“Today is a new feeling,” explains Hannah Dunne, star of 59E59 Theaters’ stage production of Terms of Endearment. “Today is our first day moving into the theatre so I still have yet to try on all of my costumes and be on the stage,” she says. She is clutching a large black binder and fiddling with a literal pair of rose-colored sunglasses. She laughs as she tries to shake off some pre-tech week nerves. “I’m trying to remember to breathe…just trying to forget that it’s a play and [pretending that it’s in] my living room.”
Terms of Endearment follows the tumultuous relationship between headstrong Emma Horton and her overbearing mother, Aurora Greenway. Dunne, whose break out moment came playing hipster Lizzie Campbell on the Amazon series Mozart in the Jungle, makes her professional stage debut as Emma, a role originated on screen by Debra Winger—opposite Shirley MacLaine—in the 1983 Oscar-wnning film of the same name. Molly Ringwald plays the Aurora to her Emma, an experience Dunne can only describe as “totally dreamy.”
“I really feel like she’s taken me under her wing,” she explains. “I’m so green and she’s teaching me so much about being a theatre actor with all of the experience that she’s had. I’ve been looking up to her a lot throughout this experience. She’s so maternal.”
As mother-daughter relationships go, Dunne admits to a rebellious phase during her teenage years with her mother, actor Carey Lowell (most known for her regular role on Law & Order). “I definitely did the whole teenage rebuttal thing—got sent to boarding school and all that jazz—so I know what it’s like in a mother-daughter battle. It’s a game I’m well versed in,” she laughs.
But Dunne and her character share more than teenage antagonism. “I feel like I’ve always been really fiercely independent and a little headstrong, so I’ve been trying to remind myself that I know Emma,” she says. “She’s fiercely present in any given moment, and she’s constantly evolving herself. I have a lot of people in my life that make me laugh a lot and that feels very rooted in the present moment. I’ve felt what Emma feels, and I’m trying to really believe myself to be her.”
Dunne says that she hopes audiences will leave the play with a desire to be more present in their own lives and the lives of those they love. “This a story about a bunch of people who love each other so, so much and they do say it sometimes, but there are also a lot of missed opportunities to reaffirm that,” she says. “Turn to the person [you] really love and say, ‘F*ck. I love you. I’m so happy I’m saying it.’”
Terms of Endearment begins performances at 59E59 Theaters October 29 and runs through December 11. For tickets and information, visit 59e59.org.
Joe Gambino is a writer, designer, performer, and Hamilton lottery loser who lives in New York. Follow him on Twitter @_joegambino_.