Host Dee Perry
90.3 FM - WCPN
July 31, 2002
Many, many THANKS! to my transcriber!
Please do not repost without permission.
Teaser from previous interview:
… as she was ending her career as a starship captain, just as the final episode of her long-running series "Star Trek: Voyager" was about to end.
KATE MULGREW: There's a certain kind of discipline which you impose upon yourself. I'm feeling now a freedom. Perhaps one could even say an irreverence about it, which means that I am ready to go where I haven't gone before.
Announcer: Today "Around Noon" we'll talk about where Kate Mulgrew has gone. Into production for the play "Tea at Five" based on the life of actress Katharine Hepburn. We'll talk about the Cleveland Play House production of that play, give you a chance to win tickets, and a chance to chat one on one with Kate Mulgrew as she joins us in the studio for a call in.
DEE PERRY: For seven years she stood at the helm of the starship Voyager as the first female captain of the beloved Star Trek series. As Captain Kathryn Janeway, actor Kate Mulgrew broke social boundaries as she broke the speed of light in this famous science fiction fantasy. But last year the Voyager came home to Earth, and Kate Mulgrew came home to her husband and family as the popular UPN series ended. Next month, Mulgrew will return to her professional home, live theater, as she brings her one-woman show based on the life of another Katharine, Katharine Hepburn, to the Cleveland Play House stage. Later in our show we'll give lucky WCPN supporter a chance to see "Tea at Five", so do stay tuned. We'll also open the phones so you can call Kate with your comments and questions, but right now, I want to welcome back to "Around Noon", and our WCPN studios, award winning actor Kate Mulgrew.
Kate, thank you for taking the time to be with us this afternoon.
KATE MULGREW: Dee it's my pleasure. How've you been?
DEE PERRY: I've been fine thanks, how about you?
KATE MULGREW: I'm good. You have the most wonderful voice!
DEE PERRY: Well I could say the same.
KATE MULGREW: No but yours is truly dulcet, melodious, gorgeous!
DEE PERRY: No, no, stop. But actually, speaking of being back again, when you joined us last year, it was just at the close of Star Trek: Voyager and I wanted to ask what the last year has been like personally and professionally.
KATE MULGREW: It's been a whirlwind. I'll be very, very frank. As you probably know, my husband, Tim Hagan, is running for governor of Ohio on the Democratic ticket which is something he thought would be calming to both of us after seven and a half years in the Delta Quadrant! So we've been campaigning. And then I undertook this one-woman show because I found the material both so compelling and so remarkably well written – really excellent work by Matthew Lombardo, the playwright. So we took it to Hartford and the response was so marvelous that it was suggested by several people that I fix it up just a little bit in the first half and prepare it for a long and robust run in New York.
DEE PERRY: And you're in the process of doing another version of it coming up at Cleveland Play House in August. But before we talk about that, I wanted to find out more about the woman behind the roles we're talking about. You. Were born in Dubuque Iowa. You were the oldest daughter in a family of eight children.
KATE MULGREW: That's right. You are looking at the person responsible for that. Through the glass there, Dee, is my mother, Joan Mulgrew.
DEE PERRY: Very nice to have you here too. Well Kate, people often remark about your air of authority and self assurance, both on stage and off, and I’m wondering if that began bossing brothers and sisters around.
KATE MULGREW: That would probably be called an affectation, coming from such a large family in Dubuque Iowa. I don't know. I think you're probably right. Also my mother instilled in me a great sense of confidence. She championed me from the beginning, regarding my life as an actress, and I think probably the depth and the timber of my voice lends itself to a feeling of authority. But whatever the case may be I think one is confident and authoritative when it comes to loving what one does, and I have done that since I was twelve years old so I've been quite blessed.
DEE PERRY: So you were an artistic child, always involved in some sort of play acting or theater?
KATE MULGREW: I was a bossy show off, Dee! Let's be frank here!
DEE PERRY: That works!
KATE MULGREW: I thought I was a great poet. I thought I was the Edna St. Vincent Millay of the Mississippi Valley. I was corrected in the fifth grade by my teacher, Sister Benedict, who said "I don't really think you are a poet, but why don't you stand up and read this poem," which I did. And I remember looking out and watching ten nuns in tears, and feeling the thrill of that power. I said "That's it! I'm going to be an actress."
DEE PERRY: So from that point on you were pointed at a certain direction. By the time you were going to college – I notice that you went to three different universities – Northwestern, University of Iowa and New York University…
KATE MULGREW: I didn't go to the University of Iowa, that's incorrect.
DEE PERRY: Then I should scratch that from the bio…
KATE MULGREW: Right!
