The Helen Hayes Awards: The Winner's Circle
Also read our recap of the awards ceremony
On May 7th, the Washington, D.C. theater community honored its best and brightest at the 2001 Helen Hayes Awards. Among the evening's recipients were actors Judith Light (Outstanding Lead Actress, Non-Resident Production) and Philip Bosco (The Helen Hayes Tribute). Before the ceremony, Talkin' Broadway's Tracy Lyon and Michelle Butler sat down to chat with each of these accomplished actors.
Judith Light earned critical acclaim for her portrayal of Dr. Vivian Bearing in the moving drama, W;t. However, many know her best for her role as Angela Bower in the long-running television series, Who's The Boss.
Ms. Light, originally from New Jersey, has performed in a number of U.S. cities but returns to the D.C. area this summer to perform in The Shakespeare Theatre's production of Hedda Gabler.
Talkin' Broadway: You gave an amazing performance at The Kennedy Center (in W;t). What did it feel like to perform here?
Judith Light: It was incredible because it was one of the most exciting places that I have ever performed and because I hadn't been on stage for such a long time. We had gone from theater to theater and when we got here it was so expansive and so beautiful. The audiences were so intelligent and so receptive -- that is what made it so fabulous to be here.
TB: W;t is a very moving piece. What is it that touched you about this part?
JL: It's a piece that is brilliantly written and it's a tour-de-force for any actor. Also, because I thought it was going to be very powerful for me in my own life and that I thought it would be very powerful for those who went to see it. I felt that it would be a real blessing that I had the opportunity to do it.
TB: Was it at all daunting to follow Ms. Chalfant?
JL: It was extremely daunting. [laughs] It was unbelievably daunting. She had created such an aura in the part and had created such a reputation. She had received every award that you could possible receive for it. And I hadn't seen it until I had actually got the part and got to New York and started rehearsals. So then seeing her-it was even more daunting. She carries a very powerful presence. She's a wonderful person, but it was hard. It was one of the things that was a consideration in whether I wanted to do it or not.
TB: Did you do any special preparation or research for the part?
JL: Well, the hair, but that wasn't really the primary thing. The primary thing was that I learned the lines. I knew that I had only about two weeks rehearsal. So, I learned all the lines before I got here. I did go to the Huntington Library where they had some Dunn pieces on exhibit. I did a lot of reading about John Donne. One of the things my manager said to me was, "You haven't been on stage for 22 years. You need to work on your voice. You are going to be talking for an hour and fifty minutes." So, I studied with an opera teacher. Also, I put myself into physical training so I had the stamina to really do it. The other thing that helped tremendously was that I have been involved with AIDS for a long time. That was really the core emotional use for me-the people that I knew, the friends I had that died that I have seen through their various illnesses.
TB: Are you excited to be coming back to the area again?
JL: It's wonderful. It's funny. I feel like I've come home but that's not true. You know, going home never looks the way it's supposed to be. It's better than coming home.
Philip Bosco has had a long, illustrious career. A familiar face to movie and theater audiences alike, Mr. Bosco has appeared in numerous movies that include Wonder Boys, My Best Friend's Wedding, and Working Girl.
While attending Catholic University in Washington, D.C., Mr. Bosco honed his acting skills. He went on to perform in several area theaters, such as The Arena Stage and Olney Theater. Mr. Bosco then made his way to the Broadway stage where he most recently appeared in Copenhagen (2000) and Moon Over Buffalo (1996).
Talkin' Broadway: How does it feel to be back in D.C. to receive this honor?
Phillip Bosco: It's highly complimentary but a little nerve-wracking because it came somewhat out of the blue. The last number of years they asked if I was available to come down as a presenter and I couldn't because of whatever I was doing. This year they asked again and because my situation was somewhat different than before, I had more time. My wife and I thought it would be fun because we have lots of friends and connections with Washington. It went along that way till a week or so after they (called). They finally called up and said, "Look, we better come clean." It was a surprise, but apparently they thought better of it. Then they told me I was going to be the recipient of the Helen Hayes Tribute.
TB: We are all familiar with your wonderful career in film and on the stage. What keeps bringing you back to the stage?
PB: That's what I really care about. I love the stage. That's what I've always wanted to do. It's what I chose, with my family's support, what to concentrate on. I like movies. Who doesn't? But from an actor's point of view, and I am principally and solely an actor, it's not very satisfying unless you are playing very important roles. None of which I have really managed to get in films. I do work a lot, and I am very pleased to do it. Usually, they are not very big roles so it's not very satisfying artistically. Movies are made entirely different from the stage. On the stage, the actor is king. Once you get through rehearsal, the director has left and the curtain goes up -- it's you on the stage with the audience. So, we do movies, loving them as we do, mainly for the enormous salaries that they pay. [laughs]
TB: Which allows you to do other projects that you really enjoy.
PB: Indeed. It gives you the freedom to do shows that you might not otherwise do, particularly in not-for-profit situations, which we have done our share of over the years. However, we have been lucky the last number of years. We've had a couple of big Broadway shows where we get decent money and they ran for a considerable length of time.
TB: Do you see yourself coming back to the D.C. area someday?
PB: I hope so. I'd like to. I would be very happy to come back. I met my wife here. My first child was born here. We have a very close connection with Washington. I think of it as my second home.