Zoe Kazan on "Lean In," Doing Improv With Daniel Radcliffe and Being Swept Away By Sarah Treem

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27 Jun 2014

Zoe Kazan in <i>When We Were Young And Unafraid</i>
Zoe Kazan in When We Were Young And Unafraid
Photo by Joan Marcus

Writer and actress Zoe Kazan sits down with Playbill.com to discuss theatre, film and feminism. 


"You want to get the guy, you've got to act like the girl."

Those are surprising words to hear from Zoe Kazan, the outspoken actress and writer who is currently starring in the new play When We Were Young and Unafraid.

Written by Sarah Treem and directed by Pam MacKinnon, the world-premiere production is set in a shelter for women on the run from abusive husbands and follows a group of women who each possess very different notions of what it means to be female at a turbulent time in history.

Kazan plays Mary Anne, a young wife who, following a brutal attack from her husband, arrives at the shelter run by Agnes, who is played by Cherry Jones. She quickly influences Agnes' daughter Penny (Morgan Saylor), a teenager who excels in the classroom but does not have a prom date. Mary Anne steps in to help, and during a late-night talk with Penny she advises her to stop answering every question in class, ask the boy she likea for help and "act like the girl. Right now you're acting like the guy."

The situation is a familiar one to Kazan, who recalled her own experiences of being lonely while attending high school. "All the stuff about, 'Why can't I raise my hand if I know the answer?' was very much my struggle," Kazan said. "Especially as I started to want a boyfriend and want to be a regular teenager. I felt so set apart by the schools I was applying to for college and knowing the answer in class. I remember sitting in English class, being like, 'Someone else, please raise your hand,' and feeling so lonely.

"And then my senior year, I was like, 'I'm not going to do this anymore,' and I stopped raising my hand," Kazan continued. "I would raise my hand every fifth question instead of every question. And it worked. I got a boyfriend. People started being nice to me. I dumbed myself down and didn't tell people where I'd gotten into school. There's a way in which I really went through that and came out the other end of it like, 'That f*cking sucked. That's not the answer either.' That conundrum that [Penny is] in, of feeling so identified by her mother but needing to break away, and feeling so lonely and wanting to be liked but not knowing how to do that without losing herself — I really self-identify. It's really interesting to be in the position of being the other person in that scene and giving the advice."


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