Jennifer Westfeldt Talks Traveling the Globe and Navigating a Man's World in The Explorers Club

By Carey Purcell
19 Jun 2013

Westfeldt in The Explorers Club.
Photo by Joan Marcus

"I would get fixated on all of these examples around me. When an idea or trend or a pattern I'm seeing in my world, in my friend group, keeps bubbling up, and I can't stop thinking about it, I feel like I have to find some artistic way to document it," she said, referring to her three films as "my artistic attempt to make sense of what I was watching around me."

Some of what has happened around Westfeldt, and a change she hopes will continue to happen, is an increased number of women in leadership roles in the arts. A 2008-09 survey of New York's larger nonprofit theatres indicated that they produced four plays by male writers for every one by a woman, and Pam MacKinnon and Diane Paulus' recent wins at the Tony Awards marked only the second time two women had taken home the awards for Best Direction of a Play and Musical.

"I think it's happening in theatre as well as film; I think we're hopefully going to see more and more directors," Westfeldt said. "I think women can do anything, and that's being proven again and again."

Ironically, when Westfeldt first read the script for The Explorers Club, she didn't realize it was written by a woman. Benjamin, who received a Master's degree in women's studies from Trinity College, University of Dublin, has also worked on musical adaptations of female-focused books like "Sarah, Plain and Tall" and "Because of Winn-Dixie."

"I just assumed it was written by an old British man," Westfeldt said. "I looked at the title page and thought, 'Neil Bejamin,' and I pictured some 65-year-old man writing in his smoking jacket. Then when I found out it was this young American woman who had written this, I was so impressed…I always love to find work that's also about something or trying to be about something, and I think this certainly is trying to lampoon and shine a light on bias."

Finding work that addresses important themes is crucial to Westfeldt, who said she feels restless if she goes for a long period of time without performing onstage. She mentioned The Baker's Wife in Into the Woods, Anna in The King and I, Amalia in She Loves Me, as well as Hermione in The Winter's Tale as some roles she would like to play in the future.