Deep in the Library Stacks, Just Around the Cornell

PlayBlog   Deep in the Library Stacks, Just Around the Cornell
The cast of The Grand Manner, bowing June 27 at the Mitzi E. Newhouse, took a day-long field trip — next door — to the New York Public Library of the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center and did a deep-dish atmosphere soak in The Katharine Cornell-Guthrie McClintic Special Collections Reading Room.

Kate Burton plays Cornell, Boyd Gaines is Dr. McClintic and, for added spice, there is Brenda Wehle as her general manager, confidant and lover, Gert Macy. Completing the cast's quartet is Bobby Steggert, who plays a fictional teenage facsimile of the play's author, A. R. Gurney, Jr. It was Gurney's brief backstage brush with the great actress after a Broadway performance of Antony and Cleopatra in 1948 which provided the dramatic launching pad for this little what-if fantasy riff.

"It was amazing to learn about them," admitted Steggert. "We went through letters and opening-night telegrams from Gielgud and the reviews of Antony and Cleopatra. All of it was very, very helpful. This play is an homage to the theatre."

Steggert is luckier than the rest in that he has the real, live Gurney right there in the rehearsal room to study for his performance — "not his mannerisms so much but definitely his character traits. I've been observing the way he communicates with people, how his particular sense of humor, the way his intelligence sorta pops out and what he finds fascinating — it's been a wonderful gift to have him there."

— Harry Haun

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