Rosemary Prinz, once upon a time Penny on As the World Turns and likewise Amy on All My Children, is doing what she loves best -- acting in a wonderful play.
Prinz is at the fabled Cleveland Playhouse starring in Neil Simon's Pulitzer Prize winning play Lost in Yonkers, and is portraying the severe grandmother. Doing what she loves best requires her to do what she has a love-hate relationship with: constant traveling. Prinz has preformed in over 300 plays all over the world. That is a lot of traveling. "The traveling, like learning lines, is one of those things I have a love-hate relationship with. It's like loving the dog. You love it, but you have to walk it. When the weather is cold and you have to walk him, well, you may hate it, but he has to go for a walk. Just like lines have to [be] learned and travel has to be done so you can do the play."
Prinz started her love-hate relationship with the road at sixteen when she worked with stage legend Diana Barrymore inSaint Joan. Prinz graduated high school early, and her dad gave her permission to go on the road. "I remember him being a bit hesitant because of all the actors," she laughs. Dad need not have worried. The actors in Saint Joan took her under their wing. Madame Barrymore, not so much. "She was an alcoholic. If she did not like you, she would turn her back on you during a scene. She was a very complicated woman."
In Prinz's soap life, she had to deal with a very complicated woman -- Irna Phillips. Phillips creator, head writer and, in her own way, soap tyrant.
"Irna did not like my going out and doing plays. I was twenty-five when I was hired to play Penny. I thought I was going to stay five years at the most. I stayed for twelve. I did the twelve because I still needed to pay for my analysis. After those twelve years, analysis made me as uncrazy as I was going to or wanted to be."
Through the years, Prinz had one threat when Irna was giving her grief. "I would tell [her] I was going to get pregnant." A focal point of Penny's angst was her inability to have children.
For Phillips, the line between actress and character often blurred. "I would constantly have to tell Irna that I was Rosemary, not Penny. Penny was a character."
There was the time Prinz made the unkindest cut of all. "Penny was having some kind of crisis. I just decided to cut my hair. Irna was not happy. Irna said 'You can not cut your hair.' "What could they do? I could not uncut it."
One of Prinz's most vivid examples of going toe-to-toe with Irna was when she was starring in Two for The Seesaw in Chicago. "At the time, one of our writers was Billy Bell." She is referring to William J. Bell who went on to create The Young and the Restless and The Bold and the Beautiful. His wife, Lee, was doing a fifteen-minute-a-day talk show in Chicago.
"I was traveling with my schnauzer, Murray. Lee suggested we open the spot with Murray sitting on my lap. Murray turns his head and sees a dog in the monitor. He went crazy and started yapping. Lee and I kept laughing. We were having all this fun. I did not have my foot out the studio door when Irna called. She was furious. 'You have destroyed the character of Penny. She is a recent widow.' Neal Wade, my onscreen husband, had just died on the show. Irna only wanted me to grieve. I replied that I was in a play where my character slept with dozens of men. Was I supposed to do that in my real life? When Irna suggested I was being silly. I said 'Irna you bore me' and hung up. Irna was not used to being hung up on. Her poor assistant called me right back. Irna was certain that there was a problem with the phone."
Prinz exited As The World Turns when it was still number one in the ratings. After Prinz's As the World Turns stint, Agnes Nixon, who had helped script ATWT, wanted Prinz to help her launch her new ABC soap, All My Children. That show eventually took over the number one spot from Turns. Told that many AMC fans were unhappy that her character of Amy was not mentioned during the show's 40th anniversary celebration, she quips, "That's gratitude and show business for you." She does want to set the record straight. "When Agnes asked me to do the show, she told me I could have whatever I wanted. I told her it would only be for six months. I asked for the money I wanted and the storyline I wanted. Amy was to be protesting the Viet Nam War; she was to be a supporter of Martin Luther King, Jr. The character was not just going to do lip service to these ideals; she was going to be active in those issues. Agnes always takes the credit for it. But it was my idea."
During her six-month run, Prinz kept giving Susan Lucci career advice. "I was dumb enough to think she wanted what I wanted for a career. I kept telling her 'Babe, you need to leave the show. You need to do theatre.' Of course she didn't listen. I am certain she is very happy that she didn't." Just as Prinz appears to be happy that she did not stay with soaps. "I have no issues with soaps. We were very good to each other. I would bristle when theatre actors would make snide remarks about actors working on a soap opera. In the early years, there was this snobbery. Now everyone salivates to have someone who works or worked on a soap in a play because it helps bring in an audience.
"It is just as an actress I always wanted to play all these different characters," Prinz explains. In her career she has played over 300 different personas, yet there is still one she wants to play. "It really pisses me off that I am too old to play Blanche Dubois in Streetcar Named Desire. I have done some reading where I got to do some snippets, but never a whole play as Blanche."