DEE PERRY: But when you went to university were you involved in acting at that point? That is, looking at it as a career that you were headed for?
KATE MULGREW: Well that's all it was about. Northwestern was when I was fourteen year old.
DEE PERRY: Really?
KATE MULGREW: Yes. I went into their summer program, and the University of Minnesota was when I was fifteen. I went to London when I was sixteen because I made the finals at LAMDA and I was rejected there, which was devastating. I went to NYU then to university, but really to study with my great mentor, and the person who I think lit the fire unlike any other, and that is Stella Adler. So I really, I think I broke myself in at the Stella Adler conservatory in New York. My father would be the first to tell you that academically I am, what one might suggest, is slightly deficient.
DEE PERRY: What was so outstanding about Stella Adler's method of teaching?
KATE MULGREW: First of all, just a great dame. How do you articulate to somebody else what has moved you, shaped you and defined you - about a teacher? And I've only really had one, not counting Sister Benedict, who was indeed very special. But Stella was from the Yiddish theater, and she reshaped the Stanislavsky method and she brought it to the New York Theater, and she imbued in her actors a sense of the epic - I would call it a sense of the Russian. Something that is lacking in our culture today and certainly in this country. And she used to say to me "You must be bigger than life. And when you are you must take responsibility for that. You plant your feet on the stage, rise above…" And then when she came to see me, I think it was the opening night of "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof", which was a daunting effort, you can imagine, she came backstage and she said, "You know the men will come and go…" I shouldn't be saying this on radio, my poor husband, as he's campaigning in Ohio – I don't mean this about you darling! "The men will come and go, you'll be rich and you'll be poor, you'll be happy and you'll be sad. Only the work will lift you up." And I think she was right. She was right.
DEE PERRY: In "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" I'm curious if you played Maggie.
KATE MULGREW: Yes. Of course. At three months pregnant. Talk about daunting.
DEE PERRY: In terms of big career breaks, would you say that stage was first or would you say that the daytime drama, "Ryan's Hope" was something that exposed you to the most people.
KATE MULGREW: Well the theater was absolutely my love. I mean I'll be extremely straightforward about that. I was conditioned, I think, and built to be in the theater. But as destiny would have it, or serendipity, whichever you prefer, on the same day I was offered two jobs. One was to play Emily in "Our Town" at the American Shakespeare Festival in Stratford Connecticut, and then my agent said to me… first of all he said to me "are you sitting down?" You can see me in my five-floor walk-up in New York City after waiting tables for so long. And he said "and then after you've rehearsed you will come back into the City to tape the new soap opera in which you will be the center character, Mary Ryan." Well, it was a summer of absolute, unequivocal paradise.
DEE PERRY: And then, you following that did all sorts of roles in all sorts of media. But you say that stage was your first and still your greatest love?
KATE MULGREW: Yes, I was driven to be an actress in the theater. I think it's just something I understand about my personality. I… the organic is very important to me. I get a lot just looking at you right now. If we weren't doing this this way I think it would be much more difficult for me. I feel and I sense, I'm moved, charged by the chemistry of the audience. So the camera, which as you know is a clinical little fellow, does not impart to me the same – should I say – support. And I always say that I've had to seduce the camera in the way I've not felt about a live audience. I've just felt that they've been with me. And that story telling is in its essence, Greek. And although the camera has been very, very good to me - I've worked for you know, nineteen, twenty years in Hollywood - the joy and a sense of ascendance and transcendence comes when I walk on the stage.
DEE PERRY: I would see how that would be compelling because what your teacher Stella Adler said: that the sense of being larger than life – it's hard to do that on a small screen, you seem to have to pull back just because…
KATE MULGREW: You don't have to pull back, and the camera's very sensual. Also highly selective, and merciless. Can be merciless and quite critical. The camera will not afford you the same lack of judgment or try – trial – that the theater will. The camera will judge you immediately – it often prefers beautiful young girls with blonde hair and blue eyes and gorgeous figures as we all know. So as we age, we have to work a little harder. And by seducing the camera, I mean that it doesn't lie, and you can't lie to it. So there has to be a compromise about the acting and you're right, it has to be contained – subdued. It has to be deepened and the acting still has to be very, very real. But it doesn't have the wings, I don't think, that the theater has.
DEE PERRY: Speaking of wings, I've always felt lifted by watching the work of the woman that you're going to be portraying, Katharine Hepburn. And it seems that throughout your career you've been compared to her. Is that a comparison that you get – that you see why people say that?
