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Rebecca Corral: One of Hollywood's screen legends is being brought to life on a San Francisco stage. Katharine Hepburn is the subject of a one-woman play, "Tea at Five", which stars stage, film and TV actress Kate Mulgrew. She joins us now on the KCBS Newsline. Thanks very much for the time this afternoon. So I guess I'll ask you the obvious question – is it daunting playing someone like Katharine Hepburn who is so well known?
Kate Mulgrew: Well of course it is, because it's such a fine line, Rebecca, I mean Katharine Hepburn was such an icon and was such a maverick, I have to be very careful not to do an impersonation. This is a realization of who I believe Katharine Hepburn was – as a thirty-one year old woman and as a seventy-six year old woman. So I'm… I'm very interested in honoring her life.
Rebecca Corral: What made you want to play her besides your interest in honoring her?
Kate Mulgrew: Well, as serendipity would have it, it was written for me, by the playwright Matthew Lombardo, who was the great friend of a mutual friend of ours, and I got it in my dressing room at Paramount when I was doing a series, and I thought "This is perfect. I've been doing a television series for seven years, and I can't think of anything I'd rather do more than go on the road with this one-person show for a couple of years!" Which is exactly what I've done, and it has given me great joy.
Rebecca Corral: In the play do you age? Do you start out very young and end up very old?
Kate Mulgrew: She is thirty-one in Act One – very agitated, having just been labeled box office poison, so you get a real glimpse at what drove the young Kate, and what defined her. And in Act Two she's seventy-six, having just undergone surgery for her foot – it's her terrible car accident that she had. And she's far more reflective in Act Two. Very self-deprecating and also very revealing. And it's her vulnerability that I have found most compelling – I think - pulse of Hepburn.
Rebecca Corral: I think one of the challenges of this – I mean making that huge age leap and having to have the maturity, you know, from one scene to the next …
Kate Mulgrew: Well one has to be a certain age to be able to do … to leap over this chasm! That's the great fun of it, and I would say the ongoing challenge, because one might easily ask what is… how do I keep this alive every night. Well you … you do because the challenge – the small Mount Everest is always there to scale. I always find it intriguing.
Rebecca Corral: What do audiences learn about Katharine Hepburn in this play?
Kate Mulgrew: That I think her… her young sorrows defined her. The death of her brother. Her very unusual and complex relationship with her father. And of course her twenty-seven year relationship with Spencer Tracy, who as we all know was a married man. And this… this draws a rather complicated picture of a woman we have come to know in far more simple terms, and they simply are not that simple.
Rebecca Corral: This is a far cry from one of your better-known roles as Captain Janeway on TV's Star Trek: Voyager. Have you had trouble breaking out of that role and do you have to pick a favorite between…
Kate Mulgrew: No. I don't … I'm not sure. It's such a far cry. Big personalities, you know. One was real, and one is not. So of course Janeway I could fashion after my own imagination. Hepburn, I have to practice a… a great fidelity with. It was actually the perfect transition for me, Rebecca, and I think I've held myself to be very lucky as a result.
Rebecca Corral: How do you like San Francisco audiences?
Kate Mulgrew: I like them. I think they're discerning. I think they're very smart. I think that they're also very privileged – there's a lot of theatre in San Francisco. So they can choose. And I hope they choose wisely! Come and see "Tea at Five" because we're having a great time!
Rebecca Corral: Well, we'll pass it along. We thank you so much for your time and for your thoughts. We've been speaking with Kate Mulgrew who stars as Katharine Hepburn in the one-woman play "Tea at Five". It's at San Francisco's Marines Memorial Theatre through June 19th. For more information you can log onto our website KCBS.com and look under 'newslinks'.