By Jane Heil Usyk
The last two years, since she left the Village, have been very, very busy for Marianne Rendon. How many young people graduate from college and immediately get a major acting part in a series? And then fill in the gaps in the shooting schedule with featured parts in movies?
Marianne did that, and now she is starring in a play at Lincoln Center. When I caught up with her, she was getting ready to go onstage in “Plot Points in Our Sexual Development,” an interesting, absolutely of-the-moment take on aspects of sexuality.
Marianne plays a cisgender (the same gender as one was born with) person, and Jax Jackson plays a transgender (now a different gender from that one was born with) person. The first half of the play tells of their sexual histories; the next half tells how they adjust to each other in order to have a relationship. It’s playing at the Claire Tow Theater, above the Beaumont, until November 18th.
How did all that happen? And where does she go from here? We discussed her trajectory, and her years in the Village, recently. Marianne is tall and slim, with long black hair that sometimes curtains her lovely face. She is in town briefly, then plans to go back to Vancouver, Canada, where she has been living while making the series “Imposters.” She grew up in New Rochelle, went to Bard College as an undergraduate, then went into the four-year acting program at the Juilliard School, a famous program that only admits eighteen people every year. Among its graduates: Kelsey Grammer, Kevin Kline, Patti LuPone, Robin Williams, and Mandy Patinkin.
While at Juilliard, Marianne won the John Houseman Award, given for excellence acting in the classics.
Even before her 2016 graduation, juggling a desk job at Juilliard along with classes and school performances, she heard about auditions for a series called “Imposters,” in which she would play someone duped by a beautiful con artist. She tried out, and got the job, so that by graduation she was already planning to move to Canada, where the show was filmed.
She was living on MacDougal Street, in a room in poet Anne Waldman’s house, near Lenny Cecere’s now-gone store, “Something Special.” She got the room through a friend. She experienced the area as a magical neighborhood, a special locale of about three blocks encompassing Sullivan Street, Thompson Street, Houston, Prince—she loved that neighborhood and found it somewhat stuck in time; the buildings had been there since the first half of the 19th century, and many people knew each other. She spent time at Local on Sullivan Street, which was a hangout for a lot of people. At that time there was a tiny pop-up park there, where everyone sat, brought their dogs, and talked about their lives.
“It just felt like this untouched part of New York. There was that mozzarella store on Sullivan Street (Joe’s Dairy Latticini Freschi).”
After a nice trip through Marianne’s memories of her Village, we discussed how she got the part of Patti Smith. “My agent and manager let me know about auditions, and they told me about the Mapplethorpe/Patti Smith movie,” she said. “Patti Smith had been one of my idols.” (Gena Rowlands was another.) “And to think of playing her—! I tried to be really honest, to get her essence…”
So she took a few weeks off from “Imposters,” went to New York, and played Patti Smith when Smith was younger and in a creative partnership with Robert Mapplethorpe, a very innovative photographer of the 1970s and 1980s. They lived together in the Chelsea Hotel for about five years, from 1969 to 1974.
After that movie, Marianne returned to Canada and “Imposters.” It ran for two seasons. Then Marianne heard, through her agent and manager, of an audition for “Charlie Says,” a movie about the young women who gathered around the cult leader Charles Manson in the late 1960s.
She tried out for the part of Susan Atkins, a major figure in the cult, who had been present at all the murders the Manson family perpetrated. Susan was a very troubled girl who had been a stripper and a street person. But the movie is not about that part of her life, Marianne tells me. “The movie focuses on Karlene Faith, a sympathetic feminist counselor and teacher in the prison where the girls were serving time, and on their gradual understanding of why they made bad decisions, and what they really needed, which was a family—but not that family.” The real Susan Atkins died of a brain tumor while in prison.
Both movies have played in a few film festivals and been warmly received. They are probably going to come out in movie theaters in the spring. When the run of “Plot Points in Our Sexual Development” ends, in mid-November, Marianne will return to Canada, a country she reveres for its humane attitudes and sanity, and where she has already put down roots. And what is on the horizon? Only time will tell. But judging from her first two years out of Juilliard, there will be many auditions, lots of theater, TV, and movies.