Pamela Rabe Interviews from the early 1980’s – today

Three Chatty Women With Style

Three tall women discuss acting, memories and the pointlessness of critics.

Three women are having a natter around a restaurant table. Death is on the agenda. Ruth Cracknell, Pamela Rabe and Pippa Williamson are discussing the recent death of Williamson’s cat. The conversation moves to a dying man’s final words, cremation and fear of death. It’s a way for us break the ice.

They are all appearing in Edward Albee’s play Three Tall Women. It was typecasting. “I’m the short one. I used to be, and probably still am, five feet eight and three quarters in the old term,” says Ruth. Pippa is: “Five, 10 and a half, though I’m probably shrinking.” Pamela: “Just under six foot. I’m not aware of it until people comment. And when I see photographs of myself.”

Ruth says she wouldn’t be short for quids. Her height didn’t damage her career even in the early days. “It was great for Greek tragedy and Shakespeare. Great for radio.”

“You played the seven dwarves didn’t you, Ruth?” Pamela asks.
“Yes, I played Grumpy.”

The character of the matriach played by Ruth in Three Tall Women is inspired by Albee’s dislike for his adoptive mother. But, much to his surprise, audiences have found her fascinating and even warmed to her.

Are memories of family difficult to communicate to others or were his feelings hard to translate? Pippa says everybody’s stories about their lives are fiction.

Pamela Rabe, Ruth Cracknell and Pippa Williamson | Photo by Chris Beck

“It’s how you frame it. How you see it is not necessarily how somebody else saw it,” Pippa says. “My aunts and uncles have a totally different view of my grandmother than my mother has. Each of them had a subjective view of their mother … When you see it in the context of her life, you see what made her who she became.”

Pamela continues that thought: “And that in itself becomes a form of acceptance on behalf of the writer — that he should even choose to investigate what has gone into making this woman.” (more…)

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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. (more…)

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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. (more…)

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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.” (more…)

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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”. (more…)

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No Business Like Shrew Business

From cackling with glee on a broomstick to playing the fiery Kate in ‘The Taming of the Shrew’, Pamela Rabe controls the message she gives.

At First I didn’t recognise Pamela Rabe. The last time I saw the Canadian-born actress she wore a tall, pointy black hat, a chin to match, and an evil grin. That was five months ago when she stole the show as the Wicked Witch of the West in the ‘Wizard of Oz‘, cackling with glee as she careened about on her broomstick.

Now, with her hair in a brunette page-boy style, Ms Rabe sat demurely sipping an iced coffee and studying a script of Shakespeare’s ‘Taming of the Shrew‘, in which she will play the fiery Kate (or Katharina).

Although she began acting in Vancouver, Pamela Rabe’s career began in earnest eight years ago in Melbourne as an aspiring 23-year-old. She moved into the dramatic mainstream, appearing predominantly with the Melbourne Theatre Company, and has become one of Australia’s most accomplished stage performers. Recent appearances here have included leads in ‘As You Like It‘, ‘Cho Cho San‘, ‘The Heidi Chronicles‘ and last November’s ‘A Moon for the Misbegotten‘.

In Vancouver, Ms Rabe had worked with director and husband-to-be Roger Hodgman, and accompanied him to Melbourne when he took up the post of lead of drama at the Victorian College of the Arts. After Mr Hodgman was appointed associate artistic director at the MTC and eventually took over the company’s helm from John Sumner, Ms Rabe became uneasy about the possibility of being regarded as “Mrs Hodgman” each time she was cast in an MTC production.


Pamela Rabe | No Business Like Shrew Business (Photo by

A few of Pamela Rabe’s many stage guises: Kate (second from right), in shades and bridal beil, is the latest in the MTC’s 1950s-style ‘The Taming of the Shrew’
(Photo by The Age)

Thus, 18 months ago, she decided to base herself in Sydney. She landed major roles in the Sydney Theatre Company’s ‘The Ham Funeral‘, ‘The Secret Rapture‘ and ‘The Three Sisters‘, as well as ‘The Rover’. Now, having established her stage credentials beyond dispute (and to her own satisfaction) in both cities, Pamela Rabe is back with the MTC, at least until September. (more…)

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