NEGLECTED TO WRITE.

Nora says ACTUALLY, HE HAD HIRED THIS
WONDERFUL ACTOR, NAMED, CHRIS
AND I WERE TRYING TO REMEMBER
THE NAME, JACK CARD, WHO HAD
A BIT OF A HUMP, AND A BIT OF
A LIMIT, AND HE REALLY NEEDED
SOME ASSISTANCE
GETTING ON STAGE.
SO THAT WAS
PUBLIUS' DAUGHTER.
WHICH IT WAS THE ONLY TIME
YOU ACTUALLY SAW ME DRESSED.
THEN, I WENT RUNNING BACK.

Richard says AND PUT ON YOUR RAGS.

Nora says AND MY BODY MAKE-UP.
WHAT HE SAID TO ME -- THE LATE
STEPHEN KATZ WAS OUR ASSISTANT
DIRECTOR, TRYING TO
DO THE CROWD SCENES.
AND WHAT CHRIS SAID TO ME WAS
I THINK YOUR CHARACTER GOES
FROM A COMPLETELY NORMAL ROMAN
CITIZEN, TO HAVING A COMPLETE
MENTAL BREAKDOWN BY
THE END OF THIS SCENE.
NOW, AS AN 18-YEAR-OLD,
OF COURSE, I TOOK THIS SO
DREADFULLY SERIOUS, TRYING
TO FIGURE OUT HOW TO HAVE MY
COMPLETE AND TOTAL
NERVOUS BREAKDOWN.
WELL, ONE NIGHT SOMEBODY
HANDED ME A COPY OF
I NEVER
PROMISED YOU A ROSE GARDEN
IN THE MIDDLE OF THE PLAY.
WHY DON'T YOU JUST READ THIS?

Richard says AND OF COURSE, YOU HADN'T
REALIZED THAT BOB HALEY, WHO
WAS UP THERE PLAYING MARK
ANTHONY, WAS SUPPOSED TO BE
DOING THE SPEECH, AND THAT'S
WHAT THEY WERE SUPPOSED TO BE
PAYING ATTENTION TO.
BUT WITH THE TRUE
OBSESSION OF THE YOUNG,
THERE YOU WERE ON THE FLOOR.

Nora says OF COURSE.
JUST WRITHING AND
MOANING AND SCREAMING.
BUT I DO REMEMBER, IT WAS
AN INFAMOUS PRODUCTION.
I DO REMEMBER... WELL, YEAH.

Richard says YES, PEOPLE WALKED OUT.

Nora says PEOPLE WALKED OUT.
BUT IT CERTAINLY STARTED
CHRIS' STAMP OF -- I THINK MY
MOTHER ALWAYS SAID IT BEST.
I WILL ALWAYS AGREE HEARTILY
OR DISAGREE TOTALLY WITH
SOMETHING THAT CHRISTOPHER
NEWTON DOES, BUT I ALWAYS AM
INTERESTED, AND ALWAYS
ENGAGED, AND I'M ALWAYS
TALKING ABOUT IT AFTERWARDS.

Richard says AND WE'LL FOLLOW, AS WE TALK
THROUGH THIS CONVERSATION,
ABOUT THE 23 YEARS OR 24 YEARS
THAT CHRISTOPHER NEWTON
AND YOU HAVE KEPT WORKING
TOGETHER AT THE SHAW FESTIVAL.

Nora says YES.

Richard says 13 YEARS HERE.

Nora says BACK AND FORTH ALL OVER.

Richard says NOW, AFTER THE CAESAR, I
GUESS, FEELING SORRY FOR YOU
HAVING A NERVOUS BREAKDOWN AND
THINKING YOU NEEDED SOME FUN,
I REMEMBER I PUT YOU IN A
PRODUCTION OF
GODSPELL.

Nora says THAT'S RIGHT.

Richard says JEFF HYSLOP WAS PLAYING
JESUS AT THE TIME.
AND YOU WERE THE GIRL WHO
GOT TO DO
DAY BY DAY.
DO YOU REMEMBER THE THREE
THINGS YOU HAD TO DO?
SEE THEE MORE CLEARLY, LOVE
THEE MORE DEARLY, FOLLOW THEE
MORE NEARLY, DAY BY DAY.
BUT YOU ALSO GOT TO
AD LIB OUTRAGEOUSLY.
AND I DON'T KNOW IF YOU
REMEMBER, BUT PEOPLE IN THE
CAST USED TO GET REALLY MAD
'COS I'D KEEP COMING UP AND
GIVING YOU GOOD LINES.

