Where The Spirit Moves Her
By Justin Ravitz
Best known for her iconoclastic, Tony-winning turn as Little Edie Beale in Grey Gardens, Christine Ebersole has been twinkling and zinging on Broadway, the cabaret circuit, film and TV (including an early �80s SNL stint and the upcoming USA show Royal Pains) for over 30 years. Channeling the lemony silly-sexiness of Carole Lombard, the actress-singer is currently on Broadway in a non-musical capacity in a delightfully carbonated revival of Noel Coward�s comedy Blithe Spirit. As Elvira, the deceased, vixenish first wife of Charles (Rupert Everett) whose ghost is summoned by a medium (Angela Lansbury) during a dinner-party seance, Ebersole floats, flits and chirps across the stage, Coward�s cunning wit humming through her. Out phoned Ebersole recently, and though she was quick with an infectious laugh, the conversation got shockingly serious on matters both spiritual and political.
Out:Is performing in a play less draining than a musical?
Christine Ebersole: It�s like a walk in the park. It�s much, much harder [in musicals]. The voice is a muscle. When you�re tired or stressed that�s the first thing to go. This role is not emotionally taxing. I don�t come on stage for the first 25 minutes -- they just talk about me. So it�s easy!
Anything uniquely challenging about doing Noel Coward?
I do comedy just like music. It�s rhythm and notes that you hit; you�re just not singing. Sometimes you do end up singing; when you elongate a sound, that�s a note.
Are you superstitious? One to dabble in Ouija boards, s�ances, etc?
When I was a teenager, but I don�t do that now. My life is spiritually driven. The way I see it, we are spiritual beings having a human experience, not the other way around. That�s our true form. It�s just that right now we�re in these bodies, this temporary housing.
What do you think of the non-musical adaptation of Grey Gardens with Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange, which debuts on HBO this month?
I was told that there was a lot of made up things that weren�t true. I don�t know because I haven�t seen it. But I think overall it�s great that they did it. I really admire both Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange as artists. It�s great that the world gets to know the Beales.
Do you feel possessive of Edie?
No. I feel very devoted and very loyal to the Edies, but I don�t own them. It was almost like she came into me and I went into her. We inhabited one another. I�m just forever grateful to her for that experience. Playing the role, the way I describe it, I was driving the bus but I wasn�t the only one on the bus.
You�ve got tons of gay fans, obviously --
I�m always working my gay icon status. [Laughs] The character of Edie was so important in the gay community. She�s been marginalized, a spiritual warrior not ashamed, afraid or apologetic about who she was. That�s why I�m very keyed into gay rights. It can be a leader, really, in the charge for personal freedom. We�re all challenged by that right now by the climate we live in, one that�s defined by economic slavery. We�re not free.