As the temporary shutdown of Broadway and theatres around the world continues, Playbill is reaching out to some of our favorite artists to see how they are coping with the self-isolation on a daily basis, both physically and creatively.
The series continues with four-time Tony nominee Judy Kuhn, recently seen in an Olivier-nominated turn as Golde—a role she also played on Broadway opposite six-time Tony nominee Danny Burstein—in the West End revival of Fiddler on the Roof. Kuhn is blessed with one of the richest voices in the musical theatre today; in fact, one suspects when God was handing out voices, she stepped in line twice. She not only possesses a rangy, glorious soprano that she used to dramatic effect as the original Cosette in Les Misérables (Tony nomination) and as Amalia in the 1993 revival of She Loves Me (Tony nomination), but she also boasts a rich, thrilling belt that she first displayed in the Broadway debut of Chess (Tony nomination), a production that garnered the actor numerous lifelong admirers. Also nominated for her moving performance in the Tony-winning Best Musical Fun Home, Kuhn was in rehearsal for Classic Stage Company's revival of Stephen Sondheim's Assassins when the coronavirus temporarily shut down New York theatres.
What is your typical day like now?
I get up around 7:30-8 AM, make my coffee, and read the paper. I putter around the house, answer emails, and then set out to accomplish something. That includes mundane things like laundry or cleaning but also assignments like making fundraising videos (or answering questions for Playbill!) and reading a lot, which I love. I have also been trying to find ways to be a helper and am keeping engaged politically by writing letters for VoteForward to get out the vote in November (yes, it is still an election year!). In the afternoon I go for long walks when the weather is nice. My therapy has been planning and cooking meals. In the evenings my hubby and I often have FaceTime cocktails with friends and then sit down to dinner.
Find some way to be a helper. Join a neighborhood organization, or maybe there is a neighbor that needs something like a meal or groceries.
What book/TV show/podcast/film should everyone take the time to consume during this period?
Oh wow. Where to begin! So many great books to read; here are a few recent favorites: A Change of Time by Ida Jessen, Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders, Milkman by Anna Burns, Tell Me How It Ends and Lost Children Archive, both by Valeria Luiselli. I am now trying to read escapist fiction like John Le Carré and Hilary Mantel. I have a huge stack of books I want to read and now have the time to read them!
I am a news and politics junkie, so I listen to The Daily every day, also On The Media, the 538 Podcast, and RadioLab. When this craziness began, we watched all of Babylon Berlin, which was a great distraction. Now watching The Plot Against America (a little too relevant?) and a lot of movies. We just watched Toni Erdmann, which is crazy and quite profound.
What advice would you give to someone who may be struggling with the isolation?
Reach out to friends, especially on FaceTime. I think it is important to see people’s faces when you can and not just hear voices. Take walks. Getting out in the world really makes a difference, too. And maybe most important, find some way to be a helper. Join a neighborhood organization, or maybe there is a neighbor that needs something like a meal or groceries. When one feels powerless in the face of what we are confronting, feeling useful, realizing there are people who need and appreciate your help, can make you feel less alone and more connected to others.
How are you keeping your creative juices flowing?
That has been a real challenge for me. I am not great working on my own, I crave structure and collaboration. But I have been listening to music and thinking about potential concert ideas. I have been reading plays and books by theatre thinkers that have been sitting on my shelf for years. Currently rereading Peter Brook’s The Empty Space.
Are you working on any theatrical projects during this time?
I was two weeks into rehearsals for Assassins at CSC when life came to a halt. I have put that away for now until I have a more certain sense of when we will go back into the rehearsal room. At that point I will take it out and start to work on it again. I can’t wait for that day. Otherwise I have been kicking around this idea in my head for a sort of hybrid concert/theatre piece idea. This would probably be a good to time to start working on that!