Nora says YOU GAVE ME SOME GREAT LINES.
AND I REMEMBER ONE DAY YOU
SAID TO ME, ONE OF YOUR LINES
GOT INTO THE NEW
YORK PRODUCTION.
BECAUSE THAT'S HOW, PEOPLE
WOULD COME AND SEE THE SHOWS,
AND THE LINES WOULD TRAVEL.
I MEAN, I MADE QUITE, THANKS
TO YOU, RICHARD, QUITE A
LITTLE MEAL TICKET OUT OF
GODSPELL
BECAUSE I'D JUST
WALK INTO A CAST AND I'D
SAY, I DO
BLESS THE LORD MY
SOUL,
DAY BY DAY, THAT
LOVELY LITTLE BALLAD,
WHERE ARE YOU GOING?
AND ANY PARTS
ATTACHED TO THAT.
AND I'VE GOT THE PAUL LYNDE,
AND I'VE GOT THIS, AND THIS.
I'VE GOT ALL THIS SHTICK I CAN
DO, AND THEY GO, OH, GREAT.
STEP IN RIGHT NOW.
SO IT WAS GREAT.
BUT BECAUSE IT WAS IMPROV, BUT
YOU, OF COURSE, ALWAYS HAD
THESE LINES THAT YOU
JUST KEPT THROWING IN.

Richard says I'D STICK IT IN.
BUT IT WAS FUN.
NOW, WHAT'S HAPPENING IS ALSO
YOU ARE STILL INCREDIBLY YOUNG.
AND AFTER THIS, YOU
STARTED GETTING JOBS
ALL OVER THE COUNTRY.
I REMEMBER YOU WERE WORKING IN
THE MANITOBA THEATRE CENTRE
AND ALL OVER THE PLACE.
AT ANY POINT, DID YOU EVER,
IN THESE EARLY YEARS STOP AND
SAY, WAIT A MINUTE, I
HAVEN'T HAD A LIFE YET.
I'VE GOT A CAREER, BUT
I DON'T HAVE A LIFE.

Nora says NO.
I DIDN'T REALIZE THAT UNTIL I
REALIZED THAT I'D MISSED MOST
OF IT THROUGH ONE
WAY OR ANOTHER.
I'M CERTAINLY HAVING MY
LIFE NOW, IN MY FORTIES.
I THINK THERE IS THAT POINT IN
YOUR LIFE WHERE YOU FINALLY
JUST HAVE TO STOP AND EXAMINE
WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON.
I THINK, TO BE HONEST, I
ENTERED THE THEATRE FOR
PSYCHOLOGICALLY ABSOLUTELY
THE WRONG REASONS.
I USED TO HAVE A STANDARD JOKE
WHEN PEOPLE WOULD BE TELLING
THEIR SOB STORIES, SAYING,
YOU KNOW, YOU HAD AN UNHAPPY
CHILDHOOD, THAT'S WHY YOU
WENT INTO THE THEATRE.
AND I USED TO GO,
JUST GET ON WITH IT.
AND I REALIZED, THAT FOR
WHATEVER REASONS, NOT THAT MY
PARENTS WERE NOT WONDERFUL
PARENTS, BUT THERE WAS
SOMETHING SORT OF
PSYCHOLOGICALLY WRONG WITH ME
THAT I HAD A GREAT NEED TO GET
UP AND HAVE A WHOLE LOT OF
PEOPLE SAY I WAS WONDERFUL.
SO I THINK, AT SOME POINT IN
A PERSON'S LIFE, YOU HAVE TO
REALLY GET RID OF THAT, AND
THEN YOU'LL BECOME AN ACTOR.
AND THEN YOU ARE GOING TO
START WORKING AT THE CRAFT OF
ACTING, AS OPPOSED TO JUST
THE DESIRE TO GET OUT AND DO
ANYTHING AND
EVERYTHING, YOU KNOW?
BUT CERTAINLY, DURING THOSE
EARLY YEARS, IT WAS JUST A
MATTER OF COURSE.
IT NEVER EVEN OCCURRED TO ME
THAT WHAT I WAS DOING WAS, YOU
KNOW, THAT I WAS 21 YEARS OLD
ON THE MTC STAGE PLAYING A
ROLE THAT I WAS MUCH TOO
YOUNG TO BE PLAYING THEN.

Richard says AMY IN COMPANY.

Nora says WHICH I CAME TO DO
FOR YOU FOR A WEEK.

Richard says THE GREAT GIRL LOVES
TO DO THE PART MEANS
EVERYBODY'S HERE,
EVERYBODY'S WITH US.

Nora says YOU KNOW?
BUT I JUST ACCEPTED THAT.
IT WAS ONE OF THOSE THINGS
THAT I WENT, YES, AND NEXT
AND NEXT AND NEXT AND NEXT.

Richard says BUT WHAT I'M CURIOUS ABOUT,
WHEN YOU WENT BACK TO
VANCOUVER BECAUSE YOU USED TO
KEEP BOUNCING BACK AND FORTH.
VANCOUVER HAD ALWAYS
BEEN YOUR SPIRITUAL HOME.
DID YOU EVER ENCOUNTER GIRLS
YOU WENT TO HIGH SCHOOL WITH
WHO WERE NOW LIKE GOING
THROUGH, THEY WERE PROBABLY IN
THEIR SECOND OR THIRD YEAR
UNIVERSITY, AND YOU WERE OFF
WITH FOUR YEARS OF THEATRE
EXPERIENCE BEHIND YOU STARRING
IN MAJOR THEATRES
AROUND THE COUNTRY.
WHAT HAPPENED WHEN YOU EVER
TALKED TO ANY OF THEM,
OR GOT TOGETHER WITH THEM?

