Actor Pamela Rabe continues a series of reflections by prominent women on the "super models" who inspired them.

Ruth Cracknell: an actor’s friend and inspiration

Accent: Super models

Ruth Cracknell: an actor’s friend and inspiration

Actor Pamela Rabe continues a series of reflections by prominent women on the “super models” who inspired them.

About the second day I was in Australia, my husband — well, he wasn’t my husband then — took me for a walk around Sydney and to Crows Nest. It was very hot and I was very jet-lagged, and he took me to a gallery.

As we were thumbing our way through some etchings, he nudged me and there was this very elegant patrician presence in the corner of the room with white-blonde hair. He said “that’s Ruth Cracknell, she’s a very famous actress”.

He had told me about her in Canada in the late ’70s. She had played the lead in an Edward Bond play that I was very fond of called The Sea. This obviously sowed a seed of great awe in me, and there she was,and I was actually in her presence.

I was aware of Ruth from then and I think I had seen her on stage a number of times, and on film. You can’t collide with Ruth’s presence without being affected in some way.

I have always collected tall women in my life. I don’t think I’m particularly obsessed with my height — I was brought up with my father’s advice: be proud, walk tall.

When you are tall, people assume that you should be majestic. It is funny because so many tall women feel different, I think, especially when they are defining their sexual attractiveness — when you are in your teens you just want to look like everybody else.

Pamela Rabe | Photo by

There are so many pressures to be smaller, bend down, try to blend in with the crowd, be feminine (whatever that means) — to actually keep your head up through that is hard. Read More

Pamela Rabe | The Reluctant Celebrity | Interview from 1996

The Reluctant Celebrity

Pamela Rabe used to be self-conscious about her Canadian accent. But she took Australian citizenship because she wanted commitment.

Pamela Rabe probably won’t thank me for this, but she is probably about to become a household name. She is in two movies and two television series, all in the same year.

She won’t thank me because Pamela Rabe is not one of those knocking on the celebrity door. She is thrilled that her work as an actor might be recognised, but any “fame” that might come with it is an uncomfortable notion.

The two movies, already well-received, are Cosi‘, and Vacant Possession‘. The television series, both for the ABC, are Mercury‘, and The Bite. Pamela Rabe is a baddie in both the television series.

She’s not when you meet her. She is soft and smooth and tall and very striking. She is also reticent, which is why I trod the careful path first, through early days.

There was a certain effort to keep us occupied,” she said. I had asked her about her childhood in Canada, where she was the seventh of eight children. “We were sent off to things like music.

With so many children, they were able to form an orchestra of sorts. There was a trombone, a French horn, a saxophone, a flute, classical guitar, even bagpipes.

Pamela was on the French horn and must have been good, because she went on to play in a junior symphony orchestra in Vancouver. “That experience of being a group and creating something had a big impact.

What Pamela means is that her family was not particularly artistic, and so it might have been the music that put her in the right direction. All her brothers and sisters ended up as scientists or paramedics.

It sounds like a successful family,” I said.

Nobody’s a drug addict, nobody’s in jail, nobody’s dead.Read More

The Passions of Pamela Rabe 1995

The Passions of Pamela Rabe


Pamela Rabe’s performance in the new Australian film Vacant Possession caused excitement at the Sydney Film Festival, yet she insists she is addicted to the adrenalin of exercising her soul on the stage.

But after playing such powerful figures as Virginia Woolf and Strindberg’s Miss Julie, why is Rabe in raptures about playing a mysterious young woman simply named “C” in Three Tall Women, a new production by the Sydney Theatre Company?

“It’s an extraordinary piece,” says Rabe of Edward Albee’s Pulitzer prize-winning play. “Albee’s deliberately ambiguous about the characters, other than stating their ages. The moment you try to explain them or nail them down you ruin it.”

Rabe has dubbed the play ‘Waiting for Godot for girls”, and the parallels are clear. As the protagonist is a 92-year-old bedridden and dying woman, there is a minimum of high-kicks. It is a play of the mind with a built-in twist.

Rabe is quick to pluck out the thorn of sexual politics. “It’s not just about women. It’s a beautiful play about human beings.” she says. “Not a lot happens, but you learn a lot.” This is Rabe’s first professional crack at Albee, one of theatre’s most skilful and visceral phrasemakers.

“With most plays a certain amount of editing or pruning will go on, but he’s a master at naturalistic dialogue,” she says. “Phrases are repeated, some trail off. It’s never random or arbitrary, but a bugger to learn.”

Pamela Rabe | Photo by Paul Jones 1995

Stage height … Pamela Rabe. | Photography by PAUL JONES

Rabe admits she finds the play a technical challenge, a theatrical relay event in which the almost musical exchange of verbal batons leaves no room for prima donnas. Read More

Pamela Rabe Interview 1994

Carving Out Her Own Room

Actor Pamela Rabe left Canada for love. She now lives and works in both Sydney and Melbourne, yet feels she hasn’t fully moved into all our theatre spaces, writes BOB EVANS.

