It's Not A MIRACLE That Keeps Beth Grant Busy Acting - It's Her Hard Work & Big Heart That Does!

Those needing their Holiday fix of MIRACLE ON 34th STREET will have the opportunity to catch the presentation of its original 1947 radio play version at The Pasadena Playhouse (which just opened December 14, 2017). Cameron Watson directs this perennial holiday classic of Gimbels' Santa Claus featuring Alfred Molina, Peri Gilpin and Beth Grant, with Yvette Cason, Michael Chieffo, Larry Poindexter, Jim Rash and Cecelia Witt.
I had the most fortuitous chance to once again, a few weeks ago, interview the very lovely actress Beth Grant, (lovely in physicality and so lovely in heart). I have interviewed Beth many, many times in the past years while crossing paths with her at various charity events and hot-ticket shows.
Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Beth!
So what enticed you to mount the boards of The Pasadena Playhouse for MIRACLE ON 34th STREET?
Cameron Watson, Christmas, Peri Gilpin, Pasadena Playhouse, playing many different characters, always wanted to do a radio play, and like most people I know, love the story of hope and faith in MIRACLE ON 34th STREET. I could not say yes fast enough!
What do you remember of the movie Miracle on 34th Street the first time you saw it, (probably on TV at Christmastime)? Did it have any effect on you? Or were you too young?
I was a little girl in the South who wanted to be that little girl and live in New York and go to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade! The first time I went to Macy's after I moved to New York, it felt like I was dreaming. I couldn't believe you could actually buy things there! I got a Christmas job in the women's department at Gimbels and honestly, I thought it was just the greatest job ever.
This is the 70th anniversary of the original 1947 radio play. Are you doing the actual original radio script?
Yes, we are performing the actual radio play — with some special flourishes and some creative casting. We'll have some surprises for you!
Will you then be performing MIRACLE with minimal blocking, music stands and a foley artist?
I've heard we have a real foley artist (Jeff Gardner)! I believe Cameron Watson has created a special framing device that will delight the audience!
Not having seen the actual cast breakdown, who are you playing in MIRACLE?
Peri is Doris, the mother of the little girl, Susan. I'm playing all kinds of characters, which is thrilling. Immersing myself in different characters is sort of my “stock-in-trade” and my great joy. So this will be a challenge, but great fun for me.
How would you compare your MIRACLES characters to Grace of GRACE AND GLORIE (that you won an Ovation Award for) and to Willi of THE TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS OF A TRAILER TRASH HOUSEWIFE (that you also won an Ovation and other awards for)?
The role I always loved and couldn't wait to do is the mother of the boy who wants the fire engine, played by Thelma Ritter - in her very first film role! She's a true blue New Yorker! As is my husband (Michael Chieffo), so I better get that one right! But all of the characters I'm doing are fun and interesting, and none of them are like Willadean or Grace who were both country women, different type women, but both Southern. These characters are all New York City folk, not that they will all have New York accents, they are from very many walks of life. Still, there's not a country girl in the whole bunch!
Aside from the obvious financial compensation of the film and television mediums, what aspects of theatre vs. film vs. television do you most savor?
I love to be on stage more than anything! I love rehearsals, discovery, building the character, and practice, practice, practice! There is nothing like the communion with an audience. Every audience has its own personality! It's absolutely a spiritual experience. But I do love it all! I love movies, TV; and I've even been dabbling in Virtual Reality. I just love to create art., I just love to communicate!
Your acting dance card has been pretty full. Anybody in particular you haven't worked with, you'd still love to match wits with?
I would love to work with Annette Bening again. We did one movie— I got cut — but she is just the best. What a thrill that would be! I'd love to work onstage with my dear friend Frances Fisher. We created a web series together and really clicked. We've known each other almost our whole lives, so we are very free with each other. I'd love to work again with Octavia Spencer, Ahna O'Reilly. I'd love to work with all the greats! Allison Janney, Laurie Metcalf, Kate Winslet, Cate Blanchett, Tilda Swinton, George Clooney, Richard Jenkins. Oh, my goodness! The list goes on and on and on. I love actors and I love acting! Bring‘em on!
What role would you love to sink your teeth into on the theatrical boards?
Cameron and I have discussed THE GLASS MENAGERIE, done the way it was done originally with Laurette Taylor. My daughter (Mary Chieffo) is a Juilliard grad who is now the female Klingon commander on Star Trek: Discovery! She's not the usual casting for Laura, but she is so good in the role. With a Southern Belle grandmother, she really hears the music of the language as Tennessee wrote it. I'd love to do an Appalachian version of THE VISIT. I've workshopped it. It really works. It has a lot to say in today's world.
You've acted in both Los Angeles and New York theaters. If you close your eyes, describe how you could tell just by the verbal responses whether the audience were West Coast or East Coast?
West Coast audiences are very giving, enthusiastic, loving, and have a terrific sense of humor. New Yorkers are great too, but I do love L.A. I moved here so many years ago, thinking I would go back to New York. Then one day I woke up and said, “Who am I kidding? I'm happy here. I love it!"
In 1988, you were part of the Marshall W. Mason-directed production of Tennessee Williams' SUMMER AND SMOKE starring Christine Lahti and the late Christopher Reeves at the Ahmanson. Was this one of your first theatrical roles on Los Angeles stage?
Before that I was in PICNIC with Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gregory Harrison, Conchata Ferrell, Rue McClanahan, Michael Learned (what a cast!), which was also at the Ahmanson and also directed by Marshall Mason. I was very active in small theater as well, Ensemble Studio Theatre, when it was on Oxford where the Rogue Machine is now, and many other 99-seat theatres. When I first moved here from New York, I went right into a play, THE DEATH OF BESSIE SMITH at a small theatre on Western Avenue. I have always tried to say, "Yes!" to any theatre opportunity I can.
Any fond or fun memories you would share with us of that production of SUMMER AND SMOKE?
Chris had gone to Juilliard with my husband who was also in the play, so we hit the ground running with backstage antics. Someone made little stand-up paper dolls of all of us, and they decorated the backstage area. As Mrs. Bassett, I wore a “fat suit” and it was heavy! One night after a long week, my dresser was helping me put it on, and I ran amuck! I just ran up and down the halls like a big marshmallow! We shared many meals and many good times. Chris was a great Dr. John. We'll always cherish those memories and love him forever.
What changes for the better have you observed today in the Los Angeles theatre community from when you first step foot on the L.A. boards?
More and more theatres! More and more great companies! More original plays and musicals! More people going to the theatre.
What sage piece of advice did someone give you back when you started your acting career that you still religiously adhere to?
Always go back to the work. It's the work that counts. And my husband and I always comfort ourselves with “Slow and steady wins the race."
What words of wisdom would you impart on an acting neophyte with stars in their eyes?
Find a teacher and stick with a good one. Join a theatre group. Always have a project going... or two, or three. Stay busy. Don't complain. See how you can be of service, even to your agent! Agents need love too. It's a lot better to call with news of something you've got going on than just waiting for them to do everything! It's a partnership!
Thank you again, Ms. Grant! I look forward to seeing you light up The Pasadena Playhouse stage!
Thank you! Love you and see you SOON!!!
For available MIRACLE ON 34th STREET tickets and scheduling through December 23, 2017; log onto