I admit, the only Kathleen Turner film I’ve seen is House of Cards, a 90s film about a little girl who has completely stopped speaking, whom her doctor believes to be severely autistic. Then last week, I had the pleasure of hearing Turner speak with Gloria Feldt in NYC about the importance of a woman’s voice. No joke. It was pretty spectacular.
In House of Cards, Turner played a woman who believed in her daughter and was determined to get to the root of things (and that’s about all I can remember, since I saw it as a kid). Last week, with 50 Take The Lead community members, Turner showed up with just as much heart.
Turner and Feldt covered a ton of ground in an expansive hour-long conversation on voice, so I’ll give you just the highlights:
- If you want to do something, make it happen. Turner told the story of how she knew at age 20 that by age 50, she wanted to play Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf. As she was turning 49, realizing she had just one year left to make it happen, Turner asked herself what it would take to achieve her goal. She got in touch with playwright Edward Albee’s main producer, who she then took to dinner and persuaded to help get her get a meeting with Albee. Once she met with Albee, it was about convincing him to let her read for the part. Sure enough, after she read for the part, Albee and his team decided to do another production of the play with Turner playing Martha. Her story is a great excuse to ask yourself: what did you know you wanted to do at 20? What is something you are clear about now that you’d really like to do? How will you make it so?
- You are your own best advocate and representative. Responding to a question about how she dealt with being typecast as a beautiful young actress—I loved this—Turner answered simply and honestly: “You WILL be typecast. Don’t help them! You are the only person who can speak up and say, ‘I actually can do this other thing.’”
- Support yourself, support other women. A talented and stunning actress with a legendary low voice, Turner has been frequently described as the Lauren Bacall of her generation. Early in her career, she told us, she and Bacall were pitted against each other, as women so often are. But Turner and Bacall decided to support each other rather than compete. She told the story of their first meeting and subsequent friendship—how they would eventually trade off greetings each time they bumped into each other, going back and forth seeing how low their voices could go and having a laugh. I think Feldt would call that #SisterCourage—deciding to be sisters, to lead with friendship alongside one’s individual ambitions. (Yep, there’s room for both.)
These things aren’t always easy; of course not. But Turner asked the crowd to think about a question that helped to make them easier: “When you are scared to move forward,” she said, “ask yourself what it would cost you to stay.”
The conversation continued well beyond these points, on everything from how to use your physical voice with precision and confidence, to the complexities of owning your career as a woman who unapologetically says what she thinks and feels, to how Turner decided to become an advocate for so many social causes. It was a joy to hear Feldt and Turner, who have worked together before on Send Yourself Roses, relate all of Turner’s life lessons to the work of Take The Lead helping women to embrace their power—the power we already have, that no one can give us but ourselves. I’ll stop here though, as the three pearls of wisdom above stuck me with me so strongly, and I want to chew on them for a while.
If you were also in attendance, what did you take away from the conversation?