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Breakfast With

Kristine Nielsen

Monday, December 09, 2002

By Patricia Sheridan, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Her credits include work in television, film and stage, where she won an Obie for her role in Christopher Durang's "Betty's Summer Vacation." As a working actor, Kristine Nielsen, who lives in New York City, has shared the stage with Sarah Jessica Parker and Sigourney Weaver. She is appearing now in the world premiere of Durang's "Mrs. Bob Cratchit's Wild Christmas Binge" at City Theatre. For tickets and curtain times call 412-431-2489.

Q. Did you room with Frances McDormand [of "Fargo" fame] at Yale?

A. No, no, no. We were in school together though. She was actually in the class behind me. We were all pretty good friends in school. My classmates were Polly Draper, you know, who lives on [in syndication in] "thirtysomething," and Tony Shalhoub, who is a dear friend and is on "Monk" [the television show] now. We had an amazing time.

Q. What is it about theater that some actors prefer to film?

A. I actually do prefer theater, because you get that immediate communication with an audience. I also think [that] as an actor you have more say. Films are always taken away from you and edited and somebody [else] determines who gets the reaction shot. Anybody who says they aren't scared going out on stage is crazy. But you see so many people coming back to it like Sigourney and Sarah Jessica Parker. Theater is honestly how you discover yourself as an artist and as a performer. Sarah Jessica, who has a huge success with "Sex and the City," I think the joy for her is to come back and risk it again.

Q. What is she like?

A. Well, we were laughing, because if you could do a book of etiquette she would be so remarkable. She is my idea of a true lady. She takes the subway. She is one of the best when people come up to her. She and Matthew [Broderick] both. Matthew pedals all around New York City on his bicycle. They just have no fear. And you know we were working together during Sept. 11, and she and Matthew did tremendous amounts of volunteer work with the firefighters in their area.

Q. Is your goal to become a celebrity -- a household name? Is that the measure of success in your business?

A. No, I don't want that. I think the attention is frightening. If you go somewhere with Steve Martin or Sigourney Weaver, the paparazzi thing is very disorienting. It's like I'm a deer in the headlights with stuff like that. I do want the success of being able to have a career and family and all that stuff. You have to reach a certain monetary place, because you don't want to be an itinerant actor all the time.

Q. Is it a very peripatetic life at this level?

A. It is. What I'm proud of is, I have a very huge stage resume. But, it's just here today, gone tomorrow. It is very ephemeral. What makes it all worth while is doing a premiere, like this play. I think Chris is one of the major American satirists. He changed my life when I got the Obie for "Betty's." I got the Woody Allen film ["Small Time Crooks"] from that through Chris. So I'll go anywhere for him. I'll go to Pittsburgh!

Q. What is the best part of acting for you?

A. The community. The fellow actors. I can't tell you what a joy it is to share things on stage. That's what makes it.

Q. Is there a perception of Pittsburgh as a theater community in New York?

A. I don't think so. But, I had heard it is a very good theater community. Because New York is in such a financial bind, they have been using London as a pre- Broadway tryout and some of the regional theaters really close to New York. So, why not Pittsburgh? I think Pittsburgh can capitalize on some of these things.

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