A Shining Light
By Nicholas Ducassi (CFA 2010)
Judith Light’s distinguished acting career and her active support for the LGBTQ community will take center stage at Carnegie Mellon University this May, when she will be presented with the Alumni Association’s most illustrious honor, the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Light’s career has spanned five decades and garnered multiple awards, including Tonys and Daytime Emmys. A 1970 graduate of the School of Drama in CMU’s College of Fine Arts, she stars in Amazon’s groundbreaking and Emmy-award winning television comedy “Transparent,” a role for which she has been nominated for a Primetime Emmy and a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress.
“I’ve been doing this a long time, and I owe a lot of that to my training at Carnegie Mellon — to be flexible, powerful and resilient — and to use our instrument in all different ways for all different avenues of the business,” Light said.
“WHAT I HAD HOPED AND LONGED FOR CAME TO FRUITION FROM MY CARNEGIE MELLON TRAINING — FOR THE SCHOOL TO HONOR ME WITH THIS KIND OF RECOGNITION IS TRULY BEYOND MY WILDEST DREAMS.”
Judith Light to Receive O’Neill Theater Center’s Monte Cristo Award
By Gordon Cox
MARCH 16, 2017 | 07:00AM PT
The Eugene O’Neill Theater Center has named actress Judith Light the recipient of its annual Monte Cristo Award, handed out each year to a theater creative whose work has had a major impact on American theater.
“Hamilton” director Thomas Kail will present Light with the award at a May gala. Although Light is most widely known for TV roles in “Transparent” and “Who’s the Boss?,” she’s also won two Tony Awards, one for “Other Desert Cities” in 2012 and one for “The Assembled Parties” in 2013. In 1977 she spent a summer at the O’Neill Center’s National Playwrights Conference, performing in new works that included Wendy Wasserstein’s “Uncommon Women and Others.”
The actress, whose TV credits also include “One Life to Live” and “Ugly Betty,” joins a list of Monte Cristo recipients alongside prior winners Meryl Streep, Michael Douglas, Nathan Lane and George C. Wolfe, among others. Kail previously worked with Light in the 2010 Broadway play “Lombardi”; at the O’Neill Center’s Music Theater Conference he collaborated on “In the Heights” with Lin-Manuel Miranda before that show moved to Broadway.
The O’Neill Theater Center, located in Waterford, Conn., oversees a range of new-work initiatives that include the conferences for playwrights and for music theater, as well as the National Puppetry Conference and the Cabaret and Performance Conference. The O’Neill also runs undergraduate training programs through its National Theater Institute.
The 2017 Monte Cristo Award gala is set for May 21 at New York event venue 583 Park Avenue.
Actress Judith Light Talks GOD LOOKED AWAY and Working with Al Pacino
Actress Judith Light certainly needs no introduction. A familiar face to television audiences, she co-starred in the soap One Life to Live winning two Daytime Emmy Awards and in prime time with Tony Danza in Who’s the Boss?She has also won two Tony Awards for her stellar work on Broadway. She is a gay rights activist and she and her husband Robert Desiderio have contributed greatly to the gay community in Los Angeles over the years. Co-starring in Amazon’s web series Transparent, she is currently performing double duty: the TV show by day and at night a workshop play God Looked Away at the Pasadena Playhouse sharing the stage with none other than icon Al Pacino. I caught up with her this week, and she talked briefly but joyously about the play, her role in it and working with Pacino.
Tell us about the play God Looked Away and your role in it.
I play Tennessee Williams’ very close friend Estelle who is based on a woman in his life named Maria St. Just. There was a book that came out that she wrote that was called Five O’Clock Angel, and there are a lot of stories about them and their relationship. She married well into English society; she married a man who was – he told her – bisexual, but he leaned toward being gay. It was a difficult time for her all through her life, but that’s not what this is about. This is about their relationship (with Tennessee). It’s really the story of the need … the story of Tennessee Williams and the last 14 years of his life … and with this woman and with his companion during that time period, whom he called ‘Baby’. The play is written by Dotson Rader, a journalist…and Dotson was ‘Baby’ who is in the play, and it’s their story. It takes place during this last production that was done in Chicago of the last Tennessee Williams play produced called A House Not Meant to Stand. It was received mildly well to mixed reviews in Chicago but it really began in some sense the downward spiral that Tennessee was in and eventually led to his death. It’s about the drugs and the drinking and the process that he was going through during this one night in a Chicago hotel the opening night of this play.
DOUBT ep. 102
A Conversation With the Beloved, Compassionate, Indefatigable, Very Wise Judith Light
But we should also be grateful Light’s enormous body of activism on behalf of AIDS/HIV awareness and LGBTQ rights. Since the beginning of the AIDS and HIV pandemic in America, Light has worked tirelessly towards illuminating the facts of the disease and the attendant stigma and bigotry aimed at those who have suffered and died from it. She has spoken at galas for practically every major organization devoted to AIDS and HIV; has marched, bicycled, lobbied and fought at too many events to count, and is on the boards of more non-profits than can possibly be listed, among them The Point Foundation, which seeks to empower LGBTQ youth through educational scholarships and mentorship (Light is currently a member of its honorary board). On December 7, Light will be honored by ACRIA, a nonprofit devoted to HIV research, with the Elizabeth Taylor Award at its 21st Annual Holiday Dinner in New York City.
