by Patricia Grandjean
Mar 22, 2012
10:39 AM
Box Office

Q&A Web Exclusive: Shirley MacLaine


(page 2 of 5)

Can you tell me more about your live show?

It's a retrospective of my whole world. It's dancing, singing, my movies, my books, everything. I have a remote control and I stop it during certain points in the show, and tell the audience what really went on behind the scenes. There might have been some perception or other that they had, but that wasn't the truth. I like to say that it's an evening about the truth. And then, when that part of the show is over, I open everything up to questions from the audience. I tell them, "Anything you want to ask me, you can ask me." And that goes on for as long as I can stand up. Longer than the actual show.

People want to know about my books, about the issues we're discussing. It's rare that I get questions about show business. The audience knows That I knew everybody in that world and still do, but they're not interested in that—they're interested in what they're not being told about their daily lives.

What's the most interesting or surprising question that you've been asked?

Oh, shit, I can't remember that . . . c'mon! [laughs] "Where do humans come from"—how's that?

I always assume it's going to be like that Woody Allen line from Hannah and Her Sisters—"I just want someone to tell me how the can opener works."

[Laughs] That's true. I will tell you what I'd like to have a huge discussion about, but I don't know quite how to start it: What the electronic age is doing to the human brain and its role in the breakdown in human communication. That's why I decided to go out and do this, Patricia—to get the actual feeling of a live audience and the combined sensibility of how they are when they're together.

On a film set you're protected, and you can go back and do everything again; you're in your own wonderful world—I wouldn't call it real, but it's real for the time you're making the movie—but when I'm on the road talking to people, I just love hearing what's on their minds. Sometimes people are too shy to ask what they think is ridiculous, and I see that, too. I try to help them overcome it, because we all have to start speaking out. Maybe that's what Occupy Wall Street is doing, reminding us that we all should be asking more questions.

So maybe the reason we don't ask the questions is not that we're afraid of the answers, just afraid of admitting we really don't know what's going on?

I think one of the tricks of this electronic age is to perfect the manipulation of humiliation.

Interesting. How?

Because we're tied to these little machines. And being so tied means that no one has to see your face, the breath in between your words or the space in between your thoughts. It's just like hieroglyphics, or some damn thing, and it doesn't reveal any of you, it's just words on paper. Half the time, those words are indecipherable—it took me forever to understand what "OMG" meant.

True. There is a communication code that leaves people out.

I think they do it on purpose, like certain singers who sing so that you can barely understand a word of the lyric. I'm having trouble, not just with young people and how fast they speak—they certainly seem to speak a different language so they won't be understood—but also with older peopl who work in a fast-paced economy. I'm finding I have to tell people—maybe because I was trained this way as an actress—to slow down and enunciate. And because I'm an old eccentric they'll actually do it for five or seven minutes.

And if I go to one more restaurant and see the young people communicate with one another at dinner by texting . . . I mean, that's insane.

It does seem totally antisocial.

Absolutely right. And then the other day I went to a movie and there were a couple of teenagers sitting in front of me, watching an entirely different movie on their BlackBerry. Is that called multitasking?

[Laughs] I suppose so.

I decided I was going to buy an iPad, because I see so many people enjoying it. The staff at the store showed me how to make a phone call. I tell you, the iPad is a muder weapon if you're not careful.

Q&A Web Exclusive: Shirley MacLaine

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Box Office is your guide to entertainment across Connecticut, courtesy of senior editor Pat Grandjean. If it's a chat with an actor or actress, previewing a new play at a regional theater, the latest on a state celebrity's new movie, or recommendations for seeing and doing, let Box Office be one of your hubs.

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