PLAYBILL.COM'S CUE & A: Follies Tony Nominee Jayne Houdyshell

By Matthew Blank
June 5, 2012

Jayne Houdyshell, a 2012 Tony Award nominee for her performance in Follies, fills out Playbill.com's questionnaire of random facts, backstage trivia and pop-culture tidbits.



Houdyshell has appeared on Broadway in The Importance Of Being Earnest, Bye Bye Birdie, Wicked and Well (Tony nomination, Theater World Award).

Other theatre work includes Coraline, The New Century and The Pain & The Itch.





Full given name: Jaynie Houdyshell

Where you were born/where you were raised: Topeka, Kansas
Zodiac Sign:Libra
What your parents did/do for a living:My father was a haberdasher, and my mother, a secretary.
Siblings: 3 older sisters: Mary Lou, Ann and Sue.
Special skills: I can't think of a single one.
Something you're REALLY bad at: MATH ugh, and all things technological
First Broadway show you ever saw: Mornings at Seven with Elizabeth Wilson. The whole cast was terrific, but Ms. Wilson blew me away.
If you could go back in time and catch any show, what would it be? Laurette Taylor in The Glass Menagerie, Ethel Barrymore in The Corn is Green, Katherine Cornell in Antony and Cleopatra and Sarah Bernhardt as Hamlet.
Did you have any particular mentors or inspirations as a young actor? My high school drama teacher Martha Herrick. She recognized that I was avid about the theater, so she made sure that I had opportunities to see theater, go to symphonies, opera, and art museums. She also encouraged me to read poetry and classic literature.

She believed that if I was to be an artist I needed exposure to all of the Arts. There wasn't a lot of culture in Topeka, so she'd take me to Kansas City.

In addition to taking all the drama and acting classes in my high school curriculum, she also created independent study courses for me in Shakespeare, directing, and dialects. By the time I graduated high school, I had an incredible foundation and work ethic for my further studies in acting school.

Current show you have been recommending to friends: Clybourne Park
Favorite showtunes of all time: “Anyone Can Whistle,” “Who Are You Now,” “Rose’s Turn,” “Move On”
Some favorite musicals: Gypsy, Sweeney Todd, Goblin Market, Sunday in the Park with George, Guys and Dolls and Follies of course.
Some favorite modern plays: The Glass Menagerie, Death of a Salesman, You Can't Take it With You, Intimate Apparel, Well, Ruined, Creature, Clybourne Park, Middletown
Some favorite modern playwrights: Lynn Nottage, Bruce Norris, Lisa Kron, Heidi Schreck, Will Eno, Tom Stoppard, John Guare, Tennessee Williams
Stage or screen stars of the past you would most have loved to perform with: Geraldine Page, Shelley Winters, Patricia O'Neal, Eileen Heckart, Maureen Stapleton
The one performance – attended - that you will never forget: Anne Pitoniak in 'night, Mother
Music that makes you cry, any genre: My new and budding love for opera.... thanks to Rosalind Elias... she made me a convert.
You personal acting idols: Charles Laughton, Frank Wood, John Wood, Viola Davis, Cherry Jones, Danny Burstein, Mark Rylance, Janet McTeer, Paul Scofield, Morgan Freeman, Imelda Staunton, Angela Lansbury, Edie Falco, Denis O'Hare... oh my God there are too many great, great people. I could fill a page... I have to stop.
MAC or PC? MAC
Most played song on your iPod: Ummm technophobe here... I don't have an iPod.
Most-visited websites: Playbill.com, New York Times
Last book you read: "Gilead" and "Home," both by Marilynne Robinson
Must-see TV show(s): “Mad Men” – I came late to the party and have been watching reruns.
Some films you consider classics: "Network"
"All the President's Men"
"Tootsie"
"Now Voyager"
"Goodbye, Mr. Chips" (the original one)
"Mildred Pierce"
"The Misfits"
"To Kill a Mockingbird"
"A Streetcar Named Desire"
"Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"

And maybe not a classic, but one that is my personal Prozac, "Waiting for Guffman."

Pop culture guilty pleasure: I am more than a little ashamed of this but... “Dance Moms.” Lordy.
Favorite cities: New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco
First CD/Tape/LP you owned: "A Hard Day's Night"
First stage kiss Senior year in high school, The Rainmaker, John Holt as Starbuck, me as Lizzie
Moment you knew you wanted to perform for a living: When I saw Mimi Hines in a road company of Funny Girl.
Who were the first people you called/texted after learning of your nomination? My agents.
Favorite pre-/post- show meal: After show, the Glass House Tavern
Favorite liquid refreshment: Club soda with a splash of bitters and a twist of lime
Worst costume ever: A tree in Morgan le Fays' forest in a summer stock production of Camelot. Think tie-dyed unitard with sequined leaves and ballet slippers.
Worst job you ever had: Demonstrating Rubik's Cubes at Gimbles at Christmas time. I had to wear a t-shirt with a picture of two Rubik's Cubes emblazoned on my ample bosom, with the saying, "Once you get your hands on me you'll never let go."
If you could trade roles with anyone in the show for a week, who would it be?: I'd be Mr. Weissman, because after opening scene I could sneak to the back of the house and watch the rest of the show. I've always wanted to see it as the audience does.
A few Sondheim roles you'd love to tackle: Mrs. Lovett, Mama Rose
Most challenging role you have played onstage: Serafina Delle Rose in The Rose Tattoo
Leading lady role you've been dying to play: Lola in Come Back, Little Sheba
Leading man role you wish you could play: Krapp in Krapp's Last Tape
Something about you that surprises people: I really appreciate boxing.
Career you would want if not a performer: I'd probably be a therapist. I'm interested in what makes people tick.
"I'll never understand why…" Some people don't have an instinct to be quiet backstage.
Words of advice for aspiring performers: Observe people, look for the humanity in everyone including yourself. Be as honest as possible in your work. When you're out of work, keep reading plays, listening to music, watching films – grant yourself the grace of staying inspired by the thing you love. If you feel complacent or stuck in your performing, look for a project that scares you.