Magazine article The New Yorker

First Lady Onstage

Magazine article The New Yorker

First Lady Onstage

Article excerpt

Until Mayor Bloomberg leaves office or marries his longtime partner, Diana Taylor, New York City will have to do without a proper First Lady, as it has, effectively, since 2000, when Rudolph Giuliani announced the end of his marriage to Donna Hanover (which was apparently news to her) at a press conference. Since then, Hanover, a former correspondent for "Good Day New York," has married her high-school sweetheart (an experience that she recounted in her 2005 book, "My Boyfriend's Back") and hosted the cable show "Famous Homes & Hideaways," and currently she reports for the CUNY TV series "Science & U!" This month, she makes her Broadway dbut, in a revival of the 1960 Gore Vidal play "The Best Man," which depicts the dirty dealings and loveless marriages behind a Presidential nominating convention.

"I would not have thought that Broadway was in my future, so it's a blessing," Hanover said over lunch, during a recent rehearsal break. She wore a powder-blue jacket and pearl earrings, and was joined by her director, Michael Wilson. Hanover's acting credits have been intermittent, but she plays a type: newscaster, real-estate agent, district attorney. Last year, she was a casting director and an entertainment reporter in the Off Broadway play "Picked," which Wilson directed, and in "The Best Man" she is a nosy campaign reporter. She said that she is basing the character on the newswoman Nancy Dickerson, whom she met while working as a local anchor in Columbus, Ohio. "When I became First Lady, she was very gracious to me. She was just wonderful about saying, 'Continue your own work.' "

Hanover's acting jobs have often had a political edge. In 1996, she played Ruth Carter Stapleton in "The People vs. Larry Flynt," after meeting the film's director, Milos Forman, at a function for Czech artists ("My dad grew up speaking Czech in Texas") and inviting him to dinner at Gracie Mansion. Four years later, in what some people interpreted as a sly rebuke to her husband's policies, she accepted a role in "The Vagina Monologues," only to postpone the engagement when Giuliani announced that he had prostate cancer. (The marriage officially collapsed a week later.)

"The thing that I bring to this play, from both my life as a reporter and my life as a participant, is that a campaign is an adrenaline-drenched circumstance," she said, over a bowl of pumpkin soup. "It's intense. …

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