Christine Lahti plays friend, feminist icon Steinem on PBS

Christine Lahti plays friend, feminist icon Steinem on PBS

Christine Lahti plays friend, feminist icon Steinem on PBS

Christine Lahti’s portrayal of Gloria Steinem in PBS’ “Gloria: A Life” reflects both a veteran artist’s skill and a passion for the subject.

Lahti’s discovery as a young woman of Steinem and other feminist leaders opened her eyes to sexism and inequality and “saved my life,” as the Oscar-nominated actor (“Swing Shift”) puts it.

In the “Great Performances” presentation of Emily Mann’s play (Friday, check local listings), Steinem’s life and journey to social activism are dramatized in act one, with an all-female cast playing both male and female roles. Act two involves the theatre audience in a discussion of the play’s themes, with Steinem herself serving as moderator.

If Lahti’s admiration for Steinem didn’t put enough pressure on the actor, the two also are friends.

“I remember the first run-through we had, she came to that and was sitting 5 feet from me,” Lahti said. “I have never felt more nervous in my life, and I’ve been on many stages and Broadway and on sets.”

In an interview with The Associated Press, Lahti discussed her own feminist journey and why the play has appeal beyond the converted, with remarks edited for clarity and length.

AP: When did Gloria Steinem and her work come on your radar?

Lahti: I was at the University of Michigan from 1968 to ’72, and I entered a completely un-woke, complicit-in-my-own-oppression product of suburban Detroit, ’50s, housewife-mother, doctor-father patriarchy on steroids. I thought women just were intrinsically, biologically second-class citizens, inferior. Then my world exploded: Vietnam, and Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, Robin Morgan, all these incredible feminists. I dropped out of my sorority after one semester and changed my life, and I have not looked back.

AP: When you brought these new ideas home from college, was there a clash with your parents?

Lahti: It really threatened their way of life. But my mom went on to embrace feminism, to say, “Carry the banner for me, things have to change.” I said to her, “You can carry your own,” and she did. She went on to become a professional artist, a painter, and then a pilot. I stand on her shoulders, like my daughter is standing on mine, and the view is different.

AP: What does feminism look like to you now compared to then?

Lahti: One of the main things I loved about this play and the PBS film of it is the emphasis on Black feminism and how Black feminists taught Gloria Steinem everything she knew about feminism. And they were completely ghosted out of the media because they wanted to put the pretty white woman on the face of feminism. There were all these Black leaders, like Shirley Chisholm and Flo Kennedy and Dorothy Hughes, that no one knew about. The feminism that I understand now and embrace, and this is largely due to my daughter, must be intersectional and focus on how racism and sexism are so intertwined.

AP: The play explores Steinem’s ideology but also her life, including a very difficult childhood. Is it important that we understand her background?

Lahti: The reason I most wanted to do the play was to show the world that if someone like Gloria Steinem can do what she’s doing, anybody can. She came from a very working-class family. Her mother was mentally ill. The father had left the family, and Gloria ended up having to care for her from the age of 11 to 17. For this woman to get to be the leader that she is, with all that struggle in her past, is really inspiring.

AP: We live in a polarized country, and there are people who would take exception to some or all of how you explain the world. Is there something in this play for those who don’t already share that viewpoint?

Lahti: I think there’s a lot in the play for people who don’t think they’re feminists or don’t believe that others are oppressed. First of all, this play really helps define what feminism is, which is just somebody who believes that women and men should have equal rights. And I challenge any man or woman to say that they don’t believe that women and men should have equal rights. Feminism has nothing to do with being anti-male or even wanting the same kind of power that is ascribed to by the patriarchy. It’s a whole different definition of power. It’s not about a hierarchy that some people are above others. It’s about everybody lifting each other up.

