Cleveland Magazine
August 2002
Arts & Entertainment
New Enterprise
Kate Mulgrew’s characters have encompassed women ranging from the strong-willed Mary Ryan on the now-defunct ABC daytime drama “Ryan’s Hope” to Capt. Kathryn Janeway in the syndicated TV series “Star Trek: Voyager.” But when the 47-year-old Iowa native lands at the Cleveland Play House Aug. 20 through Sept. 3, it will be to portray real-life stage-and-screen icon Katharine Hepburn in “Tea at Five’ a one-woman show by playwright Matthew Lombardo.

When we caught up with Mulgrew, she was juggling a move from Los Angeles and various appearances with her husband, Ohio gubernatorial candidate Tim Hagan. But she found time to comment on Hepburn, Trekkies, soaps and the prospect of becoming the Buckeye State’s first lady.

Do you see your resemblance to Katharine Hepburn? “Yes —oh, I don’t know. A million words have been used. I just call it cheek. We’re nervy in the same way, we’re fast in the same way. We speak a little bit alike. The movements are much the same.’

Did you see those similarities before starting work on the play? “I sort of sensed it. [I don’t do her] at parties, if that’s what you’re asking.”

Ever have an audience with The Great Kate? “I’ve never met her, which I think is really to my advantage in playing her. I’m sure that had I met her, I would have been colored by that dynamic, whereas now I can just let my imagination take flight."

What’s the hardest part about doing a one-woman show? “It’s lonely. The great part about doing a play is that you can always go out with your cronies, have a drink and trash each other. That evening’s performance is celebrated, as the case may be. But this is a pretty solitary endeavor. And, of course, physically, it requires an extraordinary energy, which at my age is a double effort.”

What was your most memorable Trekkie encounter? “I was asked to marry a couple once. They took my captaincy quite seriously, evidently. I said, ‘I don’t believe I have those credentials? They said, ‘Oh, go ahead. We don’t care. We’ll just accept it?”

Your opinion of soaps? ” ‘Ryan’s Hope’ really kicked [my career] off. In fact, when people recognize me, it’s often for ‘Ryan’s Hope'. I feel very blessed to have played a great character on daytime television.”

How did the gig doing voiceovers for MetroHealth Medical Center commercials come about? “My husband took me to an event at the hospital and I was very moved by it. On his recommendation, I suggested to the president that perhaps they would like to use my voice, which I would give to the hospital."

Any reservations about finally moving to Ohio? “It is never without trepidation that we enter into something entirely new. But I also think that is the essence of life. Change is the only absolute. I want to embrace it. If you met my husband, you would understand completely. No finer person ever lived. We’ve been married for over three years. It’s high time, don’t you think?”

How does one maintain a commuter marriage? “Great empathy and great, great patience, which Tim has more of than I do?’

Are you ready to enter the political arena? “I’ve always been very, very interested in what makes not only our culture but our society tick. And then when you fall in love with someone who really understands it! I have found this whole thing to be not only profoundly moving but really intriguing. If I can help him in any small way, I very much want to do that.”— LT

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