Nora says I DIDN'T.
I DIDN'T.
I'VE ONLY JUST NOW RECENTLY
STARTED TO RECONNECT BECAUSE
MAYBE DOING VIRGINIA WOOLF IN
VANCOUVER WITH A FEW FRIENDS
FROM HIGH SCHOOL.
THEY SAID, THIS IS THE AMAZING
THING, THEY SAID, YOU WALKED
ON THE STAGE AND YOU SAID,
WHAT A DUMP, WHAT'S THAT FROM?
WHAT'S THAT FROM?
THEY SAID, YOU WERE JUST THE
SAME AS YOU WERE IN HIGH SCHOOL.
AND I WENT, I BEG YOUR PARDON?
I SAID I DON'T THINK SO.
I MEAN, BUT THEY
SAID, IT JUST WAS YOU.
YOU WERE JUST
PLAYING YOURSELF.
AND I WENT...
I WAS VERY STUNNED
TO HEAR THAT.
BUT THEY JUST FELT I WAS
EXACTLY THE SAME PERSON,
THE SAME KIND OF VOICE,
OR SOMETHING ABOUT ME.
BUT THEIR VIEW OF ME IS
SOMETHING THAT I DON'T REALLY
REMEMBER BECAUSE I SEEM TO
HAVE HAD THIS SECRET LIFE.
FOR EXAMPLE, I WOULD GO TO
HIGH SCHOOL DURING THE DAY,
AND I WAS A CHEERLEADER, AND
VICE PRESIDENT OF THE STUDENT
COUNCIL, AND THEN I WOULD GO
DOWN AND WORK IN THIS BAR IN
GAS TOWN AT NIGHT, AND I NEVER
INVITED ANY OF MY FRIENDS FROM
HIGH SCHOOL TO SEE
THESE PLAYS OR ANYTHING.

Richard says YOU DIDN'T?

Nora says NO.
THAT'S WHAT I DID.
THAT'S WHAT I REALLY DID,
WAS THAT LITTLE LIFE.
I CAN'T REALLY EXPLAIN IT.

Richard says YOU WERE SAYING YOU FELT YOU
WANTED AS MANY PEOPLE TO LOVE
YOU AS POSSIBLE ON STAGE.
AND, OF COURSE, THE MUSICAL
THEATRE WAS GREAT FOR THAT
BECAUSE YOU GET TO
HAVE LIGHTS AND SOUND
AND EVERYTHING OUT THERE.
BUT YOU WERE ALSO WANTING
TO DO SERIOUS ACTING, AND
STARTING TO AT THIS POINT.
WHAT I HAVE NEVER ASKED YOU,
SO THIS IS NOT A SET UP
QUESTION IS, WHEN LITTLE NORA
WAS GROWING UP IN RICHMOND,
B.C., DID YOU WANT TO BE A
MUSICAL STAR OR A MOVIE STAR
OR DRAMA STAR?
DID YOU HAVE A PERSON IN MIND?

Nora says GWEN VERDON.
THAT NOTION OF THE
BROADWAY LEGEND STAR.

Richard says SO LEGS UP TO THERE.
AND JUDY GARLAND.

Nora says JUDY GARLAND, OF COURSE.
AND MIKE NICHOLS AND
LEN MAY, AND DANNY KAYE.

Richard says THAT KIND OF COVERS
THE WATERFRONT.

Nora says YEAH.
NICHOLS AND MAY WERE
MY COMEDIC HEROES.
GARLAND, OF COURSE, WAS MY...
THAT'S HOW I LEARNED TO SING
WAS LISTENING TO JUDY GARLAND.
AND DANNY KAYE FOR JUST THAT
COMBINATION OF ALL THOSE
WONDERFUL ACCOUNTS.
AND GWEN VERDON, I
JUST LOVED GWEN VERDON.

Richard says BUT THERE WASN'T A DESIRE TO
REALLY BE, EXCEPT FOR JUDY,
THE GREAT TEAR JERKER?

