For two summers during her Fulbright years, Carey directed plays at the Edinburgh Festival. In her production there of Vladimir Mayakovsky’s The Bed Bug, she ended up casting her future husband, Anthony Giles, a British scholar of the Soviet Union.
“Ant’ny,” as she calls him (always with a grin), followed her to New York, where she first landed a job at a secretary of the International Theater Institute, before moving on to become Joseph Papp’s casting assistant at the Public Theater. In 1986 she turned 27, and was tapped to become the artistic director of the Classic Stage Company (CSC)—an off-Broadway theater known for its revivals and adaptations.
In a Stanford alumni magazine interview, Carey credited her mother with her own lifelong interest in literature. Professor Perloff is renowned for her expertise in the lives and work of modernist poets: William Carlos Williams, Sylvia Plath, Ezra Pound.
“Huge amounts of literature were devoured in our house,” Perloff says. “And my amazing mother is much more avant-garde than me—she thinks I’m very straight-ahead. She’s always saying, ‘It’s time to branch out, Carey. Time to do Thomas Berenhard.’ And I say, ‘Yes, and you and I and three other people would come.’”
Young Carey and her sister Nancy often read Joyce, Frank O’Hara, and Yeats aloud. Not to mention Beckett, Brecht, George Eliot, and Pirandello.
It was at CSC that her ear for exquisite writing began to pay off. She would later say, “I want language that’s like the pebble in the water, that ripples and ripples and ripples long after it’s heard. You know when you’ve heard great theatrical writing—and it’s not West Wing.”
The New York Times described her debut production there as follows, saying that Carey:
[D]usted off a translation of “Electra” by Ezra Pound that no other producer had ever bothered with.
“I thought it was the closest to Sophocles I’d ever read,” Ms. Perloff asserts. “Sophocles is very tight, chiseled, precise Greek. It isn’t purple prose; it’s not full of thee’s and thou’s.”
Instead of saying, “Behold thou this our father’s signet ring, and see if I speak true,” as in the standard Victorian Loeb Classics version, Pound’s translation reads, “Here’s dad’s ring,” which in Miss Perloff’s opinion is much closer to the original Greek, which is four words and very direct.
She knew that she wanted to produce the classic plays of Harold Pinter, but it was a hard slog convincing him to allow a New York revival of his work, off-Broadway. It took six months of letters and phone calls to convince Mr. Pinter that she deserved a go at it. At that point, he hadn’t allowed anyone in New York to produce it for 20 years.
“Americans tend to do dramaturgy that’s confessional,” Carey would later recall. “If you tell the truth, you absolve yourself. But the British don’t tend to tell people what they think. For them, language is a smokescreen.”
It was 1988, and once Carey got the go-ahead, she knew that she wanted Peter to play the seductively sinister Goldberg. Though she offered him the part, he wanted to read for her, and that’s when the two first met.