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Mary Beth Peil Sides With Diana Rigg in That Lauren Ambrose My Fair Lady ‘Bust-up’

Mary Beth Peil.

Diana Rigg brought new meaning to “I want her to know it was me” earlier this month when she aired her dirty My Fair Lady laundry out to the New York Post, venting her annoyance at the show’s star Lauren Ambrose for taking Sunday matinees off. As it turns out, Rigg, age 79, is not the only “old-fashioned” theater veteran on the boards this season; Anastasia’s Mary Beth Peil, age 78, thinks she has a point. “I’m still old-school,” Peil said, speaking with Vulture about what she called “the bust-up” at My Fair Lady at Saturday’s 20th annual Broadway Barks event. “The show must go on, and you signed up for it. You signed on, and if you can, you do it. You do eight shows a week. It goes with the territory.”

When Rigg’s remarks were made public, many, especially those of a younger generation, sided with Ambrose, arguing that a mother of two might deserve a day off. The task of playing Eliza Doolittle nearly bested the great Julie Andrews, after all. Peil, however, pointed out that she’s still held to the same expectations as performers a third her age. “As a 78 year old, I’m expected to do eight shows a week at the same kind of routine as the 25-year-olds in my show,” she said. “If you were a 78-year-old athlete, you wouldn’t be playing with the 20- and 30-year-olds.”

Peil said she does understand, however, that a reprieve from an eight-show work week benefits even the most tireless of actors. “I have learned to appreciate the time off,” she admitted. “I am from Diana Riggs’s [generation]. It never occurred to me to take a vacation or a personal day or let alone to do less than eight shows a week. But now that I’m in a run of over a year and half, I do understand that — even though we older generations have a different kind of mind-set about the performance rigor. We’re from that school, but there’s a new time a-comin’.”

Mary Beth Peil Sides With Diana Rigg in My Fair Lady Dispute