Nora says NO.
I JUST, DO YOU KNOW, I THINK
I WAS VERY COLD AND CLINICAL
ABOUT IT ALL IN
A VERY FUNNY WAY.
WHEN IT CAME TIME TO DOING
GODSPELL, YOU GUYS GAVE ME
DAY BY DAY
BECAUSE I HAD GREAT
PITCH AND REALLY NO VOICE.
I JUST DROVE AROUND IN MY
CAR AND LEARNED HOW TO SING.
I JUST PRACTICED MAKING MY
VOICE MAKE THOSE SOUNDS.
WHEN IT CAME TIME I MOVED TO
TORONTO AND PEOPLE SAID,
DO YOU KNOW HOW TO TALK?
I JUST WENT, WELL, I'LL
NIP THAT IN THE BUD, AND I
THOUGHT, WELL, WHO WOULD
REALLY IMPRESS EVERYBODY?
UTA HAGEN.
SO I JUST GOT JOHN NEVILLE TO
WRITE A LETTER TO UTA HAGEN
BECAUSE I KNEW I'D NEVER
GET IN WITHOUT AN AUDITION.
SO I GOT IN WITHOUT AN
AUDITION, WHICH CREATED QUITE
A SENSATION DOWN IN NEW
YORK, I'LL TELL YOU.
AND I JUST CAME BACK
AND SAID, I DON'T SING.
I DON'T KNOW WHO YOU
ARE TALKING ABOUT.
AND VERY SORT OF.

Richard says THIS WAS FUNNY.
THE NORA, PRE AND POST UTA
HAGEN, IT WAS LIKE YOU WERE
SUDDENLY INTO SINGING DENIAL.

Nora says YEAH.
BUT I HAD TO MAKE A
STATEMENT, IN EFFECT.
EVEN THOUGH, OF COURSE, I WAS
WORKING AT THAT TIME, VERY
MUCH WITH JOHN HIRSCH, SO I
WOULD GO DOWN TO THE STATES
AND DO GREAT MUSICALS DOWN
THERE AT SEATTLE REPERTOIRE
THEATRE,
PAL JOEY,
AND THINGS LIKE THAT.
BUT I'D REALLY NEEDED TO, I
REMEMBER JOHN HIRSCH GOING,
WHEN I CAME BACK FROM STUDYING
WITH UTA HAGEN, AND I WAS
DOING THAT WITH NEIL MONROE,
AS AN ACTOR, IN A VERY
WONDERFUL PRODUCTION OF
CHRISTOPHER DURANG'S,
THE HISTORY OF AMERICAN FILM.
AND JOHN HIRSCH, I REMEMBER
HIM SAYING TO ME, I DON'T CARE
WHAT YOUR MOTIVATION IS,
DARLING, YOU'VE JUST GOT
A QUICK CHANGE, GET
OFF THE STAGE.
JUST GET OFF.
YOU KNOW BECAUSE I'D
BE
SO
TRYING TO ACT.
I WAS IN THE METHOD.

Richard says NOW, WAS THAT GOOD
OR BAD FOR YOU?
DO YOU FEEL THE TIME YOU SPENT
WITH HAGEN WAS A POSITIVE
EXPERIENCE FOR YOU?

Nora says YES, IT WAS.
I'D NEVER TRAINED.
I NEVER WENT TO -- I WAS AT
UBC WITH YOU GUYS, BUT I HAD
DROPPED OUT OF UBC BECAUSE
I WAS ALREADY WORKING.
I DID A COUPLE OF
SHOWS WITH YOU THERE.
I DID YOUR SCOTTISH
PLAY OPERA.
WE WERE AROUND THE THEATRE,
SO I CAN'T QUITE SAY IT
IN ALL GOOD CONSCIENCE.
BUT I THINK, THAT FOR ME
BECAUSE I WENT WHEN I WAS 24,
AND AT THAT TIME I HAD BEEN
WORKING FOR QUITE A FEW YEARS,
IT WAS A MASTER
CLASS FOR ME, REALLY.
AND I GOT THE BENEFIT OF -- I'D
ALREADY HAD ALL THE EXPERIENCE.
I JUST NEEDED A CHANCE TO
SPEND SOME TIME WITHOUT THE
HIGH PRESSURE STAKES OF WE'RE
THROWING YOU INTO THIS REALLY
HUGE PRODUCTION, AND YOU HAVE
TO KNOW HOW TO DO IT FAST,
WHATEVER IT IS.
WHICH I'VE ALWAYS BEEN A
KIND OF A SEAT OF THE PANTS
PERSON, YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN?
PEOPLE WOULD SAY, IF ONLY WE
HAD SOMEBODY LIKE YOU WHO
COULD DO STRINDBERG
AS WELL AS YOU.
THAT'S ME AND STRINDBERG.
AND STRINDBERG IS...

She makes a stern gesture.

Richard chuckles and says OKAY.

Nora says I'D FIND OUT A WAY
REALLY QUICKLY TO ADAPT.
WHICH I THINK MANY OF US.

Richard says THAT WAS PART OF YOUR
PERSONALITY, THOUGH.
YOU WOULDN'T ADMIT YOU
DIDN'T KNOW SOMETHING.

