"I've had more people stop me on the street in a two-week period than probably in the last 25 years of my life in Chicago," says the Steppenwolf ensemble member, who is currently nominated for a 2008 Tony Award for her work in Letts' Pulitzer Prize-winning and Tony-nominated epic saga.
"I love that about New Yorkers," Reed continues. "I'll be riding the subway, and I hear someone passionately discussing this play, which is, to me, thrilling. New York is the ultimate, as far as anything goes."
Reed says that the challenge of her latest role is "realizing that it is a three-and-a-half-hour arc of a play. . . . You have to be ready to go from the time you hit the stage, and you have to play through, as they say in golf or tennis, and that's everybody's responsibility in the play."
As for a favorite moment, Reed pauses and laughs, "I sort of love to scream at the top of my lungs, 'It's my casserole!' That's the way I did it first day of rehearsal, and [director] Anna Shapiro said to me, 'You can never change that.' So I never really have. It's a great release."
Mattie Fae, Reed says, is an amalgam of several different people. "I've had so many people stop me and say, 'That's my Aunt So-and-So,' or 'Oh, my God, that's me,' or 'That's my mom's sister.' She's a woman that you see a lot that has a good heart but maybe not the best way of dealing with things. She's really an archetype in the American family. I wanted to make her real and human." Reed, who has watched the Tony Awards since she was a kid, attended the 1990 ceremony when Grapes of Wrath won the Best Play Tony Award. "We performed at the ceremony back in 1990," she remembers. "I was standing next to Tyne Daly and Len Cariou, and I just thought, 'Well, this is it. I've died and gone to heaven.' So I'm a big Broadway geek. I love every second of it."