KATE MULGREW: Well Oscar Wilde said, "Comparisons are odious", but I think if one has to suffer from them, this is a marvelous one. I understood it. It's physical, it's vocal. (In Hepburn's voice) "I mean, I sort of have that voice, you know, we…" it's easy to get to. And we have a little bit of the same quality, I think physically, particularly facially. Perhaps a little bit of the backbone. I've often found people often think I'm from the East, so we share I think, a similar Yankee spirit. But never having met her, I did not think that I would like her. I'll be very honest with you - I thought she was tough – respected her as a maverick of course – but I thought she was tough. I didn't think our politics were in any way compatible. And I thought that there was an edge to Hepburn that precluded the vulnerability that I so like to see when I'm watching great performers. However, having said that, in playing this woman, I have fallen in love. And I think that's why I was so well received in Hartford. I really did fall in love with her and I shocked myself at the extent of it, because as the weeks evolved into months and I watched again and again and again every movie which I've watched now five, six, seven, ten times, read twenty, thirty books – not only every biography and autobiography I could get my hands on – but all the peripheral characters. Windows started to open and the windows became doors and by the time I got to opening night her vulnerability – the heartbeat of the young girl – of the fourteen year old Kate was very real to me. And the evolution of her character in Act II – in Act I I'm thirty one, she's just been labeled box office poison, and in Act II I'm seventy-six, shortly after that terrible accident in which in fact she almost lost her right foot. I just seemed to slip in to that reflective passage in her life. (In Hepburn's voice) "The seventy-six year old just came to me." It was the young girl I had a harder time with. But notwithstanding all of the cosmetic and perhaps superficial qualities, I have so totally immersed myself in it, that I would have to tell you that I, I've come to really love her.
DEE PERRY: Excellent. I'm here with actor Kate Mulgrew, who will be starring as Katharine Hepburn in "Tea at Five" at the Cleveland Playhouse, from Tuesday, August 20th through Tuesday September 3rd. We'll take a short break, and when we come back we'll hear how Kate got into the character of Katharine, as you stay tuned to "Around Noon" here on 90.3 WCPN.
(A scene from the "African Queen" with Katharine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart is played.)
Dee Perry: Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn in John Houston's Academy Award winning film from 1951, "The African Queen".
You're tuned to "Around Noon" here on 90.3, WCPN and starting Tuesday, August 20th, the life of Katharine Hepburn comes to life at the Cleveland Play House in the new one-woman play "Tea at Five". Joining me today here in studio B is the actor who will star in the play as Hepburn, Kate Mulgrew. And if you'd like to join the discussion you can do that by giving us a call at 216-579-0903 and email us by logging on to our home page at WCPN.org.
And Kate, while we are looking for our first caller, let's talk a bit about how "Tea at Five" came about. How you first got involved.
KATE MULGREW: It's a good story – a little bit sad now, but a wonderful story. About a year ago – a year and a half ago – my best friend, Nancy Addison, was lying in her bed she's – was sick with cancer at that time, with her great friend, Matthew Lombardo whom I had never met, despite the closeness of their relationship. And they were watching me in an episode of Voyager and undoubtedly having a great laugh while they were doing so. And Matthew sat bolt upright and said "That girl has to play Katharine Hepburn." And ran home and wrote it in three days time. Sent it to me and I'll never forget it. Receiving it in my trailer and sitting down and thinking oh. I opened it and understood immediately – recognized it's value right away. Called him. We met for lunch, I adored him. Fell in love with him. And then he shopped it around. The Hartford Stage picked it up immediately – Michael Wilson – bought the auction and there you had it.
DEE PERRY: And we will be looking forward so much to the August run of the show here in Cleveland.
KATE MULGREW: As am I, yes.
DEE PERRY: Even as we're speaking there are people from around the world who have hit on your website and found that you were going to be on the show today have sent us emails saying 'oh can you take this show on the road'. Someone from Germany saying 'will you be able to take it from America to other countries' so I know there's already great interest from you fans.
KATE MULGREW: That's what I mean when I say Dee that Hollywood has been very good to me. I have such a wonderful fan base, particularly in the science fiction – the last seven and a half years. Now getting it to South Africa would be quite an undertaking, wouldn't it?
DEE PERRY: Yes.
KATE MULGREW: But it would be wonderful. Can you imagine? A world tour. Anyway they're all so gracious.
DEE PERRY: And we have some other fans who are on the line now including Mark. Mark, good afternoon. Do you have a question or a comment for Kate?
Mark: Yes. Two things briefly. First Miss Mulgrew I enjoyed your work on Voyager and I also have fond memories of your pre-Voyager series where you played the Hospital administrator.
KATE MULGREW: Yes, I loved that series. It went under rather quickly, didn't it Mark?
