Exceptional People: The Art of Judith Light

“Without wonder and insight, acting is just a trade. With it, it becomes creation.” --Bette Davis 
The landscape of television programming, what little remains that hasn’t given way to the dubiously-labeled genre of “reality programming,” is, populated by trades-people who offer passable and acceptable wares. Few, however, are what one might consider artists. When one stumbles upon such a creator of art, that individual’s name and face remain forever in his memory. One of those names, for over two decades,
has been Judith Light. Miss Light’s theatre roots are obvious at once. The Carnegie Mellon University graduate began her acting career on the stage in repertory theaters throughout the United States, Canada and Europe. Debuting on Broadway, Judith performed in the classic “A Doll’s House.” This successful introduction to the Great White Way led to a season at the Eugene O’Neil Playwright’s Conference. While most of us tend to associate the divine Miss Light with her television roles, it’s important to note that her heart will always be on the stage. After bringing her talent into homes across the world through the medium of television, Miss Light returned to live theatre with a 1999 with her starring role as the complex and commanding “Dr. Vivian Bearing” in the critically-acclaimed and Pulitzer Prize winning Off-Broadway production of “WIT”, at Union Square Theater. Miss Light’s performance was heralded as brilliant, and her achievement was recognized by her peers when Judith received the Helen Hayes Award and the Elliot Norton Award for the role. This star-turn in “Wit” led, in 2001, to Washington, DC, where at The Shakespeare Theater, Miss Light portrayed the eponymous character in the Henrik Ibsen classic “Hedda Gabler.” Several other celebrated stage roles followed. One brought a nomination for
a Tony Award for “Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role in a Play” in 2011, for Miss Light’s role in “Lombardi,” by Academy Award winner Eric Simpson. Most recently, in June of 2012, Miss Light’s acting genius afforded her a coveted Tony Award for “Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play,” for her work in “Other Desert Cities”—a role which also earned Judith a Drama Desk Award for Best
Featured Actress. Throughout all of this, Miss Light also found the time to entertain millions with her television in film work starting with her ingénue role as Karen Wolek on “One Life to Live,” a part which won her two Best Actress Emmy awards. Most of us, however, recognize Miss Light as Angela Bower from her beloved primetime series “Who’s the Boss?” A host of other featured television roles would follow in addition to work in films such as “The Shoemaker” with Danny Aiello, and “Ira & Abby” by Jennifer
Westfeldt, with Robert Klein, Fred Willard, and Frances Conroy. This year, we’ve seen Miss Light’s deliciously Oedipal turn on TNT’s “Dallas” reboot as a scheming villainess who looks remarkably younger than the son to which she is just a bit too attached. Though the many awards Miss Light has amassed throughout her career speak to her unique talent, the true measure of her art is evident to anyone who has seen her perform. It’s the “wonder and insight” of which Bette Davis once spoke that gives the bite and heart to all of Miss Light’s roles. Without this depth, an actor is simply parroting life. Judith Light clearly gives a new, remarkable life to each character she portrays. It’s this singular sense of creating, of being, 
of living which makes hers a very special talent. Thankfully for many, Miss Light doesn’t keep her talent limited to just her work. She is an active Board Member and advocate for many organizations representing AIDS-related and Human Rights concerns. These include: Broadway Cares: Equity Fights AIDS, The Names Project/The AIDS Memorial Quilt, The AIDS Memorial Grove, CDC’s Business Responds to AIDS/Labor Responds to AIDS, Hollywood Health and Society, Project Angel Food, The Matthew Shepard Foundation, The National Aids Memorial Grove, The Point Foundation, The Rome Chamber Music Festival, Faith In America and The Trevor Project. All Images from JudithLight.ComSource: Stalking the Belle Époque

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