What is it? As one of the most acclaimed actresses in cinematic history, Bette Davis (played by Morgana Shaw) looks back on her career in an intimate conversation with the audience. Catch it while you can. The show’s Tony Award-winning producers have their eyes set on Broadway.
Why see it? Producers tout Shaw’s “Bette Davis eyes,” while playwright Camilla Carr applauds her for immersing herself in the character from head to toe.
Who should go? Movie buffs and theater lovers ready for an entertaining evening with someone who defined what an independent woman was all about.
Piccolo Spoleto’s Theatre Series • $25 • 2 hours • May 27 at 8 p.m.; May 29 at 4:30 p.m.; May 30 at 5:30 p.m.; May 31 at 8:30 p.m.; June 1, 2, 4 at 5 p.m. • Footlight Players Theatre, 20 Queen St. • (888) 374-2656
Eye Lining: All About Bette offers an evening with a screen legend
Actress and playwright Camilla Carr was turned on to the life of Bette Davis about eight years ago by Carol Kane, of When a Stranger Calls and The Princess Bride, who was a dead ringer for Davis, complete with short, blonde curly locks.
Carr spent two years immersed in Davis’ life, reading everything she could get her hands on, including early interviews before Davis’ star had risen.
“I had to know Bette Davis better than her greatest fan,” Carr says. “I read for two years and I wrote for two years.”
Davis may have been known for her witty one-liners, but Carr tried to avoid quoting her word for word in the script.
“I chose not to do that, because I wanted this play to be something people hadn’t read or heard,” she says.
After workshopping the project in New York, Kane snagged a long-term commitment with the Broadway musical Wicked. But Carr kept working, finding information for the script from anywhere she could. During a mammogram, Carr mentioned to the doctor that she was working on her Bette Davis script.
“He said, ‘She was a patient of mine,'” Carr remembers. “I told him, ‘Talk to me.’ And he said, ‘Well, put your clothes on.'”
And when Edward Albee spoke in Savannah recently, Carr got another gem for the show. Albee had put Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? in development with Bette Davis in mind. He was fascinated with the idea of Davis playing a character who mimics Bette Davis. Carr used that nugget to flesh out the opening lines of the play.
She sent a draft of the script to Jac Alder at the Dallas theater where she got her first acting role. He told her that he not only wanted to produce the show, but that he had the perfect actress — unknown local star Morgana Shaw.
“You really think you’re watching Bette Davis,” Carr says. “She’s a true workhorse — a real Bette Davis kind of actress.”
Shaw never stops for two hours as Davis regresses from 81 to 22. She doesn’t even take a drink of water in the first act. The show caught the attention of producer Michael Jenkins, who recently won a Tony for another one-person show. Jenkins is now looking to take All About Bette to Broadway.
“I thought it was going to be a struggle, like everything is,” Carr says. “But it didn’t turn out that way at all.”
Stay cool. Support City Paper.
City Paper has been bringing the best news, food, arts, music and event coverage to the Holy City since 1997. Support our continued efforts to highlight the best of Charleston with a one-time donation or become a member of the City Paper Club.