Mark: Yes it did.
KATE MULGREW: As all the good ones do, I'm afraid.
Mark: Most of them, anyway.
KATE MULGREW: Want to know what my mother said about that? She's here. Let me see if she'll back me up on this Mark. She said they destroyed it with sex!
Mark: Well it's been a while since I watched the show. Anyway I remember one of the supporting characters was a lesbian, which I thought was wonderful, in fact she was a good character, but…
KATE MULGREW: No, that wasn't it. That was a wonderful story. It was all these OB/GYNS running around from sack to sack. It couldn't hold up, could it?
Mark: Yeah, that might be it, but anyway the question I really wanted to ask you is, I've always enjoyed your animated voice over work in series such as Batman, Gargoyles and Mighty Max and do you have any plans to do any more voice-overs in the future?
KATE MULGREW: It's my greatest pleasure to do cartoons, because I'm alone in the recording booth and not in front of a camera, there's no audience and I can just let it rip. So that, I think will be, for the rest of my life, Mark. With any luck I'll be able to use my voice in that way.
DEE PERRY: Excellent. Thank you for your question, Mark. And we were mentioning Germany just a moment ago. We have caller on the line from Germany. Tobias, thank you for calling. You have a question for Kate?
KATE MULGREW: Hello Tobias, how are you?
Tobias: I'm fine, thanks.
KATE MULGREW: Good.
Tobias: And first let me say something to the people who live in Cleveland. Go and see "Tea at Five". I saw it in Hartford and it was even worth the flight from Germany to Hartford, to Connecticut to see it…
KATE MULGREW: Ahhh….
Tobias: And my question is I know that there never was a movie in cinemas about Katharine Hepburn. Why do you think this is so, and if there were to be a movie in the future do you think you will play the leading role? Or what do you think about that?
KATE MULGREW: That's a good question, Tobias. By the way, it's good to hear your voice. Tobias is a good…
Tobias: Good to hear you too.
KATE MULGREW: Tobias was very supportive during my Voyager tenure. There was actually a mini-series about her many, many years ago, and playing the leading role of Hepburn was my old pal Tovah Feldshuh.
KATE MULGREW: But since that time, you're right, there's been nothing, and I do find it curious. Maybe there's something about the Hepburn estate, Tobias, and the fact that Miss Hepburn is still with us…
KATE MULGREW: … precluding this undertaking. But wouldn't it be marvelous if I could have a shot at that. Although how on film I would ever play a thirty-one year old, I can't imagine. I'm ready for you to retaliate …
DEE PERRY: Well I don't know. There would be no trouble at all! Tobias thank you.
Tobias: I have another question first - Will "Tea at Five" be at Broadway?
KATE MULGREW: Well that's the intention, that's the intention Tobias. I think that's why we're here fixing it in Cleveland and moving it on to Boston, too.
Tobias: Perhaps in December, or somewhere?
KATE MULGREW: I should think even before then.
Tobias: Oh. I would love to do some Christmas shopping in New York.
KATE MULGREW: I would love to see you there.
DEE PERRY: Thanks again Tobias.
KATE MULGREW: Thank you so much, Tobias. Take care. Bye bye.
DEE PERRY: You have been listening to a special conversation with Kate Mulgrew, who will be starring as Katharine Hepburn in "Tea at Five" at the Cleveland Playhouse beginning August 20th, and on the line for today's "Around Noon", we have another caller who has actually seen the show in Hartford as well. Cina?
DEE PERRY: Good afternoon. You have a question or a comment for Kate?
Cina: I have a comment – a few actually. I had the pleasure of meeting you Kate, in Orlando at a Star Trek Convention and I have to say it was an absolute pleasure – you were very, very kind to me that time. But my comment regarding "Tea at Five" – I saw it in Hartford - I flew all the way from Florida to see it – not as far as Tobias from Germany but…
KATE MULGREW: Ahhh…
Cina: I found it absolutely wonderful and just totally shocked that… not shocked I should say but excited at the fact that I was just so … I so enjoyed the play and your portrayal of Katharine Hepburn.
KATE MULGREW: What a lovely thing to say, thank you so much.
Cina: Oh you're quite welcome. It's my pleasure. You've given me a lot of joy as Captain Janeway and it was thrilling…
KATE MULGREW: That must have been odd for you saying 'I have to see Captain Janeway.' Instead you saw Katharine Hepburn.
Cina: I'm certainly not lost in Star Trek and realize you as an actress can portray other roles but it was absolutely thrilling to be able to see you live…
KATE MULGREW: Good.
Cina: Doing other than Captain Janeway.
