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 physically and creatively responding to a changed world.
The series continues with Julie Halston, who created the role of Rita Marshall in the recent Broadway musical adaptation of Tootsie. The four-time Drama Desk nominee has also been seen on Broadway in On the Town, You Can't Take It With You, Anything Goes, Gypsy, Hairspray, and The Women, while her Off-Broadway credits include The Babylon Line, The Tribute Artist, Olive and the Bitter Herbs, The Divine Sister, Chasing Manet, Strangers Knocking, White Chocolate, The Butter and Egg Man, The Vagina Monologues, You Should Be So Lucky, Red Scare on Sunset, Money Talks, The Lady in Question, and Times Square Angel. Halston is the recipient of Equity’s Richard Seff Award and the Off-Broadway Alliance’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and she is currently hosting a new series, Virtual Halston, Fridays at 5 PM ET on YouTube. Guests for July 24 include Marilu Henner and Justin Squigs Robertson.
What is your typical day like now?
My day must start with coffee. It always did, but now it's more important than ever! Because I am doing a YouTube show called Virtual Halston, produced by Jim Caruso, I start my day doing research on the various guests that will be appearing in the coming weeks. As a former librarian, I love doing research—yes, I was indeed a librarian (little-known Halston factoid)! I also put NPR on and listen to news while working, just to make sure I know what is going on in the world. After I hear the news, which is frequently dispiriting, I crank up music, and I immediately feel better!
What book/TV show/podcast/film should everyone take the time to consume during this period?
Well, I think everyone should check out Virtual Halston, of course, on YouTube. We've had so many interesting, smart, talented people on the show, and it's also just fun—people need to laugh, and the response has been fabulous. Mo Rocca, Lilli Cooper, Santino Fontana, Eureka!, Andrew Rannells, Judy Gold, Charles Busch, and Mario Cantone are just some of the people we are talking with. I'm having a blast doing this, and it seems people are enjoying. As for TV, I became obsessed with the British detective series Line of Duty (all five seasons; season six was interrupted due to the pandemic, but it will come back). It's on Amazon, and it's fabulous! Highly recommend! As for podcasts, I'm not addicted to any, but if something involves The Beatles or crime, I'll listen!
What advice would you give to someone who may be struggling with the isolation?
Don't go down the rabbit hole of rumination about your life. And I strongly suggest reaching out to friends, family, or anyone you feel comfortable talking with and sharing feelings. It is a scary time, especially for artists who may not have the financial resources to rely on; reach out to services that are available—The Actors Fund for example. Most importantly, know you are not alone, and all the feelings you are having are normal and understandable. Listen to me—Dr. Halston—I've actually gained some wisdom being over 39!
How are you keeping your creative juices flowing?
Doing the show has been a wonderful way to be creative and also stay connected and to laugh! It's really important to laugh—Jim and I have known each other for so long we can finish each other's sentences. And, our tech director, Ruby Locknar, is becoming a virtual star all on her own—she is just so pretty and winning and talented—we hate her! Ha! No, we adore her, and we just have so much fun together.
Are you working on any theatrical projects during this time?
I am very excited about a writing piece I am doing with the incredible playwright Richard Greenberg (Take Me Out) and the wonderful Maddie Corman. Stay tuned for more info on that! Also, Charles Busch and I are hoping to film a new movie together in October from a terrific new script he has written—keep fingers crossed!
What organization(s) would you recommend people learn more about or donate to during this time of change?
A portion of all tips we make on Virtual Halston goes to The Pulmonary Fibrosis Foundation. I am devoted to this organization as my husband passed away from complications of this disease. He had a life-saving lung transplant, and we had eight miraculous extra years but ultimately complications ensued. I was heartbroken about Nick Cordero because he was possibly going to receive a double lung transplant. I reached out to [his wife] Amanda [Kloots], and sadly he passed away that day. It is so important for people to understand lung health, and through my work with the PFF, I plan on spreading awareness during my lifetime.