BWW Interviews: Denver Center's Judith Hawking on Her Talented Career and Who in Her Mind is THE MOST DESERVING
Where's home for you?
I'm Canadian, but most recently became a new a proud citizen of America also. Right now, I live in New York. My husband and I have a home in Westchester. My husband and I met on Fire Island - true story - Cherry Grove. That's not gay at all. No, not gay at all. In fact, it was super cool, because I became friends with the divas who came and they would do my makeup for me. I know how to line my lips because of Miss Jessica, who's like the prettiest tranny I've ever seen in my entire life, and I said "I love your lips," and she's like "Girl, let me do them for you." So we lived in New York for five years and I had already lived there for a while. I went to school in Canada - did classics. Went to Cal Arts because that was about the most 180 you could do if you wanted to get a Master's degree was go to Cal Arts. I came to New York, lived there, met my husband 12 years ago, he lasted 5 years in New York - there were just too many people. He's actually from South Carolina, he's a dolll. He's like "There are too many people," and I'm like "There's nothing I can do about that." So then we got a house in upstate New York, which is beautiful, it works out really well.
Lovely, when was the last time you were here in Denver?
I've been here twice now. Once was last February when I did the CO New Play Summit, and the time before that was when I was the best man at my friend's Doug's wedding, when he and Rex got married. I was his best man in a dress.
What draws you to the roles you decide to play? What appeals to you?
Humor. And my mission statement is to show women a possibility. And that means show women in the audience there are different possible ways to be women, but also to show women in theatre there are possibilities. Look, I did classical theatre for a long time. I remember it was a huge deal when I did Suicide by Erdman. It's a Russian play. It was written in 1920 and I thought I was going to die because I didn't have to wear a corset. So I did tons of classical work, and when I moved to the states, that put me in good standing because I did lots of classical work, because it's needed, and if you can do accents and if you know how to use a fan and you don't run into furniture... And then I started doing new plays, and what I super appreciate about the new playwrights now is they have what the playwrights in the 30s, 40s, 50s had for women. They're multifaceted. You weren't just the sweet girl next door, or you weren't just the doting wife. You were...I mean, think of all the roles that Joan Crawford did with Myrna Loy and Bette Davis. That's when those were being written. There's really few and far between, those roles now, except in theatre, I think it's popping up because there are way more women writers. So for whatever reason, the universe has said, the women who are writing these roles, you guys will find each other. For example, Carson Kreitzer- she's an incredible playwright, but she wrote a play called The Love Song of J. Robert Oppenheimer, and her other antihero is Lilith, primordial woman, the first one, who is funny, and acerbic, and cheeky, and foul-mouthed, and completely righteous. How cool to put those things together. I think the thing that attracts me is to find intelligence, humor, some sort of self awareness, and then some sort of blinding either ambition or need or appetite. I think it's so yummy. What's cool is those aren't being written for the ingénues. I was never an ingénue. At 20, I didn't do Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, I did Lady Capulet, and I was 5 years younger than the Juliet was. What's interesting now is a lot of the roles are mature women. The whole bullshit about 40 is the new 30, and now 50 is the new 30, and so on. For me, what's really exciting is women are really allowed to show many more colors.
So what is your role in this show?
First of all, I think Catherine Trieschmann, who wrote it, is so gifted at nuance. So nothing's on the nose. Everything you come around a corner to see it. And I find that stuff really exciting, too. So, my role is the head of an Arts Council. It's taken her ten years to get this Arts Council money. They finally have a grant of $20,000, which is exponentially bigger than anything they've ever had. So the question becomes, who gets the money. If it was just Jolene Atkinson, we know who would get the money. And I had this really long discussion just last night about what being politic means. I think being politic just means that you make the choices that are the most expedient to get you what you want. I don't think it's necessarily a bad word. I think it is if you damage someone else or you discredit someone else. Being politic, I think, in our era, means being savvy. She's super savvy and the problem is when someone else comes on the Arts Council who is going to try to challenge her. So what's super fun about the role is that there's nothing that she won't do in order to get her way, whether it's intimidation, using her sexuality, blackmailing, I mean all of it's good, all of it's fair because it's war. Because if she does not win what she wants to win, then her status will go, and if her status goes, she is nothing. I think it's really interesting. And it's really funny. I read the script and I laughed out loud. I am just so proud to be a part of this new and amazing play, and work at one of the premiere theatres here in North America!