By Byrne Harrison
Elizabeth Claire Taylor is an actress and model whose one-woman show, Finding Elizabeth Taylor, opens tomorrow in New York. I had a chance to talk with her about making a name for herself when she shares one with "The Most Beautiful Woman in the World."
When did you first realize there was another fairly well-known Elizabeth Taylor out there?
From a very early age - probably 5 or 6 I started to register of the name jokes that I was getting. As a little girl, I distinctly remember thinking, "Who is this Richard Burton guy they keep mentioning?" And I did quickly learn that whenever anyone said my name - first and last - a magical ripple of laughter went through the room! This was the 1980's so Elizabeth Taylor was HOT - her perfume, her incredible AIDS activism - a real phoenix rising from the ashes.
What was the genesis of Finding Elizabeth Taylor?
At a dinner party about 5 years ago, one of the guests said to me (after a few glasses of wine), "You have a great story - and you're funny - you should make a movie where you drive to Hollywood and try to find Elizabeth Taylor - and call it, 'Finding Elizabeth Taylor'. A true 'A-ha!' moment. Being a die-hard NYC theatre actress the idea of a one-woman show came naturally. I started recording and transcribing stories from my life as well as researching the other Elizabeth Taylor - which is always fun! The production going up tomorrow will be my 5th run and I truly feel my best one to date.
You say being a die-hard New York actress made you want to do a one-woman show. Tell me a little more about that.
I got into UCLA, Berkley and Northwestern - but getting that purple folder telling me I was accepted into NYU's Tisch School of the Arts was the dream really coming true. I have always had an admiration for the theatre and there was no looking back after I left my home (ironically, Los Angeles!) to come to New York. Even those days when it's freezing, have lost my MetroCard, and feel absolutely exhausted of this city - seeing a wonderful play sends me to euphoric heights and reminds me that I am on my right path. Seeing the greats like Meryl Streep and Patrick Stewart continue to do wonderful NYC theatre affirms it - however hard it may be! And let me tell you, I don't know WHAT is harder that a one-woman show! But at the same time, there is simply nothing more satisfying as it is simply you and your design team - mine has been incredible - molding the show into something special. And I specifically didn't want the show to look like a traditional 'solo show'. Finding Elizabeth Taylor feels like a solo play - there are scene changes - sets - incredible music (We are thinking of releasing a soundtrack! Ha ha!) - I want it to be just as compelling and transformative for the audience as any other piece of theatre. Why a one woman show? As my mentor Camryn Manheim once said, "I wrote a one-woman show because it's the only part I wouldn't be rejected for" and I think that about sums it up!
How did you get involved in modeling?
My first job out of college was an usher on Broadway - I know, the glamor - but really, pretty fabulous as far as actor jobs go - and my dear friend Vinnie turned to me on the stairway one matinee and said, "Honey, you look good - you should be a plus-size model!" I have lived off of the industry for almost 6 years now. And yes, fondly said goodbye to ushering. The next time I work at a Broadway house, I want it to be as an actor!
What advice would you give to someone who is interested in modeling or acting?
Open calls! They are painful but essential. You really need to hear feedback then decide to go from there. Believe me, I thought acting was hard self-esteem-wise until I started modeling! A good personality helps keep the client, but you do need to have the "look" whatever it maybe for them at the time - to get in the door. A great resource is www.plusmodelmagazine.com. And like everything in life, when you believe in what you are doing it does make it easier! The journey I took from plump kid to skinny anorexic NYU student to curvy plus-size model affirmed to me that my destiny in life is to spread this message of size acceptance and self-love. The modeling was an incredible manifestation of that and I am grateful for it each and every day. Come to my show for the whole story!
What other projects do you have coming up?
More productions of Finding Elizabeth Taylor!
Finding Elizabeth Taylor opens Nov. 11, 8:30pm at Theatre Row (www.unitedsolo.org 212-239-6200), and continues on Nov. 15-16, 8pm at Manhattan Theatre Source (www.theatresource.org 866-811-4111).