Posted March 1, 2011
Judith Light Shines at New Member Reception
By Stephanie Masucci
The Eastern Region Membership Committee hosted a reception in January for Equity's newest members. For the more than 50 attendees, the highlight of the evening was guest speaker Judith Light, currently starring in the Broadway hit, LOMBARDI.
Judith Light at AEA in New York City
"Welcome to this grand and glorious organization, it's pretty terrific," Ms. Light began. "The reason that I'm here and the reason that I really wanted to do this is, I feel very strongly about what we do. What we do is not just about acting. It's a real personal calling."
She then shared her perspective on breaking into the business. "Everybody's trajectory is completely different. The thing that I've done, that's really been helpful, is to stop trying to control my career. I had a really good idea of what I should be doing, and what the universe should be giving me, and I had a really hard time when it wasn't happening. If you are like me and you had this image that you were only going to do theatre and feature films, you are going to be very unhappy when that doesn't happen. If you can be grateful for what you do have and what is given you, it is a fantastic business."
Ms. Light acknowledged that there was a time in her life where she was ready to walk away from the business. "For me, it was a very specific moment. I was leaving the business and I had gone into therapy. I don't know whether my therapist was a psychic or not but he said to me, 'Don't leave the business until you see me next week, something is going to happen.'" During that week, she was offered an audition for an understudy role on One Life to Live. "I had said I was never going to do a soap opera; I also said I was never going to do a sitcom. But I had to start listening. You can't orchestrate this thing. It's too big. So I started to let go of control."
"The real issue was that I needed to discover why I was an Actor. Up to that point in time, it had only been about me, about my ego… I needed to shift the context of why I was actually in this business."
When asked for insight on how an Actor can find meaning in a project not considered "high art," Ms. Light recounted a review she received from a TV Guide reporter when she was starring as Angela Bower on Who's The Boss. "He said 'she doesn't look down at her material.' As I said, I was a snob. I only wanted to do theatre and feature films. So when I did the soap and sitcom, I asked myself, 'How can I bring the training, and the personal dedication that I have in this business to this medium?' There is no medium in our business that you ever have to consider beneath you. When you bring your grace and your generosity and your intelligence to the role, you have no idea who you are going to elevate or uplift, including yourself. What matters is how you view it and what you bring to it."
Ms. Light also shared her opinion on the recession when asked how she feels it is affecting the theatre industry. "During the times of the Great Depression in this country, entertainment was always there for people. We are in a service business, remember that's what you bring to this world right now, service, a way for people to have a moment away from their struggle, and it will be ever thus.
My manager, Herb Hamsher always says to me and to other people, 'Stop doing what doesn't work.' Worrying doesn't work. What will serve you is to turn the worrying into something that moves you, your life and the world in a positive direction. I promise you, by shifting your energy, you will make a difference in your own life, and you'll make a difference in other people's lives."
When asked what her most fulfilling experience as an actor was, Ms. Light explained, "The thing that I am doing at the moment is the most fulfilling because I am in the moment. So LOMBARDI is really fulfilling for me and that's my context for it too. From the beginning of the rehearsal process, all the way through to last night (which was our 143rd performance), the richness of it and the moments on stage and constantly sharing the stage with this cast I adore, is at the moment the most fulfilling. And of course, doing the play WIT changed my life."
Much to the disappointment of the Members in the room, the questioning had to end. Ms. Light read a toast and then a quote from George Bernard Shaw:
This is the true joy of life, the being used up for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.
I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the community, and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live.
Life is no "brief candle" to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for a moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.
Ms. Light then left our Newest Members with these final words, "Godspeed and Good luck. Break legs and welcome."
Judith Light is currently starring on Broadway in LOMBARDI at Circle In The Square. She made her Broadway Debut in A DOLL'S HOUSE, with Liv Ullman. Other Broadway, Off-Broadway and regional credits include HEDDA GABLER, COMPANY, A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, SORROWS AND REJOICING, COLDER THAN HERE ( MCC), CHILDREN (Westport and Williamstown), and the Pulitzer Prize winning hit WIT. On television, she has portrayed Karen Wolek on One Life to Live, and Angela Bower on Who's The Boss? Most recently she has starred as Claire Meade in Ugly Betty and been featured on Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. She has starred in numerous television movies, often taking on projects that shed light on social issues. Some film credits include; Save Me which premiered at Sundance in 2007 in which she starred and also produced Ira and Abby. She is a Board Member and an advocate for many organizations and charities representing AIDS-related and Human Rights issues.