Nora says NO.
NOW, I'M PERFECTLY THRILLED TO
SAY I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT
YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT.
BECAUSE I'M 42, AND I THINK
THAT IT'S KIND OF NICE
TO SAY I DON'T KNOW.
BUT, OF COURSE, AT THE TIME,
CHRIS ONCE SAID THAT SOMETIMES.
HE SAID, YOU SAY THINGS WITH
SUCH AUTHORITY, AND EVERYBODY
HAS A TENDENCY TO BELIEVE YOU
JUST BECAUSE YOU SOUND LIKE
YOU KNOW WHAT YOU
ARE TALKING ABOUT.
ACTUALLY, UPON THINKING ABOUT
IT, YOU REALLY HAVE NO IDEA
WHAT YOU ARE TALKING
ABOUT AT ALL.

Richard says NOW, SPEAKING OF PEOPLE WHO
SAY THINGS ON GREAT AUTHORITY,
BUT ON REFLECTION HAVE NO IDEA
WHAT THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT,
YOU CAME TO SHAW AND PLAYED
ONE OF THE GREAT ROLES OF
MODERN THEATRE, IN
SAINT JOAN.
WHO CERTAINLY TALKS WITH
AUTHORITY, AND YOU LATER
WONDER IF SHE KNEW WHAT
SHE WAS TALKING ABOUT.
BUT DID THAT ONE SCARE YOU?
BY THE TIME THAT CAME DOWN
THE PIKE, AND CHRISTOPHER
NEWTON SAID, ON THE MAIN
STAGE OF THE THEATRE AT
NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE,
WHEN YOU WERE HOW OLD?

Nora says 26.

Richard says 26.
YOU ARE PLAYING THE MAID.

Nora says WELL, D'YOU KNOW, UNTIL --
HE SAID TO ME, I SAID,
WHY DO YOU WANT ME
TO PLAY THIS PART?
AND HE SAID, BECAUSE I BELIEVE
YOU COULD FALL ON SOLDIERS
AND HURT THEM BADLY.

They laugh.

Nora continues WHICH I JUST LOVED.
I'VE ALWAYS -- I ALWAYS
HAVE, HOW DO I SAY IT...
USED SOMETHING THAT
CONNECTS ME TO THE PERSON.
NOW, I DID A LOT OF RESEARCH
IN THAT SENSE, UTA HAGEN HAD
HELPED ME FOR THAT, FOR
THE RESEARCH INTO JOAN.
AND IT WASN'T UNTIL AN ACTOR
FRIEND OF MINE, PETER HUTT ONE
NIGHT, WE WERE AT A PARTY, HE
TURNED TO ME, AND HE SAID,
MCLELLAN, YOU ARE DRIVEN.
AND I JUST WENT, AHA.
[laughing]
AND THAT WAS WHAT MADE ME ALL
OF A SUDDEN GO, I NOW KNOW
WHERE I NEED TO GO.
AS FAR AS THE HOOPLA, WE WERE
ALMOST SHUT DOWN BECAUSE
CHRIS CUT THE EPILOGUE.
THE OPENING SCENE OF THE
SHOW, CHRIS TOOK A BIG RISK.
I MEAN, PREVIOUSLY, THIS
PRODUCTION HAD BEEN --
HIS PRODUCTION WAS REALLY
JOAN, NOT
SAINT JOAN.
HE SAID, THERE'S NO SAINT IN
THIS PRODUCTION UNTIL THE
EPILOGUE, AND I'M
CUTTING THE EPILOGUE.
WHICH WE ENDED UP HAVING
TO READ AFTER WE TOOK
AN INTERMISSION.
BUT I WAS VERY MUCH
THE CANADIAN GIRL.
IT IS A FANTASY.
AND THERE WAS NONE OF THIS,
I SHALL DARE, AND DARE, AND
DARE, UNTIL I DIE, LOOKING
BEATIFICALLY INTO THE...
BUT I KNOW CHRIS KEPT GOING,
I REMEMBER AT ONE POINT, MY
FIRST ENTRANCE, I CAME UP FROM
A TRAP, AND THERE WAS MEN
SINGING DOWN IN THE CHORUS,
AND I WOULD SAY, GOOD MORNING,
CAPTAIN SQUIRE.
AND ONE DAY, IN REHEARSAL, I
COULDN'T GET THEM TO STOP,
SO I WENT, 'SHUT UP!'
AND CHRIS WENT,
KEEP IT IN.
HE SAID, IF THEY BUY THIS,
THEY'LL BUY THE
WHOLE PRODUCTION.
WELL, I CAME OUT IN THE OPENING
NIGHT, AND THERE WAS 800
PEOPLE, 400 OF WHICH BECAUSE
SAINT JOAN
HAD NEVER BEEN DONE
AT THE SHAW FESTIVAL.
AND I SAID “GOOD MORNING,
CAPTAIN SQUIRE, SHUT UP.”
AND I HEARD “OHH!”
AND I ALMOST STOPPED AND WENT,
I DON'T THINK THEY BOUGHT THIS.
NOW, I NEVER HAVE EVER READ ANY
OF THE REVIEWS FROM THE SHOW.
I DO KNOW THAT PEOPLE STILL
TALK ABOUT IT, WHICH, I THINK,
IS SOMETHING QUITE
EXTRAORDINARY, CONSIDERING
THAT THAT WAS 1981,
AND WE'RE IN 1997.
AND I KNOW THAT I DID THE BEST
WORK I COULD POSSIBLY DO,
AND THEN SOME.
AND I HAVE NO
IDEA WHERE THAT...

