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2023 StrasbergWORKS Selection: Quinn the Magnificent by Paige Susan Anderson

Audrey Miller

Paige Susan Anderson, an established lawyer, chose to pursue her love of acting and writing as a second career at The Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute (LSTFI). Paige’s original play, Quinn the Magnificent, was selected for the 2023 StrasbergWORKS Program, a highly competitive initiative designed to “encourage students and alumni to produce and create original work”. Quinn the Magnificent premiered at the Marilyn Monroe Theatre on August 17 and 18, 2023. Directed by Tomer Adorian, the original production featured LSTFI students and alumni Ciara Van Buren (Quinn), Audrey Miller* (Cecilia), Patrick Feeney (Jay), Isa Barrett (Linda), and Marcellus Taska (Cleo). 

A Lawyer Discovers the Method

Although Paige has always enjoyed theatre and writing, she first practiced law for many years. When a serious illness in her mid-forties led her to question her future, Paige reveals, “I thought very seriously about what I wanted the rest of my life to be like.” She decided to explore acting and began taking classes in Ithaca, NY, where she lived with her husband and children.

After reading Stanislavsky’s An Actor Prepares, Paige became fascinated by the idea of “being private in public”, determined to conquer her stage fright and resolve her issue of “blanking out” during auditions. When her husband’s job relocated to New York City, she jumped at the chance to hone her craft in a more professional setting. She began searching for a Stanislavsky-influenced acting school and discovered The Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute: “I felt like Lee Strasberg’s teachings were probably closest to the Stanislavsky idea.” 

Paige describes her first visit to LSTFI as “magical”. She says, “The second I walked in the door, I felt like, ‘This is where I want to be’… I remember walking through the halls and you’d hear people rehearsing, singing, practicing their scenes… For me, that was so beautiful, so inspiring.” For Paige, LSTFI provided a welcome change in atmosphere from “stressful”, “rigid”, “fact-based”, and “hierarchical” law school. 

From 2017 to 2019, Paige completed LSTFI’s Two-Year Conservatory Program, studying with Lola Cohen, Tim Crouse, Michael Ryan, Bruce Baumer, Ron Navarre, the late Larry Alton, and others, in addition to participating in Vincent D’Onofrio’s Master Class.

Since graduating, Paige has been developing her acting career, performing in several shows and films. This summer, she had the opportunity to revisit the Red Doors of LSTFI, this time as the playwright of the 2023 StrasbergWORKS Selection: Quinn the Magnificent

More Than a One-Act

During a routine writing session at a coffee shop with a friend, Paige recalls writing the first scene of what would become Quinn the Magnificent: “I was sitting there and this mother and son started speaking to each other in my head. I just followed their conversation and started writing it down.” For Paige, writing is intuitive and “undefinable”. She says, “The way I write is to put people together and listen to them… They just start to have a conversation and I take it down.” 

Paige originally thought this conversation between mother and son could be a complete one-act play until LSTFI’s Larry Alton suggested she develop it even further. She jokingly says, “I didn’t really want him to say that. I wanted him to say, ‘Great play! You’re done.’” Yet Paige kept crafting the play, deepening the characters’ relationships, and bringing subsequent scenes into class each week until she was left with a “semi-finished” version. Paige thanked Larry in Quinn the Magnificent’s playbill, writing, “It seems very fitting that, six years later, [the same play] premieres here at LSTFI. I wish he was here to see it.”

For several years, Paige held onto the play, unsure if it was ready to share, until she received an email advertising LSTFI’s StrasbergWORKS Program. Paige recalls reading the email and thinking it “might be time to send it out into the world and see what other people think.” She adds, “I had no thought that I was going to win.” Months later, in the midst of moving apartments, Paige sat surrounded by boxes on her living room floor, answering a congratulatory phone call from LSTFI.

