Q&A: Tovah Feldshuh, of ‘The Walking Dead,’ ‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’ fame, discusses aging and cabaret
Tovah Feldshuh may not completely own up to her “legend” status, but take one look at her impressive artistic CV and you may think otherwise.
She’s starred most recently in hit shows like “The Walking Dead” (Why did Deanna Monroe have to die?) and “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” (Where’s the bathroom, anyone?), but her Broadway repertoire goes back decades with works like “Yentl,” “Sarava,” and “Lend Me a Tenor.” She originated the role of late Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir in “Golda’s Balcony,” the longest-running one-woman play on Broadway.
Now, she’s bringing her cabaret act to St. Louis on Oct. 28 and 29 in the Gaslight Theater’s Cabaret Festival. It is called “Aging is Optional (‘cause G-d I hope it is)”.
“One of the great things about growing older is that something of a red carpet goes down at a certain age: you get what is called ‘legend status,’” Feldshuh said. “Now, I’m not saying that Tovah Feldshuh is a legend but I’m saying that people tend to invest, tend to perceive your value as an artist after you’ve done it for decades, as being a treasure. People ask your advice.”
This is Feldshuh’s first performance with the Gaslight Cabaret Festival, but it is not her first experience in St. Louis: She once flew across the stage as Peter Pan in a 1978 Muny production when she was still in her 20s.
St. Louis on the Air contributor Steve Potter sat down with Feldshuh ahead of her appearance in St. Louis and picked her brain about her famous television roles, aging and what she’s learned after years in the business. Here’s what she said:
1. On the topic of ‘The Walking Dead’ … What is more intriguing or interesting to you: the living Deanna or the zombie Deanna?
“Give me any good role and I’m a happy girl,” Feldshuh said. “I think the most difficult thing in the filming was playing the walker, because I have no experience in that area, and I really wanted to study it and make it resonant and not some horror joke or idea of what it means to not have a soul and still have an animated body. It was a beautiful scene, a Greek scene, if you will.”
Feldshuh said that the set of “The Walking Dead” was one that took its work very seriously: it felt like shooting a feature film.
“They love what they’re doing, they commit to it completely and they’re the number one cable show in the world and they want to remain it,” Feldshuh said.
She attributed the show’s success to a storyline that is both well-crafted and humanity-based.
“We’re all going to die: that’s what we have in common,” Feldshuh said. “We’re all going to die. The series brings up the question: How do you want to live in that moment? Particularly if you are outnumbered by enemies 1000:1.”
2. This cabaret show you’re bringing to St. Louis is about aging: Did playing a zombie make you feel old?
“It didn’t make me feel old: I haven’t done much in this genre, so I really enjoyed playing the stateswoman,” Feldshuh said. “[Her character] went out like a samurai. I learned to shoot a gun. Playing a zombie didn’t make me feel old, it just made me sad. Nobody wants to leave 'The Walking Dead' and everyone that comes on the show has to die.”
3. Your show at the Gaslight Theater, it is called ‘Aging is Optional.’ Are you having an issue with aging?
“Well, the full title is ‘Aging is Optional (‘cause god I hope it is),’” Feldshuh said. “Some people call it decades, I call it my collected works. It is a piece that looks at dealing with the aging process in terms of quantum time, not linear time. You don’t measure your age by how old you are but rather how alive you feel. It calls upon early experiences in your life that were thrilling, wonderful and you go back to those experiences.”
4. Ogden Nash once said ‘you’re only young once, but you can stay immature forever … do you think that is a good philosophy?’
“I’ve climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, I went glacier climbing a few months ago, tracking gorillas … I do adventure travel because I still can,” Feldshuh said. “I’m not in a walker, I’m not in a wheelchair. I can still ambulate, I’m athletic. For the moment, everything is still full-tail boogie. I believe LWL: Live While Living. That’s what I do, that’s what I do with my life.”
5. You tie in a song from your run on ‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’ in your cabaret show, ‘Where’s the bathroom?’ How does it relate to your show?
“Doing the work you love keeps you young,” Feldshuh said. In my case, it is film, television and cabaret, above all. Sing and dance, count me in. … I relate the bathroom song to the aliveness of doing what you love to do. It seems to work out very well.”
6. Is there any good news about growing older? Is that part of the message you’ll share?
“There’s a dividend in the wisdom of age and a dividend if you have a loving family or a loving work family that keeps you centralized and not peripheralized in your pursuit of art, truth, industry, whatever you are doing,” Feldshuh said.
7. What advice do you have for someone who is aging?
“Happiness is a choice, choose it,” Feldshuh said.
What: Gaslight Cabaret Festival Presents Tovah Feldshuh
When: October 28 and 29 at 8:00 p.m.
Where: Gaslight Theater, 358 N. Boyle Ave., St. Louis, MO 63108
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