Take Five: Five questions with Karen Allen


In her new film, "A Year By the Sea," based on the novel by Joan Anderson, actress Karen Allen, who makes her home in south Berkshire County, Mass., plays an empty-nester who embarks on a journey of self-discovery while at Cape Cod. The film is being shown 12:30 p.m. Saturday at Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center in Great Barrington, Mass. Allen, along with the director, writer and other members of the cast, will be on hand for the screening and a post-screening discussion with the audience. We had a few questions for her beforehand:

1. Q.: What attracted you to 'A Year By the Sea?'

A.: I was attracted to "A Year By the Sea" based first on reading the film script that was sent to me by the director, Alexander Janko. I then got a copy of Joan Anderson's book and read it. I had not been familiar with her book. I found it very moving and honest and compelling. I feel that her experiences are also those of many women of many different generations who have at times put their work and independent lives on a back burner to raise their children and be the support system for their families. When their children have grown and go off into the world, it's not uncommon to feel a deep sense of loss and a lack of clarity about how to move forward in life. For Joan Anderson, it presented an opportunity to reexamine and rediscover things about herself.

2. Q.: What were the challenges for you in making this film and how did you relieve the pressures?

A.: Because I was in almost every scene in the film it was very demanding. We had a short shooting schedule and that too presented many challenges for us all. I prepared as well as I could in the time before we began to shoot. That helped to relieve some of the pressure.

3. Q.: What would your ideal day off be?

A.: My idea of a great day off is to stay home and do a few of the things I feel as though I never have time to do. The idea usually being to just let myself be totally guided by spontaneity and not make any plans at all.

4. Q.: What makes you laugh?

A.: My son's delightful sense of humor and fun. Bill Maher. My girlfriends.

5. Q.: Looking back on the work you've done as an actress and director, is there any one project, any one role, you particularly cherish and why?

A.: Playing Laura in "The Glass Menagerie" both on stage, directed by Nikos Psacharopoulos, and in the film version that Paul Newman directed would have to be my most treasured experience. Tennessee Williams came to Williamstown [Mass.] to be with us for a week when we first worked on the play for "Tennessee Williams: A Celebration" and then the following year I was asked to do a production at Williamstown with Joanne Woodward, James Naughton and John Sayles as Tom. We then continued the play at the Long Wharf in New Haven [Conn.] and shot the film at Astoria Studios in N.Y. I adored working with Joanne and Jimmy Naughton and all three of our Toms (John Sayles, Treat Williams and John Malkovich). Working with Paul Newman was an actor's dream. Tony Walton did the costumes and the set. We were in competition at the Cannes Film Festival and that was quite an extraordinary event. Very special.


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