You can call Adrienne Barbeau many things: Actor, voice over artist, singer, author, host. But the best word to describe her is multi-talented. Barbeau has appeared on Broadway, she's written four books, and she appeared in the comedy Maude alongside Bea Arthur. And that's just a sprinkling of her many achievements, with over 450 stage, film and television appearances.
Barbeau is doing a show at The El Portal Theatre in North Hollywood on April 6 and 7 where she will share stories of her career, and perform a live version of her memoir, “There Are Worse Things I Could Do”. Audience members can enjoy this candid evening and are invited to participate.
Having been labeled a “Scream Queen” Barbeau has legions of horror-buff fans for her work with directors John Carpenter (who she married), Wes Craven, and George A. Romero. Who could forget her roles in The Fog, Swamp Thing, Escape from New York, Carnivale and of course Creepshow?
Barbeau got her start doing community theatre at the San Jose Civic Light Opera. A friend suggested she should try her hand on Broadway, and she never looked back.
“I love acting,” says Barbeau. “I love the camaraderie, I love being able to create, to make people laugh or make them cry, and have them say, 'I believed her.'”
Her first big break was as Hodel in Fiddler on the Roof on Broadway, where she met another young, up-and-coming actress – named Bette Midler! Fiddler's message struck home for the actress, who is of Armenian descent – people who suffered through a genocide.
Barbeau's performance as Rizzo in the Broadway production of Grease garnered her a Tony nomination for Best Supporting Actress. That opened the door for the role of Carol Traynor in the television show Maude, an experience that Barbeau says influenced her comedic chops and timing.
“Everyone wants to know – what was Bea Arthur like?” says Barbeau “She was willing to do anything in terms of the words on the page that would make it funnier – even if it meant giving her lines to another actor. She was also the first one up from the table when a guest artist came in.”
A hard-working actress – she has had roles in five films just this year – Barbeau appeared in the critically praised film Argo in a small role as Nina/Serksi the Gallactic Witch. It became deja vu.
“While on set, I realized that one of the extras was wearing my jumpsuit from Cannonball Run,” says Barbeau. “I went to the wardrobe mistress and asked if she had pulled the costume. She said yes, and I said 'but the woman wearing it is at least 8 inches taller than I am!' And she laughed and said 'We put her in high white boots.'”
Barbeau just ended a national tour as Berthe in Pippin where she hung on a trapeze while singing. But out of her huge body of work Barbeau says she's most connected with her role in Carnivale. “Ruthie the Snake Dancer was a favorite for so many reasons, but mostly because I loved the character, the scripts and the role really resonated with me.”
Barbeau's career has evolved into writing. She says her motivation came from a message from beyond from her closest friend – a film editor who died of breast cancer in 1998.
It was the first day of preschool for her twins, and Barbeau was in for a shock. She saw a woman on the campus who was a literal doppelganger of her deceased friend.
“I reacted, I thought I was going to pass out,” she says. “She asked if I was okay, and I told her you look like a friend of mine who was a film editor and died of breast cancer. And this woman, looking just like my friend, said 'well, I'm a film editor, and I have breast cancer, so we could be best friends.' It was so remarkable, we ended up going for coffee. Over the course of the conversation she told me about a writing class she had attended – and I got a very strong feeling that my friend was telling me that I needed to go and take this class.”
That class led to “There Are Worse Things I Could Do,” which hit the bestseller list. And Barbeau hasn't stopped there. She wrote the fiction horror novels Vampyres of Hollywood, Love Bites, and Make Me Dead and Love Bites has now been optioned for a film, with Barbeau co-writing the screenplay. You can even get a boxset called “Scream Queen Confidential” that includes her memoir, Love Bites, and Make Me Dead on amazon.com
Come enjoy a candid evening with this icon on Apr. 6 and 7 – and bring your questions with you! The El Portal Theatre is located at 5269 Lankershim Blvd. in North Hollywood. Fans who visit the El Portal Theatre website for tickets can enter the code SCREAMand get a discount on admission. www.elportaltheatre.com