The oldest profession

Here’s a trivia question for you.

What do Lynn Redgrave and Amanda Quaid have in common?

Lynn Redgrave, the award-winning actress who passed away in May, and Amanda Quaid, daughter of actor Randy Quaid and also a talented actress, both played Vivie Warren in the stage production of George Bernard Shaw’s Mrs. Warren’s Profession.

Why am I telling you this?  For several reasons that I hope you find as interesting as I do.  If not, come back tomorrow when we’ll be talking about the Fourth of July.

In 1976, my godparents flew me up to New York to see Mrs. Warren’s Profession.  It was an enormous thrill to take the shuttle up by myself, go to Lincoln Center, see this an outstanding play with my aunt, uncle and cousin, and then have dinner in the city.

The play starred Ruth Gordon as Mrs. Warren and Lynn Redgrave as her daughter, Vivie.

The night before last, a friend was kind enough to take me to see the Shakespeare Theatre Company perform Mrs. Warren’s Profession in Washington, D.C.   It starred Elizabeth Ashley as Mrs. Warren and Amanda Quaid as Vivie.  And, of course, some notably accomplished male actors, including Ted van Griethuysen, Andrew Boyer, Tony Roach and David Sabin (and may I just say that Sabin was brilliant?).

For those not familiar with the play, which was written in the late 19th century, it is a comedy about a young woman who learns that her privileged upbringing was made possible by her mother’s profitable career as an owner and manager of brothels around Europe.   I’d love to get my hands on the script.  It’s hilarious.

It has been written that the character of Vivie, who at a young age had already begun a career in the business world, was known as the “New Woman” when the play was written in 1893.  In fact, the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s literary associate Akiva Fox notes that “Shaw called Mrs. Warren’s Profession his ‘play for women.’”

Shortly after the play was first performed in London in 1894 (two years before Ruth Gordon was born, by the way), it was censored for dealing with the subject of prostitution.  These days that’s hard to imagine.

Lynn Redgrave, who played Vivie in 1976, had just starred in the movie The Happy Hooker the year before.

As for Ruth Gordon, prior to Mrs. Warren, perhaps her best known role had been Maude in Harold and Maude, which dealt with the oddest of male-female relationships, between an 80-year-old woman and a 19-year-old boy.

I am not connecting any dots here and there are many degrees of separation from Kevin Bacon.  Just some things I found interesting, that’s all.

1 Comment

Filed under Family and Friends, Theater

One response to “The oldest profession

  1. Alyson

    Ruth Gordon is my role model. I liked her in “Harold and Maude” and “Rosemary’s Baby,” but there’s a special place in my heart for her work in “Where’s Poppa?” (“Look at that tush!”)

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