KATE MULGREW: I'm so glad, I'm so glad.
DEE PERRY: Cina were you also a Katharine Hepburn fan? Did you…
Cina: Oh yes. Big time. I love Katharine Hepburn and that was… you know … I have to admit I was kind of skeptical. You know I'm a really great fan of yours Kate, but I was like, I don't know if she could pull it off, and I was very, very glad to see that I was very, very wrong.
KATE MULGREW: Oh…What a wonderful thing to say.
DEE PERRY: Well thanks so much for your call too Cina.
Cina: Thank you.
KATE MULGREW: Come and see it in Cleveland now!
Cina: I wish I could afford it!
KATE MULGREW: I do thank you for coming to Hartford though.
Cina: Well thank you very much for all the pleasure you've given me.
KATE MULGREW: All right, darling, take care.
Cina: Bye bye.
KATE MULGREW: Bye bye.
DEE PERRY: Our next caller on the line is Joan who is calling from Highland Heights, and she has a comment about having you compare acting and politics. Joan, good afternoon.
Joan: Good afternoon, how are you?
KATE MULGREW: Very well Joan. And how are you?
Joan: I'm just fine, excuse my voice. I have two questions, actually. What do you think of your husband's chances running for governor of Ohio? And do you notice any similarities between being an actress and a politician's wife?
KATE MULGREW: Now we've got an intellectual on the line here, Dee. Very astute and very good questions. And I ask myself those two questions Joan every day. To answer these – not chronologically – I would say that being an actress and being a politician's wife are not dissimilar. The same kind of stamina, I think, is required. Both constitutionally and emotionally. Also if one would view the theater as my great love and the sort of champion of my heart that is in fact how I view my husband in life, and particularly under the rigors of this campaign which has been very challenging for him and leads me to your first question. Unquestionably my husband has a … I think will win this race. Our current governor, Bob Taft is not doing terribly well, as I'm sure aware if you read the newspaper. Small scandals brewing and I believe he is sinking in the polls and dodging a debate with my husband and my husband is simultaneously rising for all the right reasons. He's a remarkable man, Tim Hagan. A great Democrat. Calls himself a dinosaur and a New Dealer but the fact of the matter is that he is a very rare specimen and the state could no better than this man in its leading office. No bias there. No bias there, no.
DEE PERRY: Did those answer your questions, Joan?
Joan: Yes, actually they do, and I just wanted to add to a comment made by the previous caller. I have also had the pleasure of meeting Kate Mulgrew in person and she is absolutely charming, warm and wonderful.
KATE MULGREW: Ahhh….
Joan: And I wish you the best of luck.
KATE MULGREW: Joan, how lovely of you, thank you so much.
Joan: We'll see you in "Tea at Five".
KATE MULGREW: All right! Thank you.
DEE PERRY: Bye bye, and thank you. And we should remind you that you are listening to 90.3, WCPN. We are on "Around Noon" with Kate Mulgrew, who is taking your comments, calls and questions. You can join the conversation at 216… And we'll take our next caller after a short break….
(Excerpt from Endgame, Star Trek: Voyager)
DEE PERRY: A scene from UPN's Voyager, with Kate Mulgrew in her Star Trek turn as Captain Kathryn Janeway. On Tuesday, August 20th, Mulgrew will take the Cleveland Play House stage for her new one-woman show about the life and career of another Katharine, Katharine Hepburn. "Tea at Five" is the play. You're tuned to "Around Noon" here on 90.3, WCPN. I'm Dee Perry and Kate Mulgrew is here with me in studio B, and we are looking at a bank full of phone callers who would like to take advantage of that opportunity and our call in today. You can also email us by logging onto our website at WCPN.org. And I should actually share one of those emails that came from Johannesburg, South Africa. Fiona wrote Kate that she was fascinated by a comment you made on the Rosie O'Donnell Show earlier this year; that playing Katharine Hepburn has touched you on a very deep level, and she wanted to know more about what you meant by that comment.
KATE MULGREW: Well that was sort of apropos of my statement earlier when I said that I found myself falling in love her much to my surprise. To uncover the depth of her vulnerability and her suffering, was startling to me, and it was like peeling away an onion. You know she found her brother Tom hanged at the age of fifteen. From that moment forward I believe that that child said goodbye to all of her, actually hard won innocence, and entered the very real world of adults. And the way the Hepburns struggled with their grief was rather patrician… certainly very Yankee. Stiff upper lip. I just think that beneath the texture of all of her toughness – her ability to go to Hollywood, her drive to be a great star was the little girl who had to cut her brother down when she was fourteen years old.