AS a bald statement, Virginia Woolf’s assertion that for a woman to write fiction she must have “money and a room of one’s own” can sound so blue-stocking bourgeois and so positively Bloomsbury that the first impulse is to write it off as yet another bit of British elitism.
But that impulse evaporates if you read A Room Of One’s Own or see the dramatisation of Woolf’s two lectures to the women students at Cambridge on which she based her book. The play, with Pamela Rabe acting the role of Virginia Woolf, opens this Thursday at the Belvoir Street Theatre. Rabe has appeared twice before on stage at the Belvoir. The first time her identity was concealed under a mask of Japanese inscrutability as she played the Mama San in Daniel Keene’s adaptation of Cho Cho San for Playbox. She was still a virtual unknown in Sydney when she next appeared, playing Alice B. Toklas, companion to Miriam Margolyes in the role of Gertrude Stein. Read More

Pamela Rabe Interview 1994

A Woman of Substance

Pamela Rabe has been busy. Her latest roles include Norman Lindsay’s wife, a mental defective and Virginia Woolf. MICHAEL SHMITH meets an actor to be reckoned with.

Like a lot of performers, Pamela Rabe saves her extrovert side for the stage. I am not sure who the real Rabe is, but the person curled up in the opposite chair looks as if she would rather be at the dentist than an interview. “This is terrifying,” she says, eyeing my tape-recorder as if it might bite. “Anyway, it won’t pick up much, as I tend to Mumble.” ‘Mumbles — just discernible — there are, along with lengthy, Pinteresque pauses interspersed with bursts of great eloquence and a couple of surprisingly raucous gusts of laughter. There is an edge of insecurity, too; but one tempered with a quiet confidence and laconic sense of humor. Every now and then, she stops to appraise what she has said, as if she is rewinding and replaying an internal tape-recorder, and corrects it. Read More

Pamela Rabe & Roger Hodgman | Significant Others | The Age 1993 Interview

Significant Others | Pamela Rabe & Roger Hodgman | The Age 1993

Fourteen years ago, when Pamela Rabe and Roger Hodgman fell in love, the sensitivities were so acute they told only their closest friends. Roger, 15 years Pamela’s senior, was the artistic director of the Vancouver Playhouse and Pamela was an inexperienced actor. Their situation was further complicated by the fact that Pamela, 19, was a student at the drama school at which Roger was teaching. They were so wary of becoming involved that they decided to do nothing about it, at least until Pamela left school. “That didn’t work,” Pamela says. “We tried.” Roger says.

After Pamela graduated, they lived together in Vancouver, and when Roger was appointed dean of drama at the Victorian College of the Arts, Pamela moved here with him. But in Australia, their careers collided head-on when Roger became first associate director of the Melbourne Theatre Company, then director. Since the MTC is the city’s major theatre company, the delicacy of Pamela’s position was obvious. “It’s a tricky area, it’s true,” Roger says. “After we came to Australia, for the longest time, we would never give an interview together (this was their first major joint interview). I don’t think it appeared in print that we were married until a couple of years ago. We just wanted to keep the thing as separate as we could.” Read More

Pamela Rabe & Roger Hodgman - Empty Words Do Their Worst

Empty Words Do Their Worst

About 18 months ago, Roger Hodgman and his wife, Pamela Rabe, attended a friend’s wedding in Sydney. People were strangely polite to the pair. They looked deep into their eyes and asked: “Are you guys all right? Are you doing OK?”

A week later, a friend rang Hodgman, the director of the Melbourne Theatre Company, and Rabe, an actress, to say: “You know the story is everywhere that you have split up.”

The rumor swept through Melbourne’s notoriously gossipy arts circles and was followed by updates on the supposed new love interests of Hodgman and Rabe. “It annoyed me intensely,” says Hodgman, who has been married for eight years. “But you just feel so helpless.”

About nine months after the wedding incident, he was rung by a friend in New York who said: “Why didn’t you tell me? I would have thought I deserved to know.” Today, he is still hearing from acquaintances and strangers about his “break-up”.

At one point, Hodgman tried to trace the rumor. He rang a chain of friends but never discovered the source. He thinks it might have been inspired by Rabe’s 18-month stint living and working in Sydney a few years ago. (The couple spent “a fortune” on interstate flights during this time).

“Like most people in theatre circles, I rather enjoy gossip. I have always been entertained by it,” says Hodgman. “But this experience has really made me think twice when people tell me a story about someone else.

“It’s changed my attitude entirely about that sort of gossip. I am much less likely to believe it, or pass it on. There’s a line over which gossip passes that makes it really dangerous and destructive. If it’s true, it’s one thing, but I just think people’s private lives are private.”

Ironically, Hodgman says the latest gossip is that he and Rabe have got back together.

Suzy Freeman-Greene

Source: The Age |  28 October 1993
Photo: Black Swan State Theatre Company | In the Memory of Water Opening Night 2009

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Pamela Rabe - Red-Hot Play And Red-Hot Talent 1992

Red-Hot Play And A Red-Hot Talent

On June 6, Neil Simon’s much-acclaimed play Lost In Yonkers opens at Sydney’s Theatre Royal. DEBORAH McINTOSH spoke to its star Pamela Rabe.

Pamela Rabe came to Australia from Canada in 1983, almost fresh out of acting school. “I remember at the time not knowing what I would be cast in and thinking ‘At least, maybe, I’ll be all right for a Neil Simon play’. And the funny thing is I’ve done everything but!”

Until now, that is. Rabe is to star in Neil Simon’s Lost in Yonkers, with Ruth Cracknell and Robert Grubb. The play won Simon the 1991 Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award for Best Play, and ripping reviews like “Neil Simon’s laughter and tears have come together in a new emotional truth” and “The last of the red-hot playwrights just got hotter”. Read More