Other Desert Cities Tony Nominee Judith Light Is an Ingénue At Last
By Andrew Gans
Judith Light had just returned from a one-day trip to Florida to clean out the apartment of her late father — one of her "biggest champions," who passed away "quickly and peacefully" two weeks earlier at the age of 98 — when she learned the news of her latest Tony nomination.
"I know this would mean the world to my father," Light, a 2012 Tony nominee for her humorous and ultimately touching portrayal of acidic alcoholic aunt Silda Grauman in Jon Robin Baitz's Tony-nominated Other Desert Cities, told Playbill.com the morning Tony nominations were announced. "This would mean so much to him. He used to drive me to rehearsals when I was a little girl and I was in community theatre, and he used to sleep in the car and wait for me. And, he and my mother were both my champions. My mother passed away three years ago in April, and my dad just passed away, so this means even more because, in a way, I feel like they're there sort of looking down and going, 'This is good. You've worked hard. You've worked hard, and you did good. And, you're with good people.' My mother once said to me when I was much younger, 'Someday you'll be back on Broadway.'"
Light, in fact, has been back on Broadway the past two seasons; she earned another Tony nomination for her work as the understanding, supportive and conflicted wife, who deeply misses the East Coast, in Eric Simonson's football-themed drama Lombardi. As for her current Broadway assignment, the Emmy-winning actress says, "Jon Robin Baitz is such a genius. This part is so magnificent. That [director] Joe Mantello had the vision to see me in this part just completely blows my mind. The way that he directed me in this, with such patience and generosity, and to get to be with this company of actors — you can't ask for a better sister than Stockard Channing! And, my beloved Stacy Keach, who I feel should have been nominated. Everyone in the play I feel should have been nominated. This is a stellar cast. It is, isn't it? And, an amazingly brilliant play, and to get so many nods for set and lighting—just to be a part of this and to be acknowledged again by the Tony committee. I tell you, it really, for me, is a thrill just to be nominated. And, to be in this company of women who are nominated in this category—I am incredibly honored....I was away for a long time from the theatre, and I have come back slowly. It's been a big process for me, and to be welcomed back by this community in this way, there are almost no words for this. I mean, I feel very, very blessed and very grateful."
Light credits her managers, Jonathan Stoller and Herb Hamsher, for leading her back to the stage after an award-winning career on screen. "Herb has managed me for 34 years, and he has said to me, 'You must go back to the theatre. Television is wonderful, and your television career is great, and your film career is great... [but] you have to go back to the theatre.' He said, 'Someday you'll be acknowledged in some way...I can promise you that, but you have to work hard!' And, he was right. ...Coming back and getting the opportunity from those wonderful people Bernie Telsey and Daryl Roth to get to do Wit and to take over for Kathy Chalfant, and then to come back and to do other plays… It's been a process. To do Lombardi and to work with Thomas Kail and my beloved boys at Lombardi and now this… It doesn't get any better than this. This is huge for me, you know."
It was fellow actress and friend, Tony winner Katie Finneran, who put everything in perspective, telling Light, "'Oh my God. You're having some sort of resurgence like you're an ingénue.' I thought that was kind of adorable! But it's true. That's what's happening for me."
Judith Light made her Broadway debut in a 1975 production of A Doll's House and was also seen in Herzl. Read more about her in the Playbill Vault.
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