Interview with James Judy
James has been a solid member of the cast since the very beginning. I enjoyed speaking with him about how the League has grown over the past year and a half, and what it was like going through the transition from the old show to the new.
NR: Can you tell me where you grew up?
JJ: Washington State. I was born in Tacoma, Washington and then I went to school in Oregon, Willamette University, for a couple of years and then I went to London for a year of drama. I came home and went back to Willamette for another semester, and then I switched and I ended up going to Evergreen State College which is kind of like an Antioch or Goddard, a new kind of school where you write your own program and you design what you want to do. Basically I said I wanted to be in a few shows and direct some shows and write about theater, and that's where I got my degree. Then I moved to Seattle and started working professionally.
NR: When did you know you wanted to act?
JJ: I knew it from when I was in high school. I started as a singer in college. I got an opera scholarship but I didn't like opera and I switched to theater. It was one of those blessings that I knew this was what I wanted to do. I thought maybe I was going to go into music therapy. In 1972 that was something that was kicking around. You would use music to do therapy for musicians that had been disabled, because I always had an interest in the medical profession. That is one thing I wanted to do in high school - be a doctor. My mother was a nurse and I had worked in nursing homes in high school, which was pretty hair-raising.
NR: Do you have a favorite role that you've performed?
JJ: Yeah, a few. Right before I did this I did the 50th Anniversary production of Finian's Rainbow up at Goodspeed Opera House and I played Finian. I was a little young for it but I grew my beard and it was all gray and I had a gray wig, and I loved the message of that show. It really meant a lot to me personally, so that was a very fulfilling and rewarding experience. It was right before this show came along. This has a great place in my heart because when you come to New York you always think "Oh my gosh, I want to be able to originate a role in a Broadway show" and I was able to do that here, and so this is obviously a favorite of mine. I've not really done a lot of traditional roles in traditional musicals. Almost all of my work here in New York were on new musicals or smaller musicals. I can't list off a bunch of roles that I've done from famous old musicals because I've really not done that many of those kinds of things. The roles would be in shows you wouldn't know of. The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz was a show that was supposed to come to Broadway, and that was also creating a role in a new musical and that would have been very exciting if that had come in. I was much younger then and it would have changed my career. That was a favorite role of mine, Virgil in The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz. It was written by Alan Menken and Austin Pendleton directed. It was a wonderful experience.
NR: Is there something you do offstage to prepare or get ready for your character?
JJ: Not really. The key to how I work is to just concentrate on listening, and listening intently enough that it always makes it fresh, because things are never exactly the same and things are never answered the same or asked the same, and then it makes it new every moment you come out. So, I really try to stay kind of blank. I do fill myself up with where I've just been and the information that I have to come on with. I remember a year ago, I had this very lengthy prayer that I would often say right before going on stage, but after a year and a half of doing it eight times a week, I know that prayer's in my heart and in my soul, and I believe that's what the theater does. Mostly it's to try to just stay clear and have no preconceived notion of what it was the time before and so this time it will be new and real and you really have to listen. That's been exciting with both Terry Mann and with Doug Sills because they both like to work that way, and that was a great part of this process. It's really been invaluable. It makes it interesting.
NR: How has Dewhurst changed in the new version?
JJ: Boy, Dewhurst has to do a lot more stuff that he never imagined in his whole life that he would be doing. Dewhurst hasn't changed, what he has to do has changed. He's still incredibly dedicated to Percy. He still has a certain extra empathy for what Percy's going through because in a way he started this ball rolling. He gave the information to him so he feels a little guilty about that. And his big interest is the safety of the other people around him and his concern for Percy, so my idea of the loyalty of the character hasn't really changed. It's a whole different level of comedy. I do actually enjoy the new challenge of having to go out and sell a number and act as if I am a dancer and act as if I know what I'm doing, and to get those teeth out and really sell it to the back of the house. I actually have risen to that challenge and enjoy it.
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