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What's it like to embody Pat Nixon?

In anticipation of our upcoming production “Tea for Three” we will be spotlighting our talented actresses! “Tea for Three” shares the hopes, fears, loves and insights of former First Ladies Lady Bird Johnson, Pat Nixon and Betty Ford. We had the opportunity to catch up with Nancy Finn who plays Pat Nixon and learn more about her connection with AFD.

What attracted you to Tea for Three and Pat Nixon?

I’ve missed theatre so much since Covid shut things down. Seeing plays and doing them. So, this is a unique opportunity to perform in a play, in a theatre, with my fellow castmates, but with the audience at home. To be honest, I have never been particularly interested in Pat Nixon, but once I started researching her I learned that her identity and the things she accomplished were quite separate from her husband’s. She was a pretty extraordinary lady in her own right.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed your perception on the importance of live theatre?

I have always loved the collaborative nature of theatre, and the power of live performance: actors telling a story to an audience gathered together to witness it. But with the shutdown, it became even clearer how much we need to come together and connect in real time, and how much is lost, culturally speaking, when theatre isn’t available. I hope we can get back to it safely, very soon.

When and how did you first become involved with AFD?

About five years ago I played Masha in Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike. Now I’m an Arlington resident, and it’s so great to be at my awesome local community theatre.

When not performing, what other activities do you participate in?

I’m a professor of theatre – plays and playwrights – at UMass Boston, and I also teach a course at Emerson College. So, it’s all theatre all the time! My husband, Chris, is also a professor, so there’s been a lot of Zoom-ing at our house. We have a Cavalier King Charles spaniel named Gwynne, and she’s the sweetest little character. We take her on a long walk every day around Mystic Lake, to clear our Zoomed-out minds. We’re really lucky to live around here, especially during quarantine.

How has learning about Pat Nixon impacted you?

Before, I sort of lumped all things Nixon together and filed it under “Watergate.” What I learned about Pat Nixon is that she supported women’s rights and the ERA, and she was independent and self-supporting for many years before she became Second Lady and then First Lady. She has a bit of a reputation for being somewhat stiff – the press dubbed her “Plastic Pat” – but she really wasn’t, she was dedicated to welcoming people to the White House, and she traveled tirelessly, always reaching out to people. She was much warmer and more fun than I think she’s given credit for.


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