Drawing Deep

From Yukon to Melbourne, it’s been a roller-coaster ride for AFI Best Actress Pamela Rabe

Pamela Rabe couldn’t be in Melbourne to claim her Best Actress gong at the Australian Film Institute Awards on Nov. 14. And despite her prerecorded acceptance speech, the star of The Well didn’t even know the award was hers. At the time, the Canadian-born performer was 900km away, treading the boards as Noel Coward’s capricious Amanda in a sparkling production of Private Lives, and discovered she’d won the AFI “about 30 seconds” before taking her bow at the end of the play at the Sydney Theatre Company’s Wharf Theatre.

“I knew for sure by the look on [actress] Kirrily White’s face when she came out to join us for the curtain call,” Rabe says merrily. “Just this beaming big red smile!” But it wasn’t until STC director Wayne Harrison stepped onstage to make a congratulatory speech that the news was official. “I’d also found out that day that I’d just won the Best Actress award at the Stockholm Film Festival,” an ecstatic Rabe continues, “so I was already a little bit happy.”

Pamela Rabe | Photo by Philip Le Masurier (1997)

No wonder. But even before the awards, 38-year-old Rabe’s haunting star turn as The Well‘s Hester and her stunning supporting performance in 1996’s Cosi had put her on a cinematic roll. A striking, softly spoken, supremely urbane woman with long, gleaming dark hair and a thoughtfully edgy manner, she bears not the slightest physical resemblance to the spinsterish Hester, into whose fraught soul she so compellingly delved in the dark, suspenseful drama. (more…)

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Pamela Rabe & Roger Hodgman – The Two of Us (1997)

Pamela Rabe, 38, is one of Australia’s top theatre, film and television actors. Roger Hodgman, 53, is director of the Melbourne Theatre Company. They met in 1979 in Rabe’s home town of Vancouver, married five years later and now live in Melbourne. Hodgman is currently directing Private Lives at the Sydney Theatre Company and Rabe is playing the lead role.

Pamela: Roger was the first love of my life. Still is. I was a student and he was a teacher. I was quite bowled over by him and his skills; I still think he’s the most extraordinary teacher I’ve ever had. It always takes me a long time to realise someone’s coming on strong to me. So I was drinking in every word of praise and didn’t realise this was just the pick-up line.

Then we were worried what people would think. And, with backstage gossip always about how the director gets to sleep with the actresses, for a while you’re just a cliché. People snicker.

It is difficult being a director’s wife. It is still always, absolutely, the first thing that comes to my mind whenever I’m offered a role at the MTC. Whatever people say, I can’t help myself feeling I have some sort of unfair advantage. And, with every year, I’m much more aware of my inadequacies and vulnerability, so that doubt gets worse. But it’s part of the package; I don’t know any confident actors. (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…)

Continue ReadingSignificant Others | Pamela Rabe & Roger Hodgman | The Age 1993