___

Lynn Elber can be reached on Twitter at https://twitter.com/lynnelber

Lynn Elber, The Associated Press

Just Posted

Photo Courtesy: Echo Lacombe Association logo.
Lacombe City Council supports Echo Lacombe with location for pilot program

Echo Lacombe Association will run a pilot propgram on food rescue until November, 1, 2021

The Government of Alberta identified 115 new COVID-19 cases Sunday, bringing the provincial total to 3,089.
(Black Press file photo)
Red Deer COVID cases continue to fall

114 cases in Red Deer, down one from Saturday

File Photo
Blackfalds RCMP seeking suspects in traffic collision

RCMP are asking the public for help identifing two suspects wanted for multiple offences

Maskwacis Pride crosswalk (Left to right): Montana First Nation Councillor Reggie Rabbit, Samson Cree Nation Councillor Louise Omeasoo, Samson Cree Nation Councillor Katherine Swampy, Samson Cree Nation Councillor Shannon Buffalo, Samson Cree Nation Chief Vern Saddleback.
Pride in Maskwacis

The 4th inaugural Maskwacis Pride crosswalk painting took place on Saturday June 12th, 2021

Alberta Premier Jason Kenney arrives at the 2021 budget in Edmonton on Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Alberta launches COVID vaccine lottery with million-dollar prizes to encourage uptake

The premier says the lottery will offer three prizes worth $1 million a piece, as well as other prizes

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

A health-care worker holds up a sign signalling she needs more COVID-19 vaccines at the ‘hockey hub’ mass vaccination facility at the CAA Centre during the COVID-19 pandemic in Brampton, Ont., on Friday, June 4, 2021. This NHL-sized hockey rink is one of CanadaÕs largest vaccination centres. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
‘Vaxxed to the max’: Feds launch Ask an Expert campaign to encourage COVID shots

Survey shows that confidence in vaccines has risen this spring

Children’s shoes and flowers are shown after being placed outside the Ontario legislature in Toronto on Monday, May 31, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
Ontario commits $10 million to investigate burial sites at residential schools

Truth and Reconciliation Commission identified 12 locations of unmarked burial sites in Ontario

Two hundred and fifteen lights are placed on the lawn outside the Residential School in Kamloops, B.C., Saturday, June, 13, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former Kamloops Indian Residential School earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Days after Kamloops remains discovery, Tk’emlups families gather to unite, move ahead

‘We have to work together because this is going to be setting a precedent for the rest of the country’

In this Saturday, May 29, 2021, file photo, people crowd the Santa Monica Pier in Santa Monica, Calif. California, the first state in America to put in place a coronavirus lockdown, is now turning a page on the pandemic. Most of California’s coronavirus restrictions will disappear Tuesday, June 15, 2021. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File)
With COVID tamed, it’s a ‘grand reopening’ in California

No more state rules on social distancing, no more limits on capacity, no more mandatory masks

Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price (31) is scored on by Vegas Golden Knights defenseman Alec Martinez, not pictured, during the second period in Game 1 of an NHL hockey Stanley Cup semifinal playoff series Monday, June 14, 2021, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)
Habs fall 4-1 to Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 of NHL semifinal series

Match was Montreal’s first game outside of Canada in 2021

The Kamloops Indian Residential School is photographed using a drone in Kamloops, B.C., Monday, June, 14, 2021. The remains of 215 children were discovered buried near the former school earlier this month. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Communities grapple with what to do with former residential and day schools

Some tear them down as a tool to help healing, others repurpose them as tools for moving forward

RCMP Const. Shelby Patton is shown in this undated handout photo. RCMP say that Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over on Saturday morning in Wolseley, east of Regina. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, RCMP
Pair charged in Saskatchewan Mountie’s death make first court appearance

Const. Shelby Patton was hit by an allegedly stolen truck that he had pulled over Saturday morning

David and Collet Stephan leave for a break during an appeal hearing in Calgary on Thursday, March 9, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Appeal Court rejects stay for Alberta couple facing third trial in son’s death

Pair accused in their earlier trials of not seeking medical attention for their son sooner

Most Read