"Grateful" 2011 Tony Nominee Judith Light Credits Her Lombardi Team
By Andrew Gans
Eric Simonson's biographical sports play Lombardi may center on football coach Vince Lombardi and the Green Bay Packers, but audiences who attend the drama at Broadway's Circle in the Square Theatre will likely leave with a deep affection for Lombardi's long-suffering wife, Marie.
That fact is due in large part to the actress portraying Marie, stage and screen star Judith Light, who received a 2011 Tony nomination for Best Performance By an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play for her work as the understanding, supportive and conflicted wife, who deeply misses the East Coast.
Reached by phone the day the nominations were announced, Light told Playbill.com, "I am beside myself with joy. I am just so thrilled....so proud and honored to be with these women in this category with incredible performances." Light's fellow nominees include Ellen Barkin, The Normal Heart; Edie Falco, The House of Blue Leaves; Joanna Lumley, La Bête; and Elizabeth Rodriguez, The Motherf**ker with the Hat.
"I haven't seen all of them," Light continued. "I've seen Edie, and I've seen Ellen — and they're just remarkable. So to be in their company — and the other two ladies as well — I feel incredibly proud. You know, the fact that I get to do the work that I love — that we, in the theatre, get to do the work that we truly love to do — and then be honored on top of it, is just so extraordinary, and, for me, I just wish the rest of my team was nominated because it's because of them that I'm able to do the work that I do.
"I'm in an amazing team — Dan Lauria is extraordinary, and the four guys that I get to work with, Keith Nobbs and Bill Dawes and Chris Sullivan and Rob Riley — they're amazing, and to have a director like Thomas Kail, and a playwright like Eric Simonson. I have a tremendous amount of support to be able to do what I do, and I get to do the work I love, and I get to be with people I love, and it's a great joy."
Light, who also offered a haunting and honest turn in Off-Broadway's Wit, said the challenges of her current role "were to not make [Marie] an impersonation or a caricature because this is a person who lived and is no longer alive. It's a sense of respect and responsibility that I felt in the process of creating her...I chose very early on, with the blessing of Eric Simonson, our playwright, and Thomas Kail, not to listen to any of the voice tapes or any of her interviews [but] to create her very much solely from the information that was in David Maraniss' book 'When Pride Still Mattered.' When I had the blessing, that made me relax a little bit because I said to them, 'If you need me to do that and to listen or to look, I will, but right now, I want to make sure that I let her come solely out of the information that I absorbed from David's book.' And it concerned me just to make sure that I did right by her and the family."
And, what has been the most enjoyable aspect of this production for the actress, who is a two-time Best Actress Emmy winner for her work on ABC's "One Life to Live"?
"First of all, I get to be back on Broadway, where I have not been for like 30 years, and I get to be in the theatre again. I get to do a play every day with extraordinary people. I meant it before when I said it is this team that means the world to me. We really love each other, and we really support each other, so the joy of getting to do this play, this part — which I think is so brilliantly written by Eric Simonson — and to get to do the thing I love most in the world with people I love, who I think are extraordinary. Dan Lauria is an old friend, and we worked together years ago — and to get to be back on Broadway with Dan performing for audiences — many people who have never been to an actual Broadway show before — and having a producing team that feels so strongly about combining the story of sports with theatre to bring a whole new audience in a Broadway community, it's a thrill."
"I am so happy to be here," Light added. "It's New York, and the theatre community here has welcomed me so generously, and it's the home of my heart — both Broadway and New York — so I am beyond grateful."
Following 30 previews and 244 performances, Lombardi will play its final performance on Broadway May 22.
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