For a few years there, a New York theatre season never passed without actress Marin Hinkle showing up in two or three productions. From 1995 to 1999, she acted in every genre at nearly every theatre in town, from WPA Theatre (Wonderful Time) to Primary Stages (Sabina), The Public Theater (A Dybbuk) to the Roundabout Theatre Company (A Thousand Clowns). But after sparring with Zoe Wanamaker in Broadway's Electra, she was captured by Hollywood, and has since supported Sela Ward in the acclaimed television series "Once and Again." Unlike some actors, who parlay their Los Angeles-born fame into headlining roles on Broadway, Hinkle has chosen to end her hiatus from New York theatre with the Barrow Group's new, low-profile mounting of Craig Lucas' perennial cult favorite, Blue Window. Playbill On-Line spoke to Hinkle during a recent day off from the project, a home grown effort two years in the making. Obviously excited about the play, the gregarious Hinkle didn't require an initial question to get the interview rolling.
Marin Hinkle: I have a cold. I woke up yesterday with a sneezing fit. And you know the play Blue Window. I play Libby and she, as you know, has to cover her mouth during much of the play [due to a broken tooth]. So I now have this added challenge; I have to make sure I doubly cover it.
PBOL: Blue Window has quietly become a modern classic. Someone gives it a major revival every five years or so. Why do you think it's proved so popular?
MH: Well, in our case it was a very personal reason. First of all, Craig Lucas' work, any of it, for any actor, is such good material. It's so alive in such a poetic, yet human way. It's theatrical, but it lets you emotionally connect with the characters. Our little story is I was in L.A. working on "Once and Again" and not necessarily feeling as challenged as I'd liked to. This is two years ago. And there's a wonderful casting director named Marcia DeBonis, also an actress and part of the Barrow Group—she was out there casting a big feature film. The third person who's out there and is part of the company is Hope Chernov. The three of us would call each other for coffee and say "Oh my God, our souls are dying." It was really hard. We were wandering around like lost New Yorkers. And we're also all brunette and there's something about us that made us feel out of place in beautiful La La Land of blonde and tan. So, we got together at Hope's house and just read things. We read some David Hare, we read Craig's stuff. Marcia brought Blue Window in and she said, "What about this?" And I said, "My God, this play floors me." We kept talking about it. "Oh, maybe we'll do a play." Actors do that all the time. "If I don't get cast at Williamstown or the Berkshire, maybe I'll do a play with you guys!" That's essentially what happened. Marcia through her casting knows so many New Yorkers. So she said, "I think I know people for this play. Let's do a reading."
PBOL: This was last summer?
MH: Yes. So we went to her apartment and we read it, and we also read Reckless. She essentially cast it with us. At that point we asked Julia Gibson to direct. I don't think we ever said, "Oh, we'll definitely do a production." We said, "Oh, we'll do a workshop." They have a little black box at the Atlantic Theatre Company's 16th Street rehearsal space and we rented that. And then we just rehearsed at NYU, where I went to school, and they gave us that space for free, which is, in New York, a big deal. And we all bought our own props. I'd go to get mussels everyday and pineapple juice concentrate. We did everything ourselves. It was really a home-done play. It's like that Danish group that does their own films and irons their own clothes—they did "Celebration." Dogma! We're like we have our own dogma. After a month of doing that, we had some dates. And [actor] Jason [Kolotouros'] father made up some cards and we sent them out to friends and suddenly we had an audience. You haven't seen it yet, have you?
PBOL: No, I haven't seen it.
MH: It's a tiny space. And we're kind of all on top of each other, and the lines are musically on top of each other, too. It feels kind of small and intimate. PBOL: Well, the central scene is a dinner party. Isn't that how most New York dinner parties are, a lot of people sardined into a small room?
MH: It sure is! In fact, we had something extraordinary happen. There's the party scene, and they start playing the music of [experimental jazz pianist] Cecil Taylor and the music is wild. Two old people the other day got up and left because they hated the music. So in the middle of the party scene, with the actors having a hard time because their characters are supposed to, these people had a hard time with the party and left. And the audience was roaring. They thought it was part of the action. And the actors were laughing too. It was one of those moments where there was a merger of reality and theatre.
PBOL: Is this your first stage work since Electra?
MH: Yeah, it is, and that has been really hard for me. Since I got out of grad school at NYU, I've always done as many plays as I can. And the idea that I've only been able to touch one in two years makes it all the more precious. I wasn't able to act on a stage because of the show, but this year I'm hoping because my role isn't that big.
PBOL: When do you have to return to shooting?
MH: Well, to put it bluntly, I was supposed to be back earlier than the run of this play, but they're generously letting me finish out the run.
PBOL: I assume by your comments you're not exactly in love with Hollywood.
MH: [Laughs] Oh, God, did I not hide it well? I am searching for a way to have a community like I had in New York. I suppose you could say I'm searching for theatre. And I know there is a lot out there, but it wasn't as accessible to me or I wasn't looking in the right places. I see as many plays as I can in New York, so the absence of it in my life kind of made me feel hollow. And I wasn't able to fill it up with other things. But maybe this year I can take more walks or, the joke is, find Yoga.
PBOL: Many New York stage actors go to Hollywood to establish their name and then return to secure bigger theatre assignments than they were able to before. Are you thinking along those lines?
MH: Certainly there was a time when—well, as you know, we moved the McCarter Theatre production of Electra into New York and when we were having our opening night party I was sitting across from the casting directors. Everybody was drinking and I said something to the effect of "Bless you and thank you for letting me do this production." And then I took a moment and paused and asked, "Just out of curiosity, if [director] David Leveaux hadn't asked for the same cast to move in from the McCarter, would I be here?" And they answered it so honestly, they said "No, you wouldn't." And they threw out some names of actresses [that would have played her part]. So, yes, I am aware that name recognition can help with casting in New York. My name is not so important, but I would hope it would be more a help than a hinderance.
—By Robert Simonson