Richard says I WANT TO GO BACK.
YOU TALKED ABOUT A MOMENT ON
OPENING NIGHT, LITERALLY,
WHEN YOU SAID THAT
AND YOU HEARD THE GASP.
WHAT GIVES YOU THE COURAGE TO
NOT SUDDENLY CHUCK IT ALL IN --

Nora says AND JUST WALK OFF THE STAGE?

Richard says AND WALK OFF THE STAGE, AND
GO, YOU AIN'T GONNA LIKE THIS
ANYWAY, SO I'M GONNA GO AWAY.

Nora says WELL BECAUSE I KNEW THERE WAS
A WHOLE LOT OF PEOPLE THAT
WERE... THEY WERE GOING TO LIKE.
AND I KNEW THERE WAS SOME
WONDERFUL, WONDERFUL THINGS IN
THIS PRODUCTION.
IT WAS A WONDERFUL PRODUCTION,
AND CHRIS HAD GREAT IDEAS.
AND THERE WERE SO MANY
MARVELLOUS ACTORS ON THAT STAGE.
THERE WERE 23 MEN WHO
BASICALLY TAUGHT ME HOW TO ACT.
IF THEY WEREN'T, IF I WASN'T
DOING IT, THEY WERE JUST
GUIDING ME, AND REALLY GIVING
ME THE BENEFIT OF TRAINING ME
WITHOUT LETTING ME KNOW.
IF ANY ONE OF THOSE ACTORS WAS
GOING, OH, MY GOD, WE'VE GOT
THIS CORINE PLAYING JOAN,
NONE OF THEM EVER TOLD ME.
AND IF ANYTHING, THEY ALL WENT
OUT OF THEIR WAY TO MAKE ME
LOOK JUST WONDERFUL.
SO NO, AS A MATTER OF FACT,
THAT KIND OF THING JUST MAKES
ME GO, OKAY, LET'S
KICK ASS, YOU KNOW?

Richard says WHAT YOU TALKED ABOUT IS A
RECURRING THEME YOU HEAR WHEN
PEOPLE DISCUSS THE SHAW
FESTIVAL, IS THAT IT IS NOT
JUST A PLACE WHERE PEOPLE COME
TO DO THEATRE, BUT IT'S KIND
OF LIKE, IT IS A
WAY OF LIFE, REALLY.
AND IT HAS A LIFE SUPPORT
SYSTEM IN IT AS WELL.

Nora says YEAH.
I MEAN, IT CERTAINLY IS THE
PLACE THAT I HAVE LEARNED MY
CRAFT BECAUSE
I'VE BEEN ABLE TO.
THIS COMPANY AFFORDS YOU THE
BEST OF DESIGNERS, THE BEST OF
DIRECTORS, THE BEST OF STAGE
MANAGERS, THE BEST CUTTERS,
THE BEST ACTORS TO WORK WITH.
THERE ISN'T -- AND BECAUSE SO
MANY OF US, THERE ARE ALWAYS
NEW PEOPLE COMING IN, AND
PEOPLE GO AWAY FOR A FEW
YEARS, OR ANYTHING, BUT MANY
OF US HAVE BEEN HERE FOR 13 --
OR I HAVE BEEN HERE
FOR 13 SEASONS.
I'VE GROWN UP
WITH THESE ACTORS.
I MEAN, I STARTED HERE WHEN
I WAS 25, AND IT'S... I DON'T
KNOW HOW TO DESCRIBE IT
EXCEPT I'VE NOTICED -- I SAID
TO CHRIS THIS YEAR, I SAID,
YOU KNOW, NOW WE'RE REALLY
GETTING INTO THE WORK.
EVEN JUST NOW.
EVEN THOUGH WE ALWAYS HAVE.
OR MAYBE IT'S JUST ME
THAT'S NOTICING IT.
BUT CHRIS HAS A KNACK FOR
REINVENTING, SOMEHOW, OUR
COMPANY'S AIMS SO THAT WE
ALWAYS SEEM TO BE STRIVING FOR
SOMETHING THAT DOES NOT
ALLOW US TO BE COMPLACENT.
AND I SO ENJOY THAT.
AND I ALWAYS ENJOY THE CURVE
BALLS THAT HE THROWS US
AS OUR BOSS.

Richard says WELL, CURVE BALLS, I CAN'T
THINK OF ANOTHER ACTRESS IN
THE ENGLISH-SPEAKING THEATRE I
CAN TALK TO WHO, IN THE SPACE
OF A VERY SHORT CAREER, HAS
PLAYED THE TITLE ROLES IN
SAINT JOAN
AND Mrs.
WARREN'S PROFESSION.
I MEAN, USUALLY, LET'S BE
HONEST, Mrs. WARREN WHICH IS
WHAT YOU'VE BEEN PLAYING THIS
PREVIOUS SUMMER AT THE SHAW
FESTIVAL, IS THE KIND OF ROLE,
I REMEMBER SEEING RUTH GORDON
PLAY IT.

