Mary Wells: An Evening With Cate Blanchett … Onstage and Off

© Derek Henderson

Our Mary takes a close-up look at Cate as Blanche duBois onstage and Cate – in a dinner conversation – offstage.

As almost everybody knows by now, Cate Blanchett is wowing the world as Blanche in Tennessee Williams’s “A Streetcar Named Desire” and is now also at BAM, in Brooklyn at the Harvey Theater. The words used to describe her performance are over the top so I was very excited to be invited to a small dinner in her honor.

It was a delicious invitation for many reasons. Alan Fishman, BAM chairman of the board, and his wife Judy, are good friends and know a lot about what is what in the theater at any moment. And the host and hostess of the dinner were Bill Campbell, vice chairman of Bam, and his wife Christine Wachter-Campbell. Bill was one of my most talented clients at my advertising agency – my memories of collaborating with him are a book I should write. He has just completed renovating one of New York’s luxe minimalist apartments – all open air and stunning sculpture – just in time to celebrate Cate Blanchett. So I knew it would be a wOw of an evening.

There were icy roads all over New York Sunday and Cate’s afternoon performance was pushed off – as was the dinner. The performance ended late so she arrived straight from the theater with her face scrubbed, in flat little shoes, running pants and a tee shirt. She looked 12. She looked gorgeous. People who had seen her performance told me that she had many curtain calls and during the first one, at the close of that hysterical, almost athletic performance, she looked like an old, sick woman. At the second curtain call she looked 45 years old. At the final curtain call she looked like Cate Blanchett. Great actresses can do that.

What tickled me most was that as Cate and her husband, Andrew Upton, have become co-artistic directors of the Sydney Theater Company in Australia, she is not only their big draw for theatergoers, she and her husband are also the chief money raisers and support earners for that theater. It is not largely government supported. So Cate goes around doing a lot of what we do at wOw, raising money to make great theater and great wOw.  

She stood there, a beauty, in her little flat shoes with her rosy cheeks and perfect soap-scrubbed skin and her dancing eyes and gave a group of BAM supporters a rousing explanation of her theater group in Sidney, the kinds of theater they will produce, what makes them special and the huge support that BAM has been giving them. She did what we all do at one time or another: She sold her company. She stood there after that killing performance doing what we have all been doing for wOw for two years, and she did it cheerfully. She connected her theater with BAM in a detailed way that made the connection highly important to us all.

If she was tired she kept it to herself. She didn’t come to dinner to eat. She came to deepen Bam’s support. And she did that. You could see it on all the faces of the BAM supporters at the dinner. She is on her way to tour the United States and Australia with “Streetcar” and at the end of the tour I wouldn’t be surprised if she hasn’t re-excited areas of the world that are in a funk right now. I am such a fan since that evening. She re-excited me. I want to buy her shoes. They have spirit in them. I hope you are all seeing Cate Blanchett in one of the greatest dramatic roles of all time. You will get the meaningful lift I got and right now we can all use one of those.   

Photographs by Lisa Tomasetti/Courtesy of BAM

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