Laura Linney: “The thing that makes the theater different from any other art form: it’s time”

Actress Laura Linney

Many moviegoers and television viewers bemoan the idea of remaking classic films and television series — just look at the furor over last summer’s Ghostbusters reboot, for example. Yet when it comes to theater, you will rarely hear theatergoers complain about a revival of an all-time classic play or musical. Why not? During a Hollywood Reporter roundtable for Tony Award-nominated actresses, Laura Linney — who is nominated for (and currently starring in) the revival of The Little Foxes, the fourth Broadway revival of the 1939 play — cast some light on why revivals in theater are looked at differently than their television and film counterparts. Linney explains:

It’s the thing that makes the theater different from any other art form: it’s time. That ingredient is something you can’t force, you can’t generate. It’s just the benefit of earning the time of doing it over and over and over and over again. If you see a show for opening night and then you see it a month later and a month after that and a month after that, you’re gonna have completely different experiences. It’s like a family that knows each other decade after decade after decade — just your relationship to the table that you sit at, your intimacy with the thoughts behind the words, your knowing the person who you’re working with. It’s what I love about the theater more than anything. I know that I’m not gonna really know this play until months after we open — really know it. It’s almost like a Chinese puzzle. You get to a point where time allows it to crack open and then there another set of problems and then you solve that set of problems and then something else cracks open and then there’s something else. It’s the joy of a long run. A lot of people will ask, “How do you do it over and over and over and over again?” What I don’t think people experience is how it just keeps unfolding onto itself — if it’s well-written. And to see the chemistry and the alchemy of a particular cast together on a particular set with the lights in that particular house, it’s really — it’s heaven when you get to experience it.

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