Nora says REALLY?

Richard says IN NEW YORK.
I REMEMBER SOME OF OUR MORE
VENERABLE ACTRESSES PLAYING IT.
KATE REID,
JOAN ORENSTEIN.
SUDDENLY, YOU GET
ASKED TO DO IT.
WHEN YOU GOT THE PHONE
CALL, ASKING YOU TO PLAY
Mrs. WARREN, DID YOU THINK,
OH, GOD, DO I LOOK THAT OLD?
OR DID YOU THINK, WHAT
DO YOU HAVE IN MIND?

Nora says I THOUGHT THEY WERE
CASTING ME AS VIVI.

Richard says REALLY?

Nora says NO, I REALLY DIDN'T.
YOU KNOW, IT'S ONE OF THOSE
THINGS THAT I GUESS I'M LUCKY
THAT I CARRY ENOUGH,
FIGURATIVELY, WEIGHT, THAT IN
THAT PERIOD OF ACTOR'S LIVES,
NOW THOSE OF US BABY BOOMERS,
PEOPLE ARE WRITING
PLAYS FOR WOMEN OUR AGE.
BUT 15, 20 YEARS AGO, YOU HIT
35 AND YOU STOPPED, REALLY,
UNTIL YOU WERE MAYBE 50 OR SO.
I MEAN, THERE JUST WAS
NOT MUCH IN BETWEEN.
I KNOW MANY ACTRESSES,
I'M GOING TO SAY THE
NON-POLITICALLY
CORRECT TO DELINEATE.

Richard says TO SAY ACTRESS, YES.

Nora says TO SAY ACTRESS
INSTEAD OF ACTOR.
MANY ACTRESS FRIENDS OF MINE
WHO WERE OLDER THAN I WAS WHO
WOULD JUST SAY, WAIT
'TIL YOU HIT 39, BOY.
AND I USED TO GO,
BUT I SING AND DANCE.
I'LL ALWAYS HAVE
THAT LITTLE THING.
BUT, NONETHELESS, I CONSIDER
MYSELF FORTUNATE IN THAT I WAS
SHOCKED TO BE OFFERED MARTHA.
I WAS OFFERED MARTHA TWO YEARS
BEFORE I WAS ASKED TO PLAY IT.
AND I SAID, THIS ROLE IS
52, I MEAN, ARE YOU NUTS?
BUT THEN I STARTED THINKING,
WELL, HELL, I COULD PLAY THIS
FOR THE NEXT TEN YEARS.
IF PEOPLE ARE SEEING ME HERE
NOW AT LEAST I'M DOING THESE
HUGE ROLES, AND I'M
GOING OFF TO PLAY DOLLY.
FROM OUR MUTUAL
FRIEND, BRUCE KELLETT,
HE SAID, MARTHA, Mrs.
WARREN, AND HELLO DOLLY,
IN ONE YEAR, I FIND THAT
TO BE EXTRAORDINARY.

Richard says HERE YOU ARE AT SHAW, AND YOU
THINK, GREAT, I'M GOING TO DO
Mrs. WARREN, THIS GREAT PART.
BUT YOU SHOW UP AT REHEARSAL,
AND IT WINDS UP BEING
A SEMIMUSICAL.

