When Glass Menagerie director Scott Ford and I were talking about lead actor Ty Hudson, Scott told me that Ty has a very rare gift. "He doesn't get too attached to any line reading," Scott said. "He's willing to experiment until it feels right and then keep experimenting." That kind of flexibility and fearlessness onstage, combined with Ty's generous spirit and genuine talent, makes for an actor that artists love to work with, and audiences love to watch.
I could talk about how awesome Ty is all day, but I'll let him speak for himself instead. Below you'll find an email interview I conducted with Ty in which he discusses his character and allows the reader to peak into his personal life.
TH: My name is Ty Hudson. I am originally from the northeast corner of Nebraska (go Huskers!). A place called South Sioux City. I went to the University of South Dakota for undergrad and grad school where I received a BFA in Acting and an MA in Secondary Education.
EP: What other shows have you done at Lyric Arts?
TH: I've been in such cool shows at Lyric. I had the opportunity to tackle a dream role as Biff from Death of a Salesman which was the most rewarding experience I've ever had, and then I was a part of the extremely powerful Laramie Project which was maybe the best ensemble I've ever worked with (editor note: Ty and I were in this show together! Miss it every day). Now I get to do another dream role and work with another great ensemble with The Glass Menagerie!
EP: Let's get right to it. Give me a three word summary of the production.
TH: A Family's Lament
EP: Talk about your interpretation of Tom. Where did you start with developing him?
TH: I started with Tennessee himself right off the bat. Since the play is an autobiography of sorts, I went to the man behind Tom to find out as much about his life as possible. After finding out how Tennessee's life mirrored Tom's and learning about William's development of the play, I searched the text for any clues on characterization. It's amazing what Williams gives you in regards to details about Tom. If you write it all down, Tennessee lets us know that Tom has bad posture, feels small in relation to the entire universe which affects how much space he physically takes up onstage, doesn't have a place in this world, is yearning for change, feels trapped and isolated, and is begrudgingly forced to carry the entire burden of hope for the family. That's just a taste of the many things that William's gives us through stage directions, has Tom directly say about himself, or other characters in the play reveal through dialogue. After my text analysis, I began to watch interviews of Williams to study his own physicality and see if I could draw anything from his personal life and the way he speaks and moves. I had to blend that with my own interpretations and director Scott Ford's interpretations so that it can serve our production better and not be this autobiographical performance that doesn't hit the audience right or give my fellow actors what they need. It's been an incredibly fun process of development and Scott's persistent support has made all the difference.
EP: Tell us about the autobiographical nature of your character. How do you reconcile that with the theatricality of the piece? Are there any places where you deviate from the life of Tennessee?
TH: Absolutely. Tennessee in interviews is pretty pompous and he delivers a lot of that through smiles and a satisfaction that he gets from being clever and outwitting interviewers. I started to do that in the rehearsal process a lot. Marveling in my own wit and attempting to make him play the comic moments throughout the whole piece. It was effective in the sense that I found moments of comedy for Tom, which is something a lot of productions overall lack for this show, but I wasn't giving my fellow actors what they needed in respect to driving scenes and continuing to add tension. I had to find that inner hurt and pull that out even more if the audience was going to see that Tom is absolutely miserable in his life at this point. Although, I've never seen an interview where Tennessee is miserable and feels like he is trapped in a box, I'm sure he's felt that way his whole life based on this piece he wrote. Looking more at Tennesee's words helped me find what he is looking for in respect to the role Tom plays in the family and letting go of some of my Tennessee'isms.
EP: What's your favorite thing about Tom?
TH: His inner strife is so interesting. I really do think he loves his family, but he requires things himself that most people are content with. I, like Tom, require a lot of "me" time where I sit around and think about the world and get a little philosophical. Long drives to Anoka are perfect for this, by the way! I love that Tom is so focused on "truth" as well. He doesn't always tell truth, he doesn't even see everything in the play completely accurately and truthful when recollecting events, but he marvels at truth. I also love the fact that Tom is a strong character who makes strong choices. Does he do things that aren't entirely likable? Of course, we all do. Yet, he stays, he fights, and he loves for his family.
EP: What's your least favorite thing about him?
TH: He has a lot of pompous attitudes and talks down about different types and groups of people. He seems to have the attitude that the world has slighted him in some way, when really he hasn't made as much of an attempt to reconcile with the world. I would tell Tom to stop talking about all the things that make him unhappy and start making choices and attempts at improving his life. Then again, I don't suffer from all his entrapments either.
EP: Has anything surprised or challenged you about this experience?
The gravity of the piece sometimes is the biggest challenge for me. Having read and worshipped this play for so long, stopping and thinking "I'm doing The Glass Menagerie right now playing Tom" can have a profound effect on my psyche. I have to ground myself in the fact that I am continuously doing the work as we all are, and steady myself on Mr. Ford's direction which serves as my anchor.
