Interview: Joanna Glushak - Gloria: A Life, American Repertory Theater
Updated: Mar 8
Joanna Glushak has had an incredible career spanning from multiple Broadway productions to stints across television. Her latest project is starring in the Diane Paulus-helmed Gloria: A Life, where she portrays a myriad of characters, including Gloria Steinem’s mother. We chatted with Ms. Glushak about working with the feminist icon and returning to perform here in Bean Town.
TTB: So, I saw Gloria: A Life last week at press opening when Ms. Steinem was there. Was that the first time you met her? How was that experience?
Glushak: Oh no, no… she has been very involved since the beginning. I was in the production down in New York, and Gloria was involved back in the initial rehearsal process. She was just the loveliest–I remember she gave us all bracelets when we started this process. She was quiet at the beginning of rehearsal but was always there for us. I remember down in the city she was always at the show and participated in many talkbacks. She invited the entire cast to her house last Christmas for a party, and we ended up having a talking circle of our own!
TTB: I personally didn’t know much about Gloria’s life at all–it was so fascinating watching her career grow over time. How familiar were you with her as a figure?
Glushak: To be honest, I did not know much about her. I have loved learning so much throughout this process because I was just in the dark. Growing up there was never a Ms. Magazine in our house–I don't know why but it was never a topic. You know–funny story–I ended up seeing a medium one day, and I never believed in them before, but she kept saying that my next project was somehow involved in feminism and next thing I know I get the call saying that I booked this role.
TTB: What do you hope audiences take away from this production?
Glushak: Oh, so much to take away! This show is very special, and we all feel it–especially now with what's going on and everything. When we were down in New York it was all about the Women’s March and Trump. It wasn’t like today–now people are worried and so hopeless. The show seems to be giving some hope which is lovely. I love to see so many young people showing up and forming groups. And men too! Men are coming and asking, “how can I help,” and we just tell them to speak up! People need people more than ever right now.
TTB: You are no stranger to the Boston theatre scene–with this, Fall a few years back, and then Sullivan and Gilbert, and American Clock. I just have to say I really enjoyed Fall a lot–what is it about Boston that you love to perform here, and do you have a favorite memory from working here?
Glushak: I really enjoy Boston so much–it is such a beautiful and sophisticated city. I loved working at The Huntington, they have such an incredible reputation, and now getting to be at the A.R.T., and exploring Cambridge and Harvard. The architecture is so exquisite.
TTB: I have seen you perform in Gloria and Fall and War Paint–all based on real people. Do you prefer to perform as characters based on real figures or fictitious characters?
Glushak: I guess both! I just love having a job and getting to do what I love for a living. Just give me somebody to create that is interesting. Each of my characters are real people in one way or another, so I always lead with that.
TTB: If you could be in another show–play or musical about a female icon–who would you pick?
Glushak: Oh, that is so hard, hmm… I need some time to think about that one. I think it needs to be someone that I can do–somebody with strength. Perhaps Eleanor Roosevelt?
TTB: And one of our favorite questions, do you have any fun onstage mishap stories you care to share?
Glushak: Live theatre is always unpredictable! I do remember when I was in Young Frankenstein in scenes opposite Roger Bart I would always crack because he is just that good. I would have to turn fully around because I was laughing so hard. Oh, I love the theatre–there is no place like it!
This interview was edited and condensed.
Gloria: A Life plays at the ART in Cambridge, MA now thru March 1. For tickets and more info: https://americanrepertorytheater.org/
Interview conducted by Kobi Kassal for Theatre Talk Boston