Inside the Actors Studio (2004)

Broadcast on Bravo cable channel March 21, 2004

Lipton and Streisand on stage

Inside the Actors Studio was conceived as an examination of the craft of acting. Its host, James Lipton, who is also the Dean of the Actor's Studio Drama School, researched each of his guests thoroughly and asked them questions from the New School University stage in front of an audience of students—in fact, the entire evening was considered a “class” and several Streisand fans were able to pay money for the series in order to attend the September 8, 2003 taping of this episode.

Actors Studio DVD“I edit the show as well,” James Lipton said six years after the Streisand episode aired. “You only see a portion of the interview [on TV]. Sometimes they go four hours and I have to personally shut it down. Otherwise, they’d go all night. The record was Barbra Streisand. She went to two-thirty in the morning.”

The interview session was purely career-related and meant to instruct the students who made up the majority of the audience in the theater. MFA students were able to join in a privileged question and answer session with the guest after each interview.

[Actors Studio DVD with Streisand @]

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Lipton's line of questioning was always chronological, starting with “where were you born?” and ending with 10 questions that were an adaption of the Proust Questionnaire.

Inside the Actors Studio scenes

After Barbra entered to a standing ovation, the evening began with James Lipton relating a story of how he finally got Barbra to appear on his show. He showed a note that Barbra had sent him saying “someday...when I'm on the east coast...we'll talk.” Barbra's good friend Donna Karan was paramount in hooking the two up: She called Barbra at home, then passed the telephone to Lipton, who “pleaded, supplicated, and cajoled” Barbra to join him for a Q&A. Lipton then introduced Donna Karan, who was in the audience that evening along with Hollywood manager Sandy Gallin, manager Marty Erlichman, and friends Cis Corman and Marvin Hamlisch.

Lipton began the questioning about Barbra's childhood and several new photos of Barbra, her parents and brother were shown to illustrate her words. Barbra told some funny stories about going to Hebrew health camp. “That was very strange,” she said, “and I'm sure shaped my life.”

Barbra shared a funny story of playing “Crack the Safe” with her cousin, Lowell. As kids, they would call people from the phone book and ask them questions, promising a reward of $1,000. Barbra would interrupt them during the call to do a commercial for Fab laundry detergent. Barbra and her cousin would then send the helpless crank-call victim fake money in the mail.

On seeing the Broadway play, Anne Frank, Barbra told Lipton, “I could play that part, I'm Jewish. What else is there? You just play the part.”

Lipton then steered Barbra to speak about acting classes as a teenager with instructor Alan Miller. Barbra enjoyed relaxation exercises, sense memory, and observing others. Barbra revealed that, as a scene partner, she auditioned for the first time for The Actor's Studio at age 15. She was invited by the prestigious actor's training school to audition solo. Barbra did a weepy monologue from The Young & the Fair as her audition piece, but was deemed too young to join the Studio.

Lipton surprised Barbra by telling her she was 4th highest in her High School graduation class. This surprised Barbra and created a funny moment when she looked at Lipton and asked, suspiciously, “How do you find out these things?”

Another funny story: on auditioning and making the rounds, Barbra said she found the experience humiliating and a “power struggle.” She told several casting people, when they rejected her, “You'll be sorry.”

When Lipton spoke of the Bon Soir nightclub, he created a running gag for the evening. He asked Barbra, “you know who else worked there?” and revealed that he did! Barbra, not missing a beat, responded, “You did? As what?” which elicited laughs from the student audience. Lipton revealed that he sang his own material at the Greenwich Village hot spot.

Marty Erlichman took the spotlight for a few moments as Lipton introduced him. Barbra said they worked so closely because of their “soul connection.”

Next, James Lipton touched on Barbra's Wholesale biography in the Playbill, which stated, “not a member of the Actor's Studio.” He then presented Barbra with a letter from Actor's Studio president Ellen Burstyn, inducting Barbra as a life-long member, and stating, “a grave mistake was made 46 years ago.” Barbra laughed and was touched by the honor.

Another funny moment: Lipton asked about the 3-minute standing ovation on opening night of I Can Get It for You Wholesale. “You know who led that standing ovation?” Barbra replied, “You?”

The audience laughed, and Lipton continued the running gag of the evening by retorting, “That night I was singing at Bon Soir.”

(Leonard Bernstein led the ovation.)

(Below: Streisand waves to fans as she arrives at the New School University for the taping of the show.)

Streisand arrives at Actors Studio taping


Streisand on Actors Studio

When the show came back from commercial break, Funny Girl, the film, was discussed. In describing the Oscar experience, Barbra said that she picked her transparent dress over an elegant, black, empire-waisted dress with pleats. Lipton showed the clip of Streisand singing “My Man” and she discussed lip-synching and how they refilmed the number live.

Hello Dolly: Barbra admitted she “wasn't right” for the role and was too young.

On A Clear Day You Can See Forever: Barbra remembered her good working relationship with director Vincente Minnelli.

Barbra revealed that the name of her production company, Barwood Films, came from a combination of “Barbra” and the name of the street she lived on in Holmby Hills (Carolwood Drive). James Lipton introduced longtime friend and business partner Cis Corman.

At this point in the interview Barbra asked if people ever got hungry sitting up there for so long! “I haven't gone this long without eating in a long time!” She asked for a Kit Kat bar, a Ritz cracker or something. Lipton said they'd get her a snack. Discussing The Way We Were, Barbra asked Marvin Hamlisch to stand. Lipton showed the telephone scene and Barbra talked about working with Robert Redford.

A Star is Born (1976) received a brief mention. Lipton asked, “What led you to a film that was filmed three times? That was daring.” Barbra replied, with a laugh, “Jon Peters! Who didn't know they were filmed three times before!”

Promotional photo of Streisand at the New School University

Finally, the snacks arrived. Barbra ate a few Oreos and Kit Kat bars while the interview continued...

In discussing Yentl, James Lipton said Barbra took a “simple and ingenious approach” to getting around the problem of having two characters sing to each other onscreen. Barbra elaborated: “Since Yentl had a secret, she could sing in her head and sang out loud when she was alone.”

Prince of Tides: Most interesting were Barbra's comments on directing other actors. She said she likes to “get into their heads” and that actors were like instruments. “You wanna know what strings to play.”

Finally, the 10 Proust Questionnaire-inspired questions. Barbra's answers are in italics:

01. What is your favorite word? Truth.

02. What is your least favorite word? Impossible.

03. What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally? Great conversation and great performances.

04. What turns you off? Apathy.

05. What is your favorite curse word? Fuck.

06. What sound or noise do you love? The sound of orgasms.

07. What sound or noise do you hate? The sound of microphone feedback in my ear.

08. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt? Either architecture or horticulture.

09. What profession would you not like to do? Podiatry.

10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? “Oh, it's you again!”

Streisand receives flowers at the Actors Studio taping


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