DEE PERRY: And is that some of what is part of "Tea at Five"? Her telling those stories.
KATE MULGREW: Yes. Even difficult. And although I've played this now for over three months, for me to talk to you about it.
DEE PERRY: Yes I can…
KATE MULGREW: It just… that it's a terribly resonant, private, excruciating moment and I try to just give it to the theater, but that is uncovered, that is revealed, as well as other things, which I think are, are disturbing, disconcerting and very true. Her relationship with Spencer Tracy, not to mention her relationship with her own father, which was complex to say the least. We have a woman of so many shades and so many colors and tones that one tries valiantly in two hours to strike the big notes. But I did so with an effort, in an effort to really reveal her vulnerability.
DEE PERRY: We had another caller on the line, Paul from Westlake, wants to touch on the topic of Eleanor Roosevelt. How so Paul?
Paul: Good afternoon ladies, it's a wonderful show and Kate I'm a great supporter of your husband, Tim Hagan, I hope he's going to be our next governor.
KATE MULGREW: Thank you so much, so do I.
Paul: And he's a very lucky man, you're a very beautiful lady.
KATE MULGREW: How lovely.
Paul: I can't wait to see the play. I've been a big fan of…
KATE MULGREW: Hepburn
Paul: Hepburn. Excuse me, I'm a little nervous, Hepburn, for a long time, particularly the latter Hepburn in her later roles.
KATE MULGREW: Yes.
Paul: But I was wondering if the opportunity came up if you would be interested in playing Eleanor Roosevelt?
KATE MULGREW: Well, you know, somebody's got that market cornered! Jean Stapleton of "All in the Family" is playing Eleanor Roosevelt and has taken her on the road.
Paul: I didn't know that.
KATE MULGREW: And most remarkably, Paul, the person who directed it, and sent it to glory, is the same man, John Tillenger, who has directed "Tea at Five".
DEE PERRY: That's amazing.
KATE MULGREW: So he loves women of a certain cut. But when I go home tonight, Paul, and I tell my husband that you suggested this, you're going to get free tickets to this play. Because Eleanor Roosevelt is my husband's greatest hero.
DEE PERRY: See… good call, Paul!
Paul: Thank you.
KATE MULGREW: Thank you so much.
DEE PERRY: We also have on the line, Bobby, who is calling from Shaker and is curious about the relationship with the Hepburn estate.
KATE MULGREW: Uhuh.
DEE PERRY: Hepburn is still with us.
KATE MULGREW: Is Bobby a lawyer?!
KATE MULGREW: Is that Bobby?
Bobby: Well, thank you for taking my call. I first want to say that your portrayal of Janeway will go down in history making her one of those women in TV or entertainment history who will always be recognized as someone to be emulated. So thank you for your portrayal. For making Janeway one of the great characters…
KATE MULGREW: How wonderful an intelligent womans feels this way, thank you.
Bobby: And I love your politics as well, and your husband's.
KATE MULGREW: Thank you.
Bobby: But, what I wanted to ask was if you have, or your writers of this play have any relationship with the Hepburn estate or with Miss Hepburn herself. If you've heard from them.
KATE MULGREW: We have heard from them. Legally we do not have a relationship. And as a result of that – I would say it was the second week I was appearing in Hartford – Katharine Houghton, her niece, came, her brother- in- law came and a couple of other members of her family. Miss Hepburn herself is indisposed to put it, I think, fairly. And Katharine Houghton then wrote a letter to the Hartford Courant in which she criticized the content of the play and sort of praised my performance, which was a double-edged sword. I think it's a no-win situation, Bobby, because when something is as important as a human life, and a human life of this magnitude is exposed and revealed on the stage, naturally the family is going to take this to heart, and sometimes I'm sure it's rather difficult for them to wrestle with the... some of the more complex components in her life.
Bobby: Well, thank you very much. I have tickets, I look forward to seeing you.
KATE MULGREW: Thank you so much and thank you for your politics, madam.
Bobby: Thank you.
DEE PERRY: Thank you Bobby. You are listening to a conversation with Kate Mulgrew, who joins us in studio B for today's "Around Noon" and if you'd like to be part of the conversation you can do that with a call at 216….
DEE PERRY: Kate, how challenging is it for you to be on stage all by yourself for the two hours of this show?
KATE MULGREW: Challenging is putting it lightly. I'm so glad I did this, because I think it is probably the ultimate test of what's truly ones own creative metal. But you are… one is accustomed to a partner, if not eight or ten.
DEE PERRY: Is this the first time you've been on stage alone?
