Q&A

Actress Jane Alexander on birding, supporting the arts and the National Audubon Society’s upcoming Annual Gala Dinner

Tuesday, January 14, 2014
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In conjunction with the National Audubon Society’s annual gala dinner on January 27th, AVENUE sits down with beloved screen and stage star, writer, conservationist and bird enthusiast Jane Alexander.

What are you up to at the moment?
I’m throwing some things in a backpack for a trip in a few days to a remote part of east Andean Ecuador for birding and research on a tribal culture and their connection to wildlife. This is for a book I am writing on my travels and conservation.

How and why did you become involved with the Audubon society?
David Yarnold was the new CEO of National Audubon and joined us on his first Christmas Bird Count a few years ago. My terms on the American Birding Association and as a park commissioner for New York State were coming to an end and since Audubon under David is 100 percent dedicated to conservation I was excited to be asked to be on the board of directors.

Tell us about the National Audubon Society’s upcoming Annual Gala Dinner.
The gala is a great affair, very posh and fun. It puts Audubon, birds and their habitats in the spotlight, and highlights the need for protection of species.

Have you ever gone birding in New York City?
Yes, I bird in Central Park maybe once a year—spring is great there for warblers. And the greater New York area has some wonderful birds from Pelham Bay to Jamaica Bay.

Where’s your dream place to go birding and why?
Well, you simply cannot beat the numbers in Ecuador, Colombia or Peru, vying for as many as 1800 species. But birds are harder to see in the rainforest than in open areas like the colder coastal Americas or Canada, so I am drawn also to seabirds and shorebirds in Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and the Pacific Northwest.

Do you have a favorite species of bird and why?
I’m a thrush nut. The songs of the Wood Thrush and the Hermit Thrush are tops in my estimation.

As a longtime arts advocate, what’s your favorite New York museum or cultural institution to visit and why?
No surprise: the Museum of Natural History is and always has been my favorite New York City Museum. I adore the dioramas and the bird collections.

What’s your all-time favorite role you’ve played or project you’ve been in?
My all-time favorite characters are 1) Calamity Jane in a CBS TV movie in which I got to do many of my own stunts; 2) Eleanor Roosevelt in a 7 hour mini-series for ABC—she taught me more about life than anyone I have ever played and 3) the Baby Dinosaur in Thornton Wilder’s The Skin of Our Teeth, for the sheer exuberance off it.

Do you have a preference between stage or screen?
I prefer stage because it is an actor’s medium, and rehearsals are so remarkable creatively. [That being said], it is exhausting to do 8 times a week so I mostly do TV these days.

Any upcoming projects you’d like to share?
The project that is involving me completely now is the book I am writing on my travels around the globe with the great wildlife biologists of our time and their heroic efforts to save the declining species of the planet. It is a celebration of
life on earth and ways we can save it.

Photo by Anthony Sherin

The National Audubon Society’s Annual Gala Dinner will take place on Monday, January 27, 2014 at the Plaza Hotel.

The prestigious organization, dedicated to the preservation and restoration of natural ecosystems and wildlife, will honor two exceptional conservationists: Dan W. Lufkin, who will be granted the prestigious Audubon Medal, and Patrick F. Noonan, who will be awarded the $100,000 Lufkin Prize for Environmental Leadership.

The awards will be presented by Nathaniel P. Reed (former Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior for Fish, Wildlife, and Parks), and Cecil D. Andrus (former U.S. Secretary of the Interior and Governor of Idaho), in memory of conservation bigwig Donal C. O’Brien, Jr.

Click here for additional information.
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