Nora says WELL, YES.
I MEAN, WHICH IS SOMETHING
QUITE, TO BE SAID FOR OUR
DIRECTOR, TADEUSZ BOROWSKI,
FROM POLAND.
HE WAS VERY SNEAKY.
HE DIDN'T KNOW ME.
AND HE DIDN'T KNOW MANY
OF THE PEOPLE IN THE CAST.
BUT HE HAD AN IDEA, AND WHAT
HIS IDEA WAS WAS TO BRING THE
PLAY OUT INTO THE FOREFRONT,
TO BRING IT INTO TODAY.
SO HE SAID TO DO THAT,
ORIGINALLY, THE CHARACTER THAT
BEN CARLSON PLAYS WAS GOING
TO SING TO THE AUDIENCE, AND
THERE WERE GOING TO BE FRAMES
THAT CONNECT THE AUDIENCE, TO
MAKE IT VERY MUCH A THEATRE.
YOU KNOW YOU'RE IN A THEATRE.
HE WOULD, TADEUSZ, HE WOULD
SIT IN REHEARSAL, AND HE
STARTED TO WATCH THE ACTORS.
AND HE WAS SO AMAZED THAT WE
ALL JUST CAME IN AND LAUNCHED
RIGHT INTO IT.
HE SAID AT THE END OF THE
FIRST WEEK, WHAT WILL WE DO?
HOW WILL WE DO?
THIS IS ALREADY DONE.
IT'S FINISHED, YOU'RE
PERFECT, YOU KNOW?
WE FOUND WE HAD A LOT TO
DO, BUT HE WOULD SAY, NORA,
I NOTICE THIS THEY THINK THAT
YOU ALWAYS ARE MUNCHING THESE
CARROTS, AND YOU TAP DANCE
WHEN YOU ARE WAITING.
WHY DON'T YOU MAYBE COME IN
WITH THIS MUNCHING AND MOVING?
AND I GO, WELL, OKAY.
AND WHAT HAPPENED DURING THE
COURSE OF THE PRODUCTION WAS,
WHICH I WOULD DO ANYWAY AS AN
ACTOR, WHICH WOULD BE TO FIND
OUT WHERE THE CHARACTER FITS
WITHIN MY OWN EXPERIENCE,
BUT WHAT TADEUSZ VERY SNEAKILY
DID, I THINK, WAS HE USED WHAT
WAS VERY COMFORTABLE AND
NATURAL FOR US, WHY DON'T YOU
HUM A LITTLE SONG HERE.
WHY DON'T YOU MOVE THAT THING
YOU DO THAT MAKES YOU, WHEN
YOU ARE FRUSTRATED, WHY
DON'T YOU JUST DO THAT?
SO WE'RE VERY COMFORTABLE,
EACH OF US, ACTORS, IN THIS
PRODUCTION, IN OUR OWN SKINS,
AND LITERALLY REVEALING MUCH
MORE THAN WE WOULD
NORMALLY EVER REVEAL.
ESPECIALLY IN A SHAW PLAY.

Richard says SO, NORA, A WONDERFUL
FULFILLING EXPERIENCE DOING
Mrs. WARREN'S PROFESSION.
A WINTER UP AHEAD PLAYING,
OF ALL THINGS, DOLLY LEVI IN
EDMONTON, BUT WHAT DO YOU
THINK THE FUTURE IS GOING TO
HOLD IN STORE FOR YOU?

Nora says I HAVE NO IDEA.

Richard says DOES THAT SCARE YOU?

Nora says YES, IT DOES, ACTUALLY.
FOR THE FIRST TIME IN MY LIFE
BECAUSE OF THE STATE OF THE
ARTS, MY FRIEND, AS WE KNOW.
AND I NOW HAVE A WONDERFUL
RELATIONSHIP, AND A HOME IN
NIAGARA-ON-THE-LAKE, SO I'M
HOPING TO JUST CONTINUE DOING --
I'VE BEEN SO FORTUNATE IN
THE LAST FEW YEARS TO JUST
HAVE FINALLY CLICKED INTO
WHAT LIFE IS ABOUT,
AND IT'S REFLECTING,
I THINK, IN MY WORK.
AND I AM HOPING AND PRAYING
THAT THAT CONTINUES.
I'D LIKE TO DO SOME MORE FILM
AND TELEVISION BECAUSE I'M
NEVER AVAILABLE, WHICH IS A
LOVELY THING TO BE ABLE TO
SAY, BUT AT SOME POINT, I WOULD
LIKE TO TRY MY HAND AT THAT.

Richard says WHAT ABOUT THE YOUNG GIRL WHO
YEARS AND YEARS AGO DECIDED
THAT SHE WANTED TO BE ON THE
STAGE BECAUSE SHE WANTED
A LOT OF PEOPLE TO LOVE HER
MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE.
WHY DOES SHE STILL WANT
TO BE ON THE STAGE?

Nora says BECAUSE I'M AN ACTOR.
I THINK IT'S BECAUSE THAT'S
THE ONLY THING I WAS PUT ON
THE PLANET TO DO, AND IT'S
THE ONLY THING I WANT TO DO.
IN SOME FORM OF ANOTHER.
AND I JUST WANT TO TRY
TO MAKE THAT BETTER.
IT'S A GREAT THING
TO REALIZE THAT.
I'M AN ACTOR.
THAT NOW I KNOW.
I'M NOT JUST A PERFORMER,
I'M NOT JUST SOME KID
THAT WANTS YOUR APPROVAL.
THOUGH APPROVAL IS A
LOVELY THING TO HAVE.
I'LL GIVE MYSELF
MY OWN APPROVAL.
AND I'LL JUST WORK
AT BEING AN ACTOR.
AND LUCKILY, HERE, AND IN
PLACES ACROSS THE COUNTRY,
I CAN STILL DO THAT.

Richard says AND I LOOK FORWARD TO SEEING
YOU MANY, MANY, MORE TIMES
ON THE STAGE.

Nora says THANKS, RICHARD.

Richard says NORA, THANKS A LOT.

He faces the screen and concludes
FOR
DIALOGUE, I'M
RICHARD OUZOUNIAN.
GOOD-BYE FOR NOW.

Music plays as the end slate reads “Dialogue.”

A production of TVOntario. Copyright 1997, The Ontario Educational Communications Authority.

Watch: Nora McLellan