KATE MULGREW: First one-person show. And the first thing you recognize is that you're really flying without a net. And the second thing is it doesn't really matter because nobody's there to correct you. So it's both liberating and constraining at the same time. However I would say without question, the concentration and focus required for a two- hour performance on stage is probably upwards of a hundred and twenty percent. If I blip for even a nanosecond… were I to lose my train of thought, however briefly… in many places it's irrecoverable, and then you fall from that trapeze. And I cannot take that risk, so it has to be not only all systems go, but constitutionally, psychologically and emotionally, I've got to be very, very fit.
DEE PERRY: We are talking with Kate Mulgrew here on WCPN's "Around Noon" about her upcoming role and others she's played. And you can be part of that conversation, as we mentioned at 216….
You touched briefly on Hepburn's relationship with Spencer Tracy. They were partners in many films and a partnership that was never legalized during Spencer Tracy's lifetime in terms of a romantic relationship. Does that also become part of the show "Tea at Five"? Is that what … has Matthew Lombardo included…
KATE MULGREW: Oh. You can't possibly touch upon her life without going into this, because her relationship with Spencer Tracy defined her adult years. It was a twenty-seven year relationship. He never married her, never had any intention of marrying her. He was well and truly married to Louise Treadwell and had two children, one of whom was deaf. All of this is told in the second act. You know the essence of that relationship was privacy to such an extent Dee, at a time in Hollywood when Ingrid Bergman was being exiled for her behavior with Roberto Rosselini and others. At a time in the forties, fifties when there was just an absolute taboo for some reason, the press has never judged Tracy and Hepburn. And I think it's because they were terribly discreet. And also they were so valued as entertainers – the extent of their talent was so vast – and they themselves were so unique that I think Hollywood just left them alone.
Now despite all my rehearsal, and all of my research, can I tell you that I have uncovered the true quintessential nature of that relationship? No. I don't know. But my guess is, and this is amateur psychology at best, but it somehow links to her relationship with her father. He was very domineering, very critical man, very smart, very attractive.
DEE PERRY: I'm curious about where Matthew Lombardo dug for his research. Did he use things that Katharine Hepburn had written or said? Or was it biographies?
KATE MULGREW: I think he used everything. And God bless his soul, you know he was born and raised in Hartford – just outside of Hartford, so he used the Hartford Public Library, which is endless. And also, you know, I think the reason this play is so successful was that Matthew has that inexpressible understanding of who she was when she was young. And who she was when she was older. And also who the people were who so touched her. He's a really remarkably talented guy and I would say watch out for him.
DEE PERRY: We shall watch out for another caller. Dagmar is with us by car phone and has a good luck message. Dagmar, good afternoon. Do you have a question or a comment?
Dagmar: Well this is true. Between the two of you it's hard to judge who has the better voice.
KATE MULGREW: Thank you!
Dagmar: Well yah, good luck. Although I'll keep the political to a minimum because I was told otherwise you'll have to put the other side on the air as well. But I do want to say Kate, that having you in town is a pleasure. I'll try and make your play, of course, but also I hope that when you become First Lady of Ohio, you'll look out for the arts and you'll look out especially for arts that we need very, very much right here in Cleveland, Ohio.
KATE MULGREW: That is a promise I make to you.
Dagmar: Thank you.
KATE MULGREW: Thank you very, very much for your sentiments.
DEE PERRY: Dagmar thank you for your call, good to hear your voice. And we have another caller on the line whose voice we will here in just a second. Lou, calling from Medina. Actually touches on the political. Will you still act if your husband wins? Lou, good afternoon. Lou, are you with us?
Mike: This is Mike!
DEE PERRY: Mike, was that your question, will she still….
Mike: No. No it wasn't.
DEE PERRY: Okay, then why don't you ask your question.
KATE MULGREW: What's your question, Mike?
Mike: My comment had to do with when you watched Hepburn on the screen against some top leading men. You'd see Tracy and Bogart and John Wayne and Henry Fonda, but she always held her own with them, and what I've seen of Kate is that she holds her own too, very well, so I can see where she would do very well in this part, but I guess in addition to that comment and your opinion of that, but the other is that I want to thank you, you were given that, or won that role as Captain Janeway as my daughter was about four years old and didn't believe that girls could even today do anything, and when she saw that show, her eyes lit up and she hasn't stopped yet!
KATE MULGREW: I have to tell you Mike, of all the comments I hear over the years about Janeway, this is the single most gratifying. The influence that I've had on young women and particularly young girls. I think a young girl now wakes up and says 'I can fly my own starship'. And that's really a remarkable thing to be able to say, don't you think?
Mike: That's right.
