Eve Plumb, known to television fans the world over as middle sister Jan Brady on The Brady Bunch, is making her New York stage debut in the title role of Miss Abigail’s Guide to Dating, Mating and Marriage. Plumb stars as a self-styled relationship guru who, along with her sidekick Paco (played by Manuel Herrera), dishes out advice on all things love to the lucky members of her audience. After The Brady Bunch went off the air in 1974, Plumb went on to roles in short-lived series such as Little Women and Fudge, but kept a much lower profile than many of her Brady castmates. She hasn’t gone on to reality television, like Christopher Knight and Florence Henderson, nor has she written a tell-all book like Barry Williams and Maureen McCormick. Instead, Plumb performed at small theaters in L.A. and did South Pacific in the Poconos before settling down in Laguna Beach, California, with husband Kenneth Pace. She became a prolific oil painter and resurfaced from time to time in guest spots on That ‘70s Show and
Why did you choose this play for your off-Broadway stage debut—and why now?
To be honest, my main interest was in moving to New York City. In February I did Broadway Backwards 5 so I was able to get agents, then I came and spent two very hot, sticky months in July and August trying to get a job. Nothing was going on at all. I was ready to pack up and go back to Laguna when my agents told me about this audition. I said, "Sure, sounds good," whatever. I didn’t know anything about it. I auditioned, and when I called my agents to check in they said, “They want you!” So within two weeks I had to go to Laguna, pack up my life and come back here.
You’ve always been a California girl; why New York?
I realized I’d like to live in another city before I get too old! Paris was another choice, and it sounds great, but if you don’t know anybody it can be pretty alienating.
You came to New York in July and August, and you still decided you wanted to stay?
Yes, even though going to the grocery store and back was the bikram Sherpa treadmill. And when you had to go down to the subway it’s the bikram Stairmaster.
You're obviously committed to returning to the stage.
Well, I came to acting as a sort of fluke. I really enjoy it, but I think I’m different from the people who dreamed about it. When I was six years old, a children’s agent moved in next door to us, sent me out on a commercial audition, and I got the job. So to me, acting is something that I’ve always been able to do and something I’ve always gotten work doing. It’s more of a job to me.
What do you love about Miss Abigail?
I love that today’s matinee was one of our quieter audiences, and people were still roaring with laughter, and that’s all the script. Ken Davenport’s script is so brilliant.
It looks like you and Manny [Herrera] are really playing around a lot on stage. Is your experience with L.A. improv group the Groundlings coming in handy?
The show is so much fun, but it’s not as loose as it might seem. It has a progression, and Miss Abigail disseminates a lot of very specific information, with names and dates and titles, and it’s important that I get all that across.
Do you enjoy all the audience interaction in the show?
Of course! Unfortunately, sometimes we get drunk people and that really requires concentration. We ask the audience to respond a lot, so then they feel very free to do so, but you can’t reason with a drunk, so don’t try. You can’t win that argument.
In addition to acting, you've kept busy as an artist. Are you finding time to paint here?
No, and I’ve got to get to it. I thought I would be able to knock off a couple of paintings because I’ve got two days off a week, but it hasn’t happened. I’m learning my lines and rehearsing and adjusting to life in New York, and it’s been all I can do to keep myself clothed and fed—and the feeding part hasn’t always gone well. But I’m doing a Junior League Christmas Bazaar in Washington D.C. next month, so I need to get some done and then go down there and be a famous person for them.
Is it ever frustrating to be so closely associated with something as iconic as The Brady Bunch?
No, and it’s probably what got me this show, you know?
You’ve gotten a bit of a reputation for avoiding Brady events.
I never wanted to do reunion shows for the sake of a reunion show. I’ve done all the Brady Bunch stuff except for the Variety Show, but when a talk show wants us all to get together for their sake, it’s not interesting to me. Truthfully, I’m not going to sell much artwork on a talk show. That’s why I don’t do many of those, except when I have something to talk about, like I do now.
There was quite a tabloid to-do in March about a cancelled talk show appearance, reportedly over a feud between you and Maureen McCormick, who played Marcia.
You know what? I don’t think that talk show appearance was ever planned. It was announced that it was cancelled before anybody knew it was planned, so I don’t know anything about that. You can’t win.
So many of your Brady cast mates have gone the reality show route. Why not you?
I’ve just never felt it was worth it. It wasn’t ever an actual job, and I was more interested in acting. Miss Abigail is an acting role. The fact that I’m playing her and they’re capitalizing on Jan Brady to get people in the theater is just sort of a sideways thing. I know people get angry when they think actors are being stunt-cast, but why should we be penalized for our popularity? We need jobs too!
Are you a love advice giver, in your own life?
You’ll never wonder what my opinion is, but I don’t necessarily give unasked-for advice. I listen a lot. I think people have their own answers, and if you just listen to someone and agree with them eventually they’ll work it out for themselves. I probably do shake my finger and say, "but you shouldn’t do that!" but I try not to.
What is the best love advice you’ve ever gotten?
I’ve been married for 15 years, so that’s all in the past now for me.
What’s your secret in maintaining a happy marriage?
Respect. Respect each other. My husband is in I.T., but he also plays saxophone so he definitely has an artistic side. He’s also smart and really, really cute. That helps!