NPR Interview with Jeremy Irons and Joan Allen of Impressionism

Allen and Irons

Scott Simon, Weekend Edition Host

Joan Allen and Jeremy Irons are from different theatrical traditions. Mr. Irons trained at the Old Vic and the Royal Shakespeare Company, performing the Bard’s works in the classical tradition and fencing in tights. Joan Allen is one of the founding players of Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theater, where the actors are told to dig deep, pull out their hearts, and fling them onstage.

The two are returning to Broadway, for the first time in many years, in a new play called “Impressionism.” Ms. Allen plays a gallery owner who cannot bear to sell what’s on her walls, because they remind her of stories from her own life. Mr. Irons plays a world-weary photojournalist who has recently returned from Africa, and is tired of stories: they hurt too much. He goes to work in her gallery.

But working from different grounds of experience, the two strike up a strange presence that successfully bounces off each other and animates–I don’t want to give anything away here–a relationship that smolders just below the surface.

We spoke with them right after a preview performance this week, and the interview you hear is a remarkably frank assessment of how and why people take to the stage. Ms. Allen confides that when she worked in her father’s gas station as a child, she was often almost too shy to make a sale–so that’s what drew her to the stage. Jeremy Irons says the stage is the only place he feels truly comfortable. Their two different backgrounds seem to have led them to the same place onstage.

By the way: the two of them complement each other so well, they are starring in a biopic about Georgia O’ Keefe (Joan Allen plays the artist, Jeremy Irons her photographer companion).

Visit to listen to this program on the Saturday, March 7, 2009 Morning Edition and to check your local listings!