DEE PERRY: Well thank you for your comment and your question, Mike. Good to have you on the air. It makes me wonder about you Kate, if you had that sense of 'I can do anything' from an early age.
KATE MULGREW: I think I had that sense of myself as an aspiring actress. Of course I find over the years, as we all have if we live long enough how to moderate some of those feelings and that life is tough. But thank God for that feeling, and also the very simple and philosophical approach to life, which has always been mine, which is: You know, we're going to die. It's a one shot deal. You might as well do it gloriously. Or as excellently at any rate, as you can. And if you're lucky enough to have something that you love as passionately as I love acting, then the sky should be the limit. I have nobody to disappoint except myself, really.
DEE PERRY: And now I think we do have Lou on the line.
KATE MULGREW: Lou are you there with the political question?
Lou: Well, actually, a couple of them. First of all I have seen you act in your Star Trek turns and even though I'm not a Trekkie I do admire your acting ability and think it's quite impressive. But my question was, actually twofold. If you do become the First Lady of Ohio, under the Democratic mantle, how do you plan on changing things? And secondly, I'd like your opinion on the Democratic Party's role in the election of the previous president, Clinton.
KATE MULGREW: Hmmm…this is a complicated question. Let's go back to the first part of the question. Which is how will I assist or support my husband and his politics if I become the First Lady of Ohio?
Lou: Will you make any changes? Generally the First Lady of Ohio is something of a quiet role over all…
KATE MULGREW: Well, I'm not quiet! Lou, I'm not quiet by nature, and I care quite fiercely about certain things. I will share them with you right now. I care about foster care. Rosie O'Donnell and I are very in this. And I… Ohio needs to have that addressed. Education, of course. My husband and I are both passionate about that.
Lou: I hope so.
KATE MULGREW: And I would say all children's services. The literacy rate, the death penalty, guns. All of it needs to be, I think, supported, not only philosophically, but now quite realistically and judiciously, as only my husband knows how to, I think, impart. So I would say that I would be his champion and his helpmate. But I am there actually to simply bolster what is already so very good.
Lou: So obviously your husband is the elected official and the wife generally is not, but there's been a lot of influence by previous First Ladies of Ohio in a lot of issues and it's nice of you to enumerate on the ones that you mentioned. I personally feel the children aspect is quite commendable.
KATE MULGREW: Thank you.
DEE PERRY: Thank you for your call Lou. And we want to get our last caller on the line. Dan is calling from Mentor. Dan, you have question, a comment?
Dan: Hello am I on the air? I can barely hear you. I just wanted to say how much I appreciated when Kate took over Star Trek because there's a lot of talk about was she going to be able to hold the series together but after the first couple of episodes you knew that series was going to run for years. It's like we knew with Patrick Stewart. I mean he held it together really great and he was a tough act to follow, but she followed him, that was really terrific.
KATE MULGREW: Ahhh… what a great thing to say. Yah, you're right, they were a little concerned about my gender.
Dan: Well, yah.
KATE MULGREW: And possibly my hair, what do you think?!
Dan: Don't tell Patrick Stewart! You stepped right up to the podium and did your thing it was terrific. And something else about Tim. He's a really handsome man when you're standing next to him.
KATE MULGREW: Ahhh…you're a doll. I'm going to tell him that when I get home tonight!
Dan: Well I'll be voting for him!
KATE MULGREW: Thank you so much, darling.
DEE PERRY: Thanks for your call Dan.
KATE MULGREW: What a sweetheart!
DEE PERRY: And that is our final caller for today. Thank you all for your calls and emails being part of our conversation with Kate Mulgrew. Kate before we let you go - you are terribly busy with "Tea at Five" but I'm wondering if there's something on the back burner that you are also planning to sort of roll out as days and months go on? Some other project that you're excited about?
KATE MULGREW: Aside from the gubernatorial campaign, a one woman show? The three children? Not really Dee! I was excited about that project called B.E.D! I really envisioned for myself a wonderful life here. I love Ohio. I love Ohioans. And that paired with my theatrical life in New York should make it all together pretty sublime.
DEE PERRY: It's a pretty full life.
KATE MULGREW: It's a good life.
DEE PERRY: We're so glad you are here.
KATE MULGREW: It was my pleasure, you're marvelous. Thanks so much.
DEE PERRY: Kate Mulgrew has been our guest and she is the star of "Tea at Five" which is coming up beginning August 20th at the Cleveland Playhouse. "Tea at Five" looks at the life and career of Academy Award winning actress, Katharine Hepburn. It opens Tuesday, August 20th and runs for two weeks until Tuesday, September 3rd.
Listen to this interview on WCPN's website.
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