She studied acting alongside Marilyn Monroe, introduced Angelina Jolie to film audiences, was Emmy-nominated for playing Sylvia Fine on television’s “The Nanny,” and enjoyed a 52-year marriage and professional partnership with actor-writer Joe Bologna.
At the Bucks County Playhouse, from Jan. 30 to Feb. 2, octogenarian Renée Taylor will share stories from her 65-year show business career in her one-woman comedy “My Life on a Diet.”
Co-written with Bologna, who directed its original production, Taylor’s hilarious and poignant autobiographical show was her husband’s idea.
“I didn’t think people would be interested, but he talked me into it. He found it fascinating that my whole life I’ve been on one diet after another, and some of them were dangerous,” explained Taylor, a respected comic actor in her own right, who also co-created 22 plays, four films, and nine TV programs with Bologna.
“I always paid careful attention to how and what people ate. I thought if I ate like beautiful movie stars, I’d turn out like them. When I was in Lee Strasberg’s class with Marilyn Monroe at the Actors Studio, I followed her around, noticing what she was eating and asking her questions about it.”
Taylor even ended up mimicking her husband’s eating regimen. “He never ate dinner. He was in the movies, you know, so watching his weight was always an issue. He would go anyplace with me for breakfast or lunch, but he wouldn’t have dinner. Only two meals a day, I’d tell him, that’s not normal. Now, it’s exactly what I try to do myself, it’s Dr. Oz’s diet, don’t eat after 6 p.m.”
Despite their dietary differences, the couple demonstrated remarkable ability to write collaboratively, which, according to Taylor, was based on great respect for the other person’s talent.
“I would write something, then he would re-write it. He would edit it, because I tend to be very verbose. He would make things shorter. He was very good with structure, and I with dialogue.
“I could have somebody come on and talk forever, but he would ask, what happens? And I would say, I don’t know. I wasn’t very good with plot or story. I’m good with what people say and how they behave. We each had our different strengths. I think that’s how you get along with somebody you write with.”
Though she quotes Dorothy Parker, saying that she loves the feeling of “having written,” Taylor finds acting the more satisfying creative pursuit, and the theater the most rewarding medium in which to do it.
“It’s an opportunity to communicate with people, and it’s my intention with this show to have a very deep sharing with the audience. Acting is a healing experience for me,” said Taylor, not yet three years since Bologna’s death, in 2017.
“Comedy is probably wanting to make sense of the pain that you feel. There are moments in this play when I talk about some of my personal experiences and I hear people in the audience crying.”
Taylor has fond memories of co-writing, co-directing and co-starring with her husband in the 1996 film “Love is All There Is,” in which Jolie made her screen debut. After working with them on the project, Jolie told the couple, “Someday I hope I have a relationship like yours.”
For tickets and information, visit BucksCountyPlayhouse.org or call the box office at 215-862-2121.