Here, Light, 67, talks about the catalyst for her activism, her work on “Transparent” and her love of mega-jewelry.
Best of 2016 (Behind the Scenes): Transparent star Judith Light on Shelly’s Alanis Morissette cover
Transparent ended its stellar third season with Shelly Pfefferman (the family’s matriarch, played by Judith Light) performing Alanis Morissette’s “Hand in my Pocket” as part of her one-woman show. Here, Light tells EW about how important that scene was — to her, her character, and to viewers.
JENNY HOLZER COLLABORATION: JUDITH LIGHT
In the lead up to the opening of the New York City AIDS Memorial, Surface spoke with notable cultural figures who experienced the height of the crisis. Jenny Holzer turned excerpts from those interviews into a new series of artworks projected on the city’s buildings.
It was a potent, powerful, and painful time. When I was working on The Ryan White Story Ryan was still alive, and I remember a reporter asking him, “How did people treat you?” He said, “People would spit at me and call me a fag.” We’re talking about a community that was dying and being disenfranchised. The level of homophobia that was shoved under the carpet you could finally notice and feel in the response, in the way that people were being vilified. We we were losing so many people week after week. I remember going with friends to hospitals and being with young people we didn’t even know. They were dying alone, because their families had disavowed them.
Judith Light Really Hopes Alanis Morissette Likes Her ‘Hand in My Pocket’ Cover in ‘Transparent’ Finale
Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Amazon Studios
Judith Light attends the Amazon original series “Transparent” Emmy FYC screening at Paley Center For Media on May 19, 2015 in New York City
Hours before opening night of her one-woman performance in Neil LaBute’s All the Ways to Say I Love You, Judith Light jumped on the phone with Billboard to talk about her scene-stealing performance of Alanis Morissette’s “Hand in My Pocket,” which closed out the third season of Amazon’s Transparent.
Below is an excerpt of our conversation with Light about how that scene came about, the convincing she needed from series creator Jill Solloway and her team, and what it came to mean to her personally in the end.
The final episode comes after a crushing revelation about your character Shelly, which re-frames much of what we thought we knew about her in the past two seasons. Was “Hand in My Pocket” specifically written into the script for that episode when it was handed to you?
Yes. Faith Solloway, who is Jill’s sister [and co-wrote the episode], worked with mereally endlessly, infinitely, religiously and generously on the song, because I wasn’t sure that that was the song for Shelly. I wasn’t clear about it. Faith and Jill talked to me about it and they explained to me what that was about, and then I understood.
Were you already a fan of Alanis Morissette?
Yes, I was personally, and I love that song, but I wasn’t sure that it was Shelly’s song. I thought she might have something that was even farther in the past. But in the first season, Shelly says, “You know I don’t like music.” That’s the brilliance of this show. That is the brilliance of Jill and our writers. That is the laying in of pieces of things that you go back and you look at and you say, “Wait a minute. How did this get uncovered?” And they’re always thinking out of the box, and they’re relating to each of our characters. I say this is the season of the peeling back of the onion.
Judith Light, Joe Gebbia and More on Mistakes
WSJ. asks six luminaries to weigh in on a single topic. This month: Mistakes: Judith Light, Kamasi Washington, Jennifer Weiner, Toyo Ito, Minnie Driver and Joe Gebbia
Updated Sept. 26, 2016 11:18 a.m. ET
“After I had finished Who’s the Boss?, my manager came up with an idea for a TV series for me. So we did seven episodes, but it didn’t go beyond that. I was also doing movies, but eventually things just sort of stopped. My manager told me that I needed to go back to the theater. Here comes along this wonderful play about—you’re going to laugh—an aging sitcom star. He said it was perfect for me. I had started in the theater, but I was scared. I didn’t think I had the chops. I went to a yoga camp and meditated and finally called him, but by that point they had already cast it. So I told myself, ‘The next thing that comes up, I’ll go for it.’ It was this play, Wit. I had to shave my head and get naked onstage—I could have done a play with my clothes on! But it changed my life. I had to face the critics. I had dragged my feet because I was afraid of making a mistake, but what came out of it enabled me to learn something valuable.”
—Light stars in the Amazon series Transparent.
How ‘Transparent’ Changed Jeffrey Tambor and Judith Light
Jeffrey Tambor and Judith Light talk Season 3, their education on trans issues and rights, and how they talk to their friends about the progressive show.
By KEVIN FALLON 09.25.16 10:00 PM ET
Jeffrey Tambor has a story he likes to tell about his role playing trans woman Maura Pfefferman on Transparent.
The first season of the Emmy-winning Amazon series had aired and the actor, previously best known for his comedy work on Arrested Development and The Larry Sanders Show, was on a plane. A male passenger recognized him. The man was coiffed and suited up, “obviously a CEO or hedge fund guy,” Tambor remembers. You might call him a bro.
The passenger pointed at Tambor and said, “You. Wait a minute.” Tambor immediately recoiled, he remembers, certain that this was going to be it: the moment when the representative of the population that is repulsed by transgender women, who find his involvement in telling that community’s stories abhorrent, who aren’t open enough to learn about and accept a community that is in the midst of a civil rights crisis, would finally confront him. Read more