EP: What's next for you, after The Glass Menagerie?
TH: My wife (editor's note: Ty is married to Rachael Hudson, last seen by Lyric Arts audiences in The Laramie Project) and I just signed contracts to be in Carousel at the Minnesota Orchestra this Spring. We are also directing down at Northfield Middle School; their fall musical. I have a couple of other opportunities that are in the works, but I can't announce them yet till they are finalized, but needless to say I am extremely excited about this coming year.
EP: If you were an animal in Laura's glass menagerie, what animal would you be?
TH: I think a caged Hawk. Full of aggression, can be a companion if you treat it right, needs a lot of space and autonomy to thrive.
EP: What's your favorite line from the show?
TH: "Attempting to find in motion what was lost in space." So poetic.
EP: You have to fight one of your fellow glass menagerie cast members. Who are you going to fight?
TH: Randy. Only because we both took a year of stage combat and could make it look real while fooling everyone. We could even get really intense and throw quarterstaff's, rapiers, or broadswords into the mix to get really crazy.
EP: You have to switch roles in the show! What character are you going to play now, and why?
TH: Laura. She's such a tragic character that steals the show in my opinion. Her idiosyncrasies would be a blast to discover.
EP: Let's have some fun now. These aren't related to the show, just help us get to know you. Cats or dogs?
EP: Favorite book?
TH: The Lord of the Rings or The Lord of the Flies (I like any books that begin with "The Lord of the")
EP: Favorite movie?
TH: I have a three way tie: The Count of Monte Cristo, Braveheart, and The Lord of the Rings. Wait, that's a five way tie!
EP: Favorite music?
TH: I'll give you my non-show tunes. Matt Nathanson, The Fray, The Early November, The Starting Line, Vampire Weekend.
EP: Favorite tv show?
TH: Hah! Professional Wrestling (WWE). I love it so much! Others receiving votes: The OC, Lost,Friday Night Lights, and Fullmetal Alchemist. (Nerdy collection)
EP: Favorite play or playwright?
TH: This is another three way tie. Hamlet by Shakespeare, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee (Williams), and Shape of Things by Neil LaBute. Those are my three favorite authors as well.
EP: Favorite local theatre?
TH: This will sound like sucking up but honestly, Lyric Arts. If it wasn't a 45-90 minute commute every day, I would do almost the entire season.
EP: Favorite charity?
TH: Jester Independent. It's my two best friend's film company.
EP: Horror or romance?
TH: Friday the 13th movies have both.
EP: You're going to teach a college class on any subject of your choosing. What class would you teach?
TH: Acting Shakespeare
EP: What's the weirdest thing that's happened to you onstage?
TH: Embarrassing story but you learn from it. I was the Jester in Madrigal in high school and I had this big rhyming couplet monologue to start the show that was written in Iambic Pentameter. I had no experience with language like that and didn't receive the proper training or rehearsals for it so I practiced for over a month on it. Opening night this two page mono starts the show. I get up there, the lights are dim besides candle light, it's super cold in this big open church gym in December, and I forget everything. I got like two lines in and was stranded and desperate. I called out the director's name knowing he would be in the audience and said, "I'm so sorry everyone. I forgot everything." The director gave me the script and I read it off the page. Now I practice my lines while I walk down the street and people have no idea what I'm doing but they are prepping me to be in front of an audience.
EP: If you could prank call one celebrity, who would you call, and what would you say?
TH: I'd call Obama and say "I agree".
EP: If you wrote an autobiography what would the title be?
TH: Get Ready to Nerd Out for a While
EP: Into any sports?
TH: Crazy huge football fan, especially college. I love college basketball as well. I love playing basketball as well.
EP: Movie that makes you laugh the hardest?
TH: Anchorman is still my favorite comedy. I also love Superbad.
EP: One that makes you cry?
TH: I'm not a big movie crier. I cry at TV shows a lot more. I get way more attached to characters over the course of a season.
EP: Last song you listened to?
TH: The Early November - Call off the Bells
EP: Favorite website?
TH: Huskermax.com for all your Husker Football news needs.
EP: Favorite food?
TH: Chicken Fettuccini Alfredo
EP: Least favorite food?
TH: Green Olives and onions
EP: One person dead or alive you want to have dinner with?
TH: Kenneth Branagh
EP: What are you bringing on a one-way trip to the moon?
TH: My Riverside Shakespeare Collection
EP: Favorite superhero?
EP: Biggest learning experience of your life?
TH: Grad school and that has nothing to do with the scholarly stuff. I learned to make choices and take chances because sometimes they pay off, and you get to share your life with the girl of your dreams. Hear that nerds! Sometimes you get the dream girl!
Anything else you want to say to the people coming to see The Glass Menagerie?
Don't expect a dusty old play that isn't relevant anymore. Prepare for beautiful truth that will have you thinking for days.