Activist, journalist, and feminist Gloria Steinem is woman of many parts. One of the keys to her success, she noted in her 2015 memoir, “My Life on the Road,” is the value she places on personal interaction, listening in particular: “If you want people to listen to you, you have to listen to them,” she wrote. Another would be the near-magical ability of personal stories to teach us about each other and to connect us to one another.
These ideas sit at the heart of “Gloria: A Life,” written by Emily Mann ’74 and directed by Diane Paulus ’88. The play, which begins previews at the American Repertory Theater on Friday and opens Jan. 30, dramatizes the formation as well as the future of the iconic feminist and the movement she spearheaded.
But it took a while for the project to come together.
Steinem, the co-founder of Ms. magazine and one of the original members of the National Women’s Political Caucus in 1971, first considered presenting her life as a play at the urging of her friend Kathy Najimy, the actor. When Steinem, now 85, agreed that it was, perhaps, time to look back, Najimy introduced her to producer Daryl Roth, who brought in both the artistic director of Lincoln Center in New York and playwright Mann, the artistic director of the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, N.J. It was Mann who, working with Steinem, began crafting scenes, resulting in an early attempt that had a very different result than anyone expected.