Today we’re playing an excerpt of Terry’s interview with Elaine Stritch, a performer lucky enough to have debuted songs by Noel Coward and Stephen Sondheim, and to have been coached by each of them. She died last Thursday at the age of 89.
Stritch used to describe herself as “a Catholic, diabetic, alcoholic, pain in the ass.” Her Broadway career began in 1946. She was Ethel Merman’s understudy in the Irving Berlin musical Call Me Madam in the early 50s, and starred in Noel Coward’s 1961 Broadway musical Sail Away, in a role that he expanded to suit her large talent. In 1970 she co-starred in the Sondheim musical Company, where she sang what became one of her signature songs, The Ladies Who Lunch. In 2002, she was on Broadway in her autobiographical one woman show Elaine Stritch At Liberty. In 2010, she replaced Angela Lansbury in Sondheim’s A Little Night Music. TV audiences knew her from 30 Rock playing Alec Baldwin’s mother.
Terry spoke with Stritch in 1999, when she was starring in a revival of Sail Away, in honor of Noel Coward’s centennial.
There is a loud drilling noise happening somewhere in this building right now, so one of the partners just emailed out this:
Due to limited coverage with our health plan, root canals are being provided this morning in the small conference room next to my office.”
— The Sister
"One of the magical things about theater is that it gathers a crowd of people in a quiet space, and each member of the audience gets to see how people respond differently to the different things being said on stage. The person next to you will laugh at something that you’d never think of laughing at, and you’ll get a glimpse into all the different ways of viewing the world. Unfortunately, so much theater today is less nuanced. It gives you a large dose of one way of thinking, in hopes of getting as many of the same type of people into the theater as possible."
“We were a two career family. I was a nuclear engineer. I designed shields for the fuel reactors on the first nuclear submarines. He was a carpenter.”
Seven of this year’s Forty Over 40 Women to Watch honorees share how innovation improves with age.
Red wine. Cheese. Innovation. Yes, these are all things that get better with age. Don’t believe it? Science offers some pretty compelling evidence that wunderkinds are the exception, rather than the rule.
One researcher found that Nobel Prize winners’ age around a significant breakthrough is about 38 (and not recognized until they’re 60) and another posits that a lifetime of learning leads to greater breakthroughs between ages 55-65. Data from the Kauffmann Foundation bears this out as findings indicate people over 55 are almost twice as likely to found successful companies than those between 20 and 34.
These statistics are seldom recognized, much less celebrated, in a youth obsessed culture, according to Whitney Johnson, author and cofounder of investment firm Rose Park Advisors. That’s why she and Christina Vuleta, founder of Women’s career advice forum 40:20 Vision, took matters into their own hands.
They started an initiative, dubbed Forty Over 40 in 2013 to change the idea that mid-life means you’re on the down side of over-the-hill. This year’s honorees range from 40 to over 60 and come from a variety of industries including the arts, law, retail, health care, and tech. Each has an impressive resume, not limited to an accumulation of greater titles and industry accolades.
As Johnson writes, “At age 40 we’re just getting to the best part. After spending years on the low end of the S-curve of experience, we are now ready to accelerate into a sweet spot of competence and contribution.”
With that in mind, we asked several of this year’s honorees to share their thoughts on aging, disruption, and transitions. Here’s what they told us.
John Lahr remembers Elaine Stritch: http://nyr.kr/1n27Wgg
“Onstage, she was all prowess; offstage, she was all panic. The lyric of a song, the stage directions of a script, gave her a sense of direction; onstage, and it seems to me only onstage, she could be free.”
Photograph: John W. Ferguson/Getty