From Arena Stage to The Booth: ‘The Velocity of Autumn’ Interviews: Part 2: Meet Director Molly Smith and Cast Members Estelle Parsons and Stephen Spinella

This upcoming Monday night-on April 21st-The Velocity of Autumn by Eric Coble opens on Broadway at The Booth Theatre. It’s been an exciting journey so far for the play that entertained enthusiastic audiences at Arena Stage. Audiences in DC and critics alike applauded the glorious performances of Academy Award winner Estelle Parsons and Tony Award winner Stephen Spinella.

Producer Larry Kaye, Eric Coble, Molly Smith, Estelle Parsons, Stephen Spinella, and Producer Van Dean. Photo by Walter McBride for BroadwayWorld.
Producer Larry Kaye, Eric Coble, Molly Smith, Estelle Parsons, Stephen Spinella, and Producer Van Dean. Photo by Walter McBride for BroadwayWorld.

Here are short chats I had with The Velocity of Autumn’s Producers Larry Kaye and Van Dean, Playwright Eric Coble, Arena Stage’s Artistic Director Molly Smith, [who is making her Broadway debut] , and stars Estelle Parsons and Stephen Spinella, which I conducted at The Press Get-together at Sardis on March 3rd.

In Part Two, meet Director Molly Smith and co-stars Estelle Parsons and Stephen Spinella.

Joel: Why is this the perfect timing to bring The Velocity of Autumn to New York?

Artistic Director Molly Smith. Photo courtesy of Arena Stage.
Director Molly Smith. Photo courtesy of Arena Stage.

Molly: I think this is a perfect time because I believe it’s a modern play. It’s a play for our time. What Eric has really been able to do is to put his finger on the Zeitgeist of the moment, because this is a play about aging and it’s a play about what happens when our parents become too old to take care of themselves. Do we take care of them? Do they move into a nursing home? And it’s the story of Alexandra who takes everything into her own hands and creates Molotov Cocktails in her home threatening to blow everything up-herself included and the whole block if she needs to-in order to keep her kids from putting her into a nursing home.

My Mom is 92 right now, she is still living alone-thank God-and we have people that come in every day to take care of her, and my partner Suzanne-her mother is 86-and she’s taking care of her. These questions that people are grappling with in their family-they are deep and profound. The joy of this production is that there is is a profound amount of humor as well. It is laugh-out loud falling off the chair and then completely moved and in tears. That has been the audience’s response to it because we all bring in our own stories from our own experiences-just like I brought in my story from my own family.

How did the show get to New York? The last time you and I spoke was on opening night at Arena Stage in DC.

At the Booth Theatre during rehearsals.
At the Booth Theatre during rehearsals. Photo courtesy of Arena Stage.

Originally the play was going to start in New York and then the right theatre couldn’t be found. The only theatre that was open was one that had over 1,400 seats and it would have crushed the production. Then Producer Larry Kaye and I talked and Edgar Dobie-the Executive Producer at Arena Stage-said, “Why don’t we just see if we can bring it here.” So we made the decision to bring it here and it did great. It sold extremely well and Larry continued to work to find a potential theater and he brought people including the people from The Shubert organization to DC to see the play and people were very engaged with the material. The loved Estelle and Stephen. So Larry just kept working on getting the producers in place and to get the money in place-he totally believes in the show.

I have known Larry for a long time and he never gives up on something he believes in.

He keeps going and going and going. He’s a believer like you.

Stephen Spinella and Estelle Parsons. Photo by Walter McBride.
Stephen Spinella and Estelle Parsons. Photo by Walter McBride.

Joel: So nice to see both of you again. Tell me about your DC experience with The Velocity of Autumn at Arena Stage.

Estelle: I thought the DC audiences were very, very wonderful. It will be interesting to see what the audiences will be like in New York. I loved the energy the audiences showed in DC. The laughter was incredible. Their involvement in the piece was incredible. But that’s also a big tribute to the piece.

I felt sometimes that the audiences were more conservative than what New York audiences are. They was one time when I said, “Screw you! – when I am overwhelmingly upset about what you [Chris] said, and there was this woman in the front row who suddenly gasped, and I said, “Oh God, where are we?” But she may not had been gasping about the word, she may have been gasping about you [to Stephen] rejecting me.

Stephen: Oh, well, maybe it was because you were screaming at this delicate, fragile….

Estelle: Oh my God! Get me out of here!

Stephen: I loved the DC audiences. They were smart and very responsive. And the Kreeger Theater was a very intimate space. I felt they were right there with us, and that was really beautiful. I am looking forward to the NYC audiences. They are very smart audiences.

Joel: The Booth Theatre is my favorite theatre in NYC because every seat is great and you feel like you are on the stage with the actors.

Estelle: When I played the Shubert Theatre I had that experience. I felt like they were coming on me-I felt like I had to reach out or they were going to topple over me. That was an amazing experience for me and I have never forgotten it. That was when I first started out. It was a long time ago [Estelle played Laureen in Edward Albee’s Malcolm at The Shubert Theatre in 1966]. 

I hope NYC audiences will have an amazing experience watching both of us in this wonderful play in this intimate theater.


The Velocity of Autumn is playing at The Booth Theatre-225 West 45th Street, in New York City. For tickets, call (212) 239-6200, OR 800-432-7250, purchase them online at Telechargeor in person at The Booth Theatre.


From Arena Stage to The Booth: ‘The Velocity of Autumn’ Interviews: Part 1: Producers Larry Kaye and Van Dean & Playwright Eric Coble.

Attending ‘The Velocity of Autumn’ Meet the Press at Sardi’s Today by Joel Markowitz.

An Interview with Playwright Eric Coble on His Play ‘The Velocity of Autumn’ at Arena Stage by Joel Markowitz.

Review of The Velocity of Summer by Nicole Cusick on DCMetroTheaterArts.

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Joel Markowitz
Joel Markowitz is the Publisher and Editor of DCMetroTheaterArts. He founded the site with his brother Bruce to help promote the vast riches of theatre and the arts in the DC Metro area that includes Maryland, Virginia, and DC theater and music venues, universities, schools, Children's theaters, professional, and community theatres. Joel is an advocate for promoting the 'stars of the future' in his popular 'Scene Stealers' articles. He wrote a column for 5 years called ‘Theatre Schmooze’ and recorded podcast interviews for DC Theatre Scene. His work can also be seen and read on BroadwayStars. Joel also wrote a monthly preview of what was about to open in DC area theatres for BroadwayWorld. He is an avid film and theater goer, and a suffering Buffalo Bills and Sabres fan. Joel was a regular guest on 'The Lunch and Judy Show' radio program starring Judy Stadt in NYC. Joel founded The Ushers Theatre Going Group in the DC area in 1990, which had a 25-year run when it took its final curtain call last year. Joel is a proud member of The American Critics Association.


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