Jane Alexander: Actor, Author, Conservationist

Jane Alexander as Eleanor Bannister in ‘Fireflies’ Photo: T. Charles Erickson

By any measure, Jane Alexander has had a remarkable career as an actress. She is a recipient of Tony and Obie awards, and has appeared in some of the most important stage and film work of the 20th century.

Her contributions, however, move beyond the entertainment industry. She served as the chair of the National Endowment for the Arts and chronicled her tenure in a book called “Command Performance,” a behind the scenes look at the culture wars of the 1990s and her efforts to save the NEA from congressional forced extinction.

What might not be as well-known is Alexander’s passion for birding and nature conservation. A year ago, Alexander shaped that deep love and appreciation into a memoir called “Wild Things, Wild Places.” The book has recently been published in paperback and is available in the Long Wharf Theatre lobby. “My life has been immersed in the world of make believe ever since I began acting. It is a magical world I love and which summons the most imaginative parts of me. But the natural world holds more mystery and beauty than could ever be contained in one life, or vista, or creature. As Hamlet says to his friend, ‘There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy,’” Alexander wrote in the prologue of her book.

Part memoir and part witness, Alexander traveled the world documenting the meaningful work of scientists and other conservationists as they attempt to combat the effects of climate change. Scientists, to Alexander, are a kind of hero. “There’s some good news in the book, but there’s also some bad news,” she said. Alexander emerges in her book as a kind of adventurer, traveling through remote regions of the Earth to learn more about our delicate planet.

“My son said it best, being in nature is Mom’s temple and that’s where she goes to pray,” Alexander said. “The majesty of nature is, for me, omnipresent. It’s a gift that we all can savor. It’s something we all have. There are very few atheists in the wilderness, that’s what I find, whether you are really religious or really spiritual.”

-Steve Scarpa

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