Relating to Her Characters

When asked if she relates to one character in particular, Paige hesitates and replies, “I feel like there are aspects of all of them that I relate to, and aspects of my personality or people I know.” There is a clear connection between Paige and Cecilia, the overworked mother and lawyer – “Like Cecilia, I was a lawyer. I had a lot of complication, trying to balance a lot of things” – yet, Paige finds similarities to all her characters.

Paige has felt “disempowered and on the outside” like the young au pair, Linda. She also admits, “I’ve been that sibling who knows best… trying to manage people’s lives and being a pain in the ass because of that,” like Cecilia’s brother, Cleo. Although Paige was “never a kid like Quinn,” she reveals his “outspokenness” and “ability to act without fear of any consequences” draws her to him. She even relates to Cecilia’s new partner, Jay, who is villainized throughout the play: “Even with Jay, that idea of, ‘I’m just being myself, why don’t people like me?’ I think we’ve all had that.” 

When writing, Paige never consciously based these characters on herself or people in her own life. She says, “I’ve known people who were like all of these people, but all of them are really complicated blends of different people.” For Paige, her characters must relate to and feel like “real people”. In fact, by the end of this experience, Paige admits that she has grown to love these characters even more through their embodiments in the production of Quinn the Magnificent: “In a way, all of them are my family.” 

Shaping the Production

Paige met Tomer Adorian, the director of Quinn the Magnificent, through an online writing class during the pandemic. The two creatives stayed in touch, sharing work back and forth, and building a “really nice friendship”. When Paige’s play was chosen at LSTFI, she trusted Tomer to bring her story to life. 

Only about a week after Paige received the news, she and Tomer were already auditioning current and former LSTFI students, searching for their cast of five. Although Paige is primarily a playwright and actress, she admits that she loves casting. Paige believes actors give the strongest auditions when they “bring themselves into the room.” She says, “There’s no pretending, there’s no acting even.” Instead, she identifies a “seamless blend” of the person and the character “that’s really beautiful to watch.” 

That said, Paige understands the difficulties of executing this perfect “blend” in an audition room: “I don’t think there’s anything in the world that’s harder for an actor than to be yourself in the room.” She notes that actors often think they must put on a façade to “not bore people” or “be entertaining,” simply because they don’t realize that being themselves is what makes them stand out.

Throwing Aside Perfectionism

For Paige, the greatest lesson of this experience is to “take more chances.” Paige urges others “to not be afraid of failure and not wait until everything is perfect.” For years, Paige held onto Quinn the Magnificent, waiting for it to be “the perfect script” and “the perfect time” in her life. She says, “I think I was sort of waiting for things to become perfect… but that doesn’t really happen. I’m really glad that I threw aside perfectionism.”

Because of the limited rehearsal time prior to the performances, things did not always run perfectly. Through this experience, Paige learned the importance of “embracing obstacles.” Coming into rehearsal with the attitude of “what obstacles are we going to conquer today” instead of “being afraid of them or wishing they weren’t there” was crucial for Paige and the entire cast and crew. 

What’s Next? Something Magnificent

After this StrasbergWORKS experience, Paige would like to continue working on Quinn the Magnificent, reworking certain scenes and interactions between characters: “I got a lot of great input from this experience.” While it was incredible for Paige to see the play come to life through the performances, rehearsals were equally important. In fact, anytime an actor forgot a line or jumped from one place to another in a scene, Paige took note. She says, “In a way, I went to school on [the actors’] mistakes because they’re very helpful to me.” Her current goal is to “make it better, but not make it different.” 

Besides revisiting Quinn the Magnificent, Paige just finished the first draft of another play and has two others in the works. Whatever she does next is sure to be magnificent! Discover more and keep up with Paige on her website.

*Author’s Note: As an intern at LSTFI and a cast member of Quinn the Magnificent, I am fortunate to have gotten to know Paige on a professional and personal level. I was honored to bring the complicated character of Cecilia to life for the first time on a stage, and appreciated Paige’s patience and willingness to answer my many questions in and out of the rehearsal room.