Stockard Channing began Thanksgiving week on the operating table at Roosevelt Hospital having arthroscopic surgery on her right knee. By Friday, November 25, she was back onstage at the Booth Theatre starring in Jon Robin Baitz’s Other Desert Cities. “I guess all these vitamins I’ve been taking are working,” Channing quipped to Broadway.com after her three-show holiday weekend. (She sat out the Saturday matinee.) “I’m doing great; every day is better. If you get the right surgeon and take care of yourself, it’s amazing how fast the healing can be.”
Channing’s backstage drama began after the November 18 performance, when her knee buckled as she climbed the stairs to her dressing room. “I screamed,” she recalls. “I was not stoic.” Luckily, the show’s stage manager had the cell phone number of top NYC orthopedic surgeon Dr. Phillip Bauman, who answered the call and met Channing at his office at 11PM on Friday night. He operated on Monday morning, and the actress, still groggy from general anesthesia, returned to her Manhattan apartment that same night.
“That was the roughest part,” Channing says of her post-op nausea and uncertainty about how her recovery would go. “But I woke up the next morning and could move the knee. I’ve had hardly any swelling. I’ve been very careful—I had crutches and a little wheelchair in the apartment—but the healing has been extraordinary.”
In addition to her surgeon, Channing credits Marika Molnar of Westside Dance Physical Therapy, with whom she’s worked for many years, for getting her back on her feet quickly. “She deals with ballet people who are doing things that require much more exertion that I do [onstage]. She and Dr. Bauman and I just took it one day at a time. I said to the producers and stage management, ‘Talk to my doctor directly [about a return date], because if I make the decision, I might get up too soon.’ But I’m totally following orders. If I was in pain, I wouldn’t be doing this.”
Confessing that she felt “a little nervous” before her return to the stage (in lower heels!) on November 25, Channing was buoyed by her co-stars and the support of the audience. “We’re a really tight bunch,” she says of Rachel Griffiths, Stacy Keach, Judith Light and Thomas Sadoski, “and it was great to be back playing with them. And the audience loved it. I feel a great obligation to people who paid for tickets to see the show, and I love doing it. This is one of the most extraordinary pieces I’ve ever done in my life. It gives me energy!”
After sitting out the November 30 matinee, Channing hopes to be back on Broadway for good—even though the show is the only thing she’s doing at the moment. “I can’t even walk to the corner to get the paper, which is frustrating because I’m very active. But I feel very fortunate. So far, so good!”