Even though actress Piper Laurie says her one-woman show about Zelda Fitzgerald tops her list of occupational desires, "Twin Peaks" keeps getting in the way.
Listen to her reply when asked how she first got involved with William Luce's play, "The Last Flapper."Laurie's mind was elsewhere. "I've always wanted to work with David Lynch," she replied.
Charles Nelson Reilly directs "The Last Flapper." Lynch, of course, directs the quirky ABC miniseries, "Twin Peaks," of which Laurie is one of the many stars.
"Twin Peaks" was the cult hit of the spring TV season and Laurie, who plays the devious Catherine Martell, has been fielding questions about it ever since it began airing.
Her hope had been to make the St. Paul, Minn., performances of "The Last Flapper" the beginning of a national tour that would keep her busy for many months.
"Twin Peaks," of course, has gotten in the way. Any national tour has been put on hold so Laurie can continue working on "Twin Peaks," which has been renewed for ABC's fall season.
That aside, Laurie was more than willing to talk about Zelda Fitzgerald.
"Not many people ask me about her. She is actually more important to me than `Twin Peaks,' " she said.
Laurie's interest in the wife of writer F. Scott Fitzgerald began about 10 years ago when a young writer came to her with a play about Zelda. "It led me to read about her and I discovered she was a very talented writer in her own right."
A few years later Reilly asked Laurie to look at a play Luce had written about Zelda. Luce had previously scored a modest hit with "The Belle of Amherst," a one-woman show about poet Emily Dickinson, starring Julie Harris and also directed by Reilly.
Laurie first performed the "Flapper" script three years ago at the Burt Reynolds Dinner Theatre in Jupiter, Fla. Later in 1987 she did a five-week run at the Alley Theatre in Houston. She last played the role two years ago at the Westport Playhouse in Connecticut.
Laurie said she was drawn to the play because of her fascination with Zelda, whose drinking and erratic personality some observers judged a hindrance to Fitzgerald's brilliant, short career.
Zelda, a society belle from Montgomery, Ala., met Fitzgerald while he was serving in the U.S. Army during World War I. After he wrote his first novel, "This Side of Paradise," they married in 1920. IN 1922 they moved to Europe, where Zelda began to experience the problems that eventually led to her commitment to a mental hospital in Switzerland in 1930.
Following Scott's death in 1941, she lived in nursing homes and mental hospitals until she died in a 1947 nursing home fire in Asheville, N.C.
"I think it's a fact that she was such an accomplished person, and in her own way so sane and talented," she said. Zelda wrote one novel, "Save Me the Waltz," and several short stories under her own name. "If she had lived today, she probably would have been prescribed librium for depression and gone to counseling, where she would have been told not to marry that guy. She lived in the wrong age and married the wrong man.
"She was a truly brilliant person. When I read some of her correspondence, I understand why Scott stole her letters and used whole chunks of them in his novels," she said.