Onstage & Backstage: How Did Katie Finneran Accidentally Insult Edward Albee — While Auditioning For His Play?

Seth Rudetsky   Onstage & Backstage: How Did Katie Finneran Accidentally Insult Edward Albee — While Auditioning For His Play?
A week in the life of actor, radio and TV host, music director and writer Seth Rudetsky.
Katie Finneran
Katie Finneran

I'm at New World Stages rehearsing for our one-night Actors Fund benefit of Disaster!. It's so fun to do this show again! Kevin Chamberlin flew in from L.A. to reprise his role as Maury, and I love the fact that we both have the same first name. Yes! His middle name is Kevin but his first name is Seth. Why did it change? Because when he was a kid, he had a terrible lisp. "Seth" is the worst name to have when you pronounce your S's like "th" because it's literally "Theth." Cut to, at eight years old, he officially began to be called Kevin. He can pronounce his S's now, but I'm glad he hasn't gone back to Seth. I want to leave a note backstage saying there's only room for one Seth in this show, which is a tip o' the hat to Patti LuPone in the 80's. Remember? She was doing Anything Goes and Madonna was doing Speed-The-Plow and Patti left a note saying ''Mrs. LuPone wishes to inform the management that only one Sicilian diva at a time is allowed in this theater." It's true! Look. Back to Disaster. We're almost sold out so get thee here for tix!

Kerry Butler and Rachel York are both rehearsing other shows at the same time, and I can't believe their stamina level, especially with Daylight Savings Time! Sunday is their only day off from their other shows and we had a 10 AM Disaster! rehearsal that day, meaning it began at 9 AM. I remember hating Daylight Savings Time as a kid because I'd always be crazily tired and the only way I could cheer myself up was to remind myself that it happens near the spring, which meant the school year is almost over. Speaking of the school year, NYC 8th grade kids just went through the horrific stress of applying to high schools. Unlike every other place in the country where you go to the local public high school, kids in New York have to apply to high school. And if you want to go to a specialty high school (music, art, theatre, etc.), you have to audition. It's exactly like college auditions but the schools look at your grades from 7th grade. Who the hell is thinking about grades in 7th grade? They also judge you on your tardies and absences. Let me say that if I lived in New York City as a kid, there's no way I would have gotten into any good high school because my grades tanked from 6th grade on, and if I was even a little bit sick, my mother would insist I stay home from school for at least three days. Seriously! And if it snowed at all, she'd insist I'd stay home claiming, "None of the teachers will be showing up!" Really?

The good news is, Juli applied to eight high schools and her number one choice was a high school dedicated to art…and she got in! Yay! The stress is finally over! Because parents never have stress from a girl in high school…right? Anybody? Nobody. It really is a coup for Juli because she's dyslexic and reading has always been difficult for her. My mother-in-law, who happens to be a dyslexia specialist, tutored her and got her on grade level so we were able to take her out of a special school and put her into regular public school! Speaking of dyslexia, I interviewed two-time Tony Award winner Katie Finneran at my "Chatterbox" this week and she has dyslexia. As a matter of fact, she never read a book till she was 19 years old. Sadly, dyslexia is rarely diagnosed in children even though it's not hard to do. Kids are usually thought of as stupid or lazy and they learn amazing coping skills; Katie remembers being in elementary school when everyone in her class had to describe a chapter in a book they were all reading. When the teacher called on Katie to describe chapter four, she didn't tell the teacher she couldn't read it. Instead, she gave incredible details as to what happened. Those details, however, were completely made-up. How did Katie think she'd get away with lying about an entire chapter considering she knew the teacher had read the book? Well, Katie thought she could convince everyone that the book she had was different from everyone else's. Yes, Katie claimed she happened to have the one book that the factory misprinted with a completely different chapter four. Brava on the creativity!

Katie told my "Chatterbox" audience one of my favorite horrible audition stories; A few years ago she had an audition for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee, being directed by…Edward Albee! She had just come back from living on the west coast and when Katie came into the audition room, the casting director asked, "So, what did you think of L.A.?" Katie told her, "Well, quite frankly, I didn't like it. It didn't make me feel good. It's just not for me." Suddenly, Edward Albee looked up and asked, bizarrely, "Then why are you here?" Katie didn't know how to answer so she told him she was here to audition. "But if those are your feelings," he continued, irritated, "what are you doing here?" She again told him she was auditioning for the play. Finally, after more and more awkward back-and-forth, she realized that when the casting person asked, "What did you think of L.A.?" Edward thought she had asked, "What did you think of the play?" Can you imagine? An actress brazenly telling the playwright how bad his play is right before her audition? It all got cleared up…and she didn't get a callback.

Kate Baldwin and Conor Ryan
Kate Baldwin and Conor Ryan Photo by Carol Rosegg

On SiriusXM, I had Andrew Lippa with Kate Baldwin and Conor Ryan the two current stars from the revival production of John and Jen. Conor remembered his worst recent audition which was for Wicked. He had to read a scene between Fiyero and Elphaba and he hadn't seen the show in a while so he wasn't familiar with exactly what happens in the scene. There's one moment with they both touch and the stage directions say that a spark passes between them. It basically foreshadows that there's romance between them later on, but Conor thought the spark referred to her magical powers. So, when the Elphaba gently touched him during the audition, he frantically shook and jolted like he had just been electrocuted. He did not get the note. And on that depressing note, peace out!

(Seth Rudetsky is the afternoon Broadway host on SiriusXM. He has played piano for over 15 Broadway shows, was Grammy-nominated for his concert CD of Hair and Emmy-nominated for being a comedy writer on "The Rosie O'Donnell Show." He has written two novels, "Broadway Nights" and "My Awesome/Awful Popularity Plan," which are also available at Audible.com. He recently launched SethTV.com, where you can contact him and view all of his videos and his sassy new reality show.)

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