Award-winning actress Angela Lansbury addresses Theatre Arts students

It was the Department of Theatre Arts version of Inside the Actor’s Studio starring Angela Lansbury. The award-winning stage, film and television actress participated in a Q&A; with University of Miami Theater students on May 8 at the Jerry Herman Ring Theatre.
Lansbury will receive an honorary PhD from the College of Arts & Science on May 9.
Best known for her award-winning turn in the musical Mame and as the mystery-solving author Jessica Fletcher in the TV series Murder, She Wrote, Lansbury, 82, has a special tie to the University.

In 1966, she dazzled Broadway as the madcap heroine of Mame. The hit musical featured music and lyrics by legendary University of Miami alumnus Jerry Herman. It ran for more than 1,500 performances and earned Lansbury her first Tony Award for best leading actress in a musical. Three more Tony’s would follow.

During the Q&A;, the graceful and witty Lansbury encouraged the next generation of actors.

“I am so choked up to experience this two hours before graduation,” said Alex Kaplan, 22, an acting major. “She is truly an inspiration to us all.”

Joining Lansbury on stage was UM visiting professor Barry Brown, a two-time Tony winning producer who cast the actress in the 1973 revival of Gypsy.
The two shared words of wisdom with their audience.

“You never know where you are going to learn things from, that’s why you always have to listen,” Lansbury said. “Use anything that will inspire you to be better. Don’t feel you’re copying, you are observing.”

Lansbury’s other Broadway roles include Mrs. Lovett in the 1979 production of Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd. Throughout her career in musical theatre, she also continued to act in dramas by playwrights ranging from William Shakespeare to Edward Albee.

“She is so elegant and brilliant,” said Samantha Pazos, 20, a Theater major. “I connected with her. She took away some of the fears I had about acting.”
Lansbury spoke about professionalism in Theater, preparing for a role, her inspirations and balancing work and family. She left the students with a profound message:
“Believe in yourself and your own ability to bring it all,” Lansbury said. “Entertaining an audience is such an incredible gift. To entertain them and lighten their load in the course of an evening, that’s a huge responsibility.”

May 9, 2008