Off Script: How Judith Light Strengthens for Solo Show 'All the Ways to Say I Love You' (Q&A)
"This play is literally the hardest thing I've ever done," she tells THR of starring in the new Neil LaBute play about a high school teacher who reveals a secret.
Judith Light stars in the solo show All The Ways To Say I Love You, a new Neil LaBute play that sees a high school teacher sharing a traumatic experience involving one of her students. The MCC production has been extended through Oct. 23 at the Lucille Lortel Theatre in New York City.
Coincidentally, the seasoned stage actress and Emmy nominee just closed Transparent's third season with a one-woman show, complete with an emotional delivery of Alanis Morissette's "Hand in My Pocket."
"It's so crazy, right? A total coincidence, unbelievably," she laughs to The Hollywood Reporter. "I literally don't know how that happened. Maybe there's a part of me that knew I needed to work on my 'voice' in this way. This play is possibly an extension of that 'putting myself out there' [as in Transparent.]"
Ahead of the off-Broadway show's opening night, Light goes Off Script to talk about the difficulties of a solo show, the thing friends shouldn't do when attending a performance and the universal importance of telling one's truth.
What do you admire about your character?
Mrs. Johnson willing to be brave enough to tell a story that she will not necessarily know the outcome of how it will be received. Also, she's so human and so flawed. I always find characters like that deeply interesting.
Does a solo show intimidate you?
It's very daunting; it's very scary. There's no net, there's no other people and there's no door on the set to get out. This play is literally the hardest thing I've ever done. But it's a very special experience for me.
How you prepare for this show each day?
I meditate, do some yoga, and do some kundalini yoga breathing exercises. When I get to the theater, I go over the entire script and really take a moment just to align myself with the piece and the audience coming tonight.
What do you do right before you go onstage?
My dear friend Mary Fisher — a speaker and a writer who was one of the first women to come out about her AIDS diagnosis back in 1992 — always says this out into the universe: "Please just let me say this the way they need to hear it." That's what I ask for: the grace and the grit to be able to follow through, to be in the present moment and to do my very best.
What's something special in your dressing room?
A lot of things from those who have generously supported me — it's quite beautiful. There's a stone that's engraved with the word "Enjoy" because my manager Herb Hampshire has said it to me before every performance I've ever given. A picture of my husband and Herb and his partner on the day I shaved my head to begin the process of doing Wit. Several special little treats that my Broadway dresser Charlie Catanese has given me, a beautiful dish from Dan Lauria, a little pony that other Broadway friends from the Booth Theatre. Photographs of people I love like Tommy Kail, my Lombardi director, a picture of my parents together, and a picture of my mother holding me as a baby.
What do you do in NYC on your days off?
I try to have a massage and get as much sleep as I can, and there are a couple great parks I like to visit and just sit and breathe, but I haven't even had time to do that. I'm in the process of a couple other projects — it's a challenging, busy time that I'm grateful for.
Do you like to know when friends are coming to see you in a show?
No. Absolutely not. People tell me anyway, so they can come backstage and say hello afterwards. But I truly, deeply, profoundly, really prefer not to know.
What do you hope audiences take from this play?
To not shove their secrets down or hold onto things that keep them from living their full and best life. To one degree or another, we find ourselves telling even little tiny lies, all throughout our lives, thinking it keeps us safe. But what's important and remarkable to learn from this is when you do tell your truth, even if you're the only one who is relieved in the telling of it, that's important enough.
Judith Light in All the Ways to Say I Love You. Photo credit: Joan Marcus
Sept. 29, 11:55 a.m. Updated with date of extended run.