Golden Child, which opened April 3, may represent Talia Shire's debut as a Broadway producer. But, as she entered the Longacre Theatre for the show's first preview in March, she said she enjoyed a kind of homecoming.
"There was magic," said the co-star of the Godfather and Rocky films, and sister of director Francis Ford Coppola. Shire's also the daughter of Carmine Coppola, who conducted Broadway musicals like New Faces of 1952, and, on the road, Kismet, Once Upon a Mattress and La Plume de Ma Tante in the 1950s and '60s, when Shire was growing up.
"I went on the road with my father," she said. "I was the little girl who'd sit in the pit half the time. I could tell you every move from Kismet. I formed a great love of theater."
Shire, who went on to a successful film career, said she was forced to reevaluate life when her husband, Jack Schwartzman, died in 1994. "When you lose somebody you love, you realize how precious memories are," Shire said. "Those times we went to the theatre to see a show live in my body today. There's something that just runs through you. It's very, very profound and important. Yes, its expensive. But just that act of a family going together is very special and stays with you your whole life. Also, there's something about the courage of those people getting up on a stage and dealing with those issues -- it's not a sound bite. It's from the heart and with great beauty."
She said all those feelings flooded back in March when her longtime friend, Benjamin Mordecai, sought her help on Golden Child, which had lost one of its major investors -- who pulled more than $400,000 out of the show just as it was about to start loading into the Longacre Theatre. David Henry Hwang's non-musical play tells the story of the momentous change that sweeps through the members of a Chinese family -- a father, his three wives, and his "golden child" daughter -- when they first come in contact with a Western missionary. It's based on stories Hwang's grandmother told him about his own family.
She said she is interested in eventually doing the piece as a film. Still $400,000 is a lot of "Yo, Adriennes." Why risk so much capital in such a chancy business as live theatre, which currently lacks video and other second-chance outlets to cushion a possible blow?
"I saw the piece at South Coast Rep [in CA] maybe a year ago, and I thought it was an excellent piece of material. It was solid, rich, and accessible , across the board to everybody. Also, it was always just taking off into real beauty with the language.
"The subject matter interested me. It's about love, sex, fidelity and coming into a new age. These are very interesting issues that we're dealing with, all of us across the board."
She said she was particularly touched by the drama's crux scene, in which the father makes a decision to unbind the feet of his daughter. "He wants her to go into the new age and not have that sort of mutilation. As he unbinds her feet, there is a scream of agony. It's very painful when he takes off the bandages. The metaphor here is that he's also unbinding his heart."
Shire has been doing some unbinding of her own. Since the 1980s, she's been moving into film producing and directing. For screen legend Roger Corman she directed Ally Sheedy in One Night Stand. With her late husband, she produced Rad and Lionheart.
Having now gotten a first taste of theatre producting, Shire said she'd like to do more. She said she's in early talks to produce a new musical of her own, though she would not disclose the title or other information. "Musicals are the most dangerous [investment] of all," she said.
It's not a new career, she said. "It's an expanding career."