Mother and Son: Patti LuPone and Joshua Johnston Talk the Past and Future of the Acting Company and The Cradle Will Rock

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13 May 2014

Patti LuPone
Patti LuPone
Photo by Ethan Hill chats with mother-and-son acting team Patti LuPone and Joshua Johnston about their onstage teaming in the one-night-only benefit concert The Cradle Will Rock.


Two-time Tony Award-winner Patti LuPone will return to her Olivier Award-winning role of the Moll in Marc Blitzstein's The Cradle Will Rock May 19. The one-night only concert will benefit the Acting Company, of which LuPone was a founding member and with whom she first played Moll Off-Broadway in 1983.

This time, around Cradle is a family affair as LuPone will be joined onstage by her son, 2013-14 Acting Company member Joshua Johnston, as well as her cousin Johann Carlo. chatted with LuPone and Johnston about the upcoming benefit performance and both of their tenures with the Acting Company.

Josh, growing up with your mother as Patti LuPone, when did you know that you wanted to be an actor?

Josh Johnston: I always loved being backstage; I've been doing that since Sunset Boulevard in 1993. The summer of 2002 when my mom was doing A Little Night Music at the Ravinia Festival, she said, "You should come out. It's like the largest outdoor concert hall in America. You'll have so much fun here as an eleven-year-old. You'll run around the park." Lonny Price, the director, said to her one day, "We have a line if Josh wants to say it in the show." I'd acted up until then but this was the real deal, and I was only eleven. I remember I was nervous saying the line in rehearsal, but then opening night I saw 3,000 people under the canopy of The Pavilion theatre, and that was it, right there. I really loved it.

And Patti, you knew that he had the bite?

Patti LuPone: Well... (laughs) All I knew was that he had some sort of discipline. When we were in rehearsal, I saw Josh playing catch with a stagehand, and I thought, "He's gonna miss his cue." His cue came up and there was Josh, and I went, "OK, he knows what he's doing on his own." You know, you're bit or you're not bit. I guess it's a hard thing to describe or to understand. It's really quite personal. I don't really know what Josh's experience is in that respect, I know what mine was, and you don't necessarily wear it. It's an internal thing. So I didn't really know whether this was something that Josh wanted to do except I knew that he was having fun at Ravinia.

Josh, your mom has spoken about the training she got at Juilliard, and then touring with the Acting Company. Is that what led you to the same exact company?

JJ: (laughs) It's funny, [after] all her admonishments of, "You must be disciplined and you must be good," I would just shout back, "Shut up Mom, I don't wanna hear that!" But I found out what they were doing this year. I gave it an audition and things have worked out so far. We actually ended our tour today.


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