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2013
SUNDAY, JUNE 9, 2013
Live at Radio City Music Hall

Tony Winner Victoria Clark on Her Best-Loved Roles, from How to Succeed to Cinderella

Tony Winner Victoria Clark on Her Best-Loved Roles, from How to Succeed to Cinderella
Victoria Clark
The versatile Victoria Clark reflects on favorite roles in musicals, an opera, a play and a film.

Victoria Clark is one of Broadway’s most valuable players, a star who can carry a show (as in her indelible, Tony-winning performance in The Light in the Piazza) or bring vibrant life to a featured role (as in her Tony-nominated turns in Sister Act and now Cinderella). In a career spanning almost three decades, the Yale-trained Clark has also acted in plays, won raves for concerts and cabaret appearances and maintained an active teaching career. We couldn’t wait to see which characters she would choose for her Role Call and, not surprisingly, she was thoughtful and articulate about all of them—and particularly gracious about her current co-star Laura Osnes.

Role I Never Expected to Play
“I never thought I would play Ma Joad in The Grapes of Wrath [2010, Carnegie Hall], by Ricky Ian Gordon and Michael Korie. First of all, I never thought I was old enough to play Ma Joad, but these things sneak up on you. I said the same thing about every role I have done: ‘I’m not old enough for that yet, am I?’ Then I look in the mirror and see that somewhere along the way, I matured. What? Second, it was an opera, something I had dreamed about but never done. Singing opposite Nathan Gunn at Carnegie Hall? That’s a heart attack. At one point, I had to sing from the wings, off microphone, and I was afraid I wouldn’t be heard over the orchestra. I asked my son later, ‘Did you hear me?’ He just laughed. I can be pretty loud when I want to.”

Role That Will Stay in My Heart Forever
“I have been blessed with roles that allow me to express something very personal at a specific time in my life. I seek them out; acting is my therapy. Margaret Johnson in The Light in the Piazza [2005, Best Actress Tony Award] was the perfect role at the perfect time. I was looking for a role that could express both deep sorrow and resurrection, and that was it. In addition to being the most beautiful score I have ever sung, Piazza gave me the opportunity to honor the matriarchs of my Southern family. Margaret was funny, kooky, surprising, elegant, troubled, masterful, intelligent and an amazing mother. I learned so much from her. Collaborating with [librettist] Craig Lucas, [director] Bartlett Sher, [composer] Adam Guettel, [musical director] Ted Sperling and that astounding cast was a life-altering gift.”

Role That Has Taught Me the Most
“It might sound strange to say I’m learning from a project that’s just beginning, but Marie in Cinderella [Best Featured Actress Tony nomination] deserves a shout-out. Douglas Carter Beane’s rich book explores life’s mysteries without getting too preachy. The score is one I have sung my whole life, and yet singing it at my age is an opportunity to find its freshness again and again. The physical requirements of this character have given me a chance to investigate the potential of my body, and how to make the work more seamless every day. Going to work with this fabulous cast and our spectacular ensemble is a joy. Our director, Mark Brokaw, taught me to trust. And working with Laura Osnes, I have learned what it means to be present and full in the simplest, most joyous way. She is a marvelous scene partner and a great teacher.”

Role That Was the Most Instinctive
“I went into rehearsal to play Smitty in How To Succeed in Business Without Really Trying [1995] when my son was four months old. I seriously had not worn a pair of heels for months. Suddenly I was singing, dancing and pumping breast milk in corners of the Kennedy Center and later at the Richard Rodgers Theatre. There was no time to plot out how the role was going to go. I was hanging by a thread. When the show closed, my son was almost two. Every day I would look down and there would be baby vomit, yogurt or applesauce all over my face, my arm or my costume. I averaged five hours of sleep a night. Once during a performance, I started laughing so hard, I fell down on the stage and could not get up. I literally stopped the show cold laughing. Ah, spontaneity!”

Role I Am Proudest Of
“In Marc Meyers’ beautiful indie feature Harvest [2010], I played Anna, a woman with a college-age son and a dying father. Being in the middle generation, she struggles to maintain a peaceful balance in her family while working though her own issues. Marc allowed us to improv all the scenes around the dialogue he had written, and then we just filmed. I didn’t see a single day of rushes. I trusted him completely. Jumping into the world of that film was such a blessing for me and gave me the opportunity to feel comfortable in front of the camera in a way I never had before.”

Role That Was the Most Difficult to Rehearse
“In Craig Lucas’ Prayer for My Enemy [2008], I played an anxious woman who murders a man after an incident of road rage. All my scenes were lengthy, intense, often hilarious monologues. During rehearsal I would wander around the room, trying to remember my lines. There wasn’t another actor to give me a second to think of what was next. At home, I would fall asleep working on the memorizing; I memorized monologues in my dreams! When we put the show together, the rest of the cast would be in one scene, I would come out and do a monologue, then they would do a family scene, then I would do the next monologue. Once we got into the run, it was thrilling to unveil, one scene at a time, this woman’s life and her psyche.”