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A Drama Queen and Her Princess

Marian Seldes meets Lily Rabe.

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Marian Seldes, who won this year’s Lifetime Achievement Tony, grew up watching plays with her theater-critic father and cut her teeth opposite the legendary John Gielgud, in her 1947 Broadway debut. Lily Rabe, who is the daughter of playwright David Rabe and actress Jill Clayburgh, lost her first tooth during a Broadway version of The Grapes of Wrath, at the tender age of 7, and held her own against a legend of another sort—notorious scene chomper Al Pacino—this past summer, in Shakespeare in the Park’s Merchant of Venice (coming to Broadway next month). Rabe admits to nostalgia for Seldes’s heyday—“I wish people would dress up to go to the theater”—but Seldes insists the Golden Age is here and now. “The standards of Broadway are terribly high these days.” And she should know: At 82, Seldes continues to work and sees almost everything on Broadway, including several of Rabe’s roles. “I admire her enormously. She doesn’t play the part you’ve seen before.” Rabe has been on Broadway three times, but it was her poised, vibrant Portia that singled her out as a star headed for the pantheon of American theater. “Doing plays in New York is like being home,” says Rabe. “No matter what happens in my life, I will always want to come home.”


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