Stage and Film Work, Photography and Poetic Muse Keep Zabriskie Busy

“I do less waiting by the phone than anyone I know in the business,” says actress Grace Zabriskie. “I don’t wait for a job. I just go on to my own work.”

Some of that work is elegant, kaleidoscope-inspired photo collages, which often artfully document past performances, such as “Camaralenta,” at her regular L.A. theater home, Stages. Others amusingly honor director David Lynch, with whom Zabriskie has worked on “Twin Peaks” and his upcoming feature, “Wild at Heart.”

When she isn’t doing collages or acting (she’s currently filming “Women in Prison” for Penelope Spheeris), Zabriskie is writing poetry, or presenting some of it in “Mondays at Stages,” which runs in Hollywood through May.

“Some people are suspicious of others who have more than one talent,” she remarks. “I’ve had poets tell me to my face that an actress can’t be a poet.” They probably didn’t know, though, that Zabriskie was better known for her poetry than acting in Atlanta, where she was based before coming West 11 years ago.


After the move, she stopped writing: “I wasn’t sufficiently miserable to write. One isn’t likely to look at things ironically and poetically if one is content, and I was” with a steady line of work, at Stages and in films ranging from “Norma Rae” and “An Officer and a Gentleman” to “The Big Easy” and “Drugstore Cowboy.”

Zabriskie credits Stages’ artistic director Paul Verdier for pushing her to “air my poetry in public.”

She also was pushed by Lynch in her emotionally-wracking “Twin Peaks” performance as Laura Palmer’s mother. “I’d complain to David that I was over the top, and he would say, ‘You’re not, keep going.’ He wanted complete grief.” For “Wild at Heart,” he wanted something else from her: “Isabella (Rossellini) and I play the movie’s bad girls. I’m a sexy, evil, depraved Cajun woman. Artistically, that was a wonderful switch.”