Monday, July 18, 2016

Spotlight On...Judith Chaffee

Name: Judith Chaffee

Hometown: Newbury, MA (Plum Island)

Education: Skidmore, MS Smith in Dance/Theatre, International School of Comic Acting (Italy)

Select Credits: BCAP: production of “Good”; BU productions of “Agnes of God” (Mother Superior), Opera “Midsummer Night’s Dream” (Puck); Colorado Arts Festival production of “The American Dream” (Mrs. Barker); Rasmussen Bros. film “The Inhabitants (Rose Stanton)

Why theater?: For me, theatre has the potential to inspire, move, and motivate people to dig deep inside; it helps us recognize who we are, what we’ve done, how to laugh and cry, and how to survive in this crazy world. Theatre is a way for people to see life around them: their histories, their possibilities, their strengths, struggles, vulnerabilities, and hopes for the future.

Who do you play in Good?: “Mother”, an older woman struggling with dementia and loss of sight.

Tell us about Good: A play about an ostensibly good man—intelligent and caring—getting caught up in the Nazi propaganda of justified killings. It unfortunately is relevant today: just as Hitler was an evil bully given power by the masses, Trump is rallying disgruntled white men in our society. Read David Brooks’ article in the July 12th New York Times, “Are We on the Path to National Ruin?”: The first three paragraphs sound like a description of our play:
“San Antonio — I never really understood how fascism could have come to Europe, but I think I understand better now. You start with some fundamental historical transformation, like the Great Depression or the shift to an information economy. A certain number of people are dispossessed. They lose identity, self-respect and hope.
They begin to base their sense of self-worth on their tribe, not their behavior. They become mired in their resentments, spiraling deeper into the addiction of their own victimology. They fall for politicians who lie about the source of their problems and about how they can surmount them. Facts lose their meaning. Entertainment replaces reality. Once facts are unmoored, everything else is unmoored, too. People who value humility and kindness in private life abandon those traits when they select leaders in the common sphere. Hardened by a corrosive cynicism, they fall for morally deranged little showmen.”

What is it like being a part of Good?: It is a wonderful ensemble of generous and talented young actors; Jim Petosa, the director, made all of us feel essential to the development of the story. While Michael Kaye deftly carries the play as John Halder, every character plays a part in influencing his trajectory into evil.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: Theatre that makes me think and feel, that moves me, and challenges my perceptions about truth speaks to me; I am inspired as an artist by human interactions, space and shapes, sound, rhythms in life …As well as by my family: my sisters, my uncle, David Ferry, the poet, his children and their children, my friends, my colleagues, my neighbors, people on the street…not sure there isn’t anyone who does not inspire me as an artist.

Any roles you’re dying to play?: Fonsia Dorsey in The Gin Game or Thelma Cates in ’night, Mother

What’s your favorite showtune?: “Losing My Mind” from Follies

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Alan Rickman, but it’s too late for that.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Oh my, “A Lucky Life?”—

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: Any of Peter Brooks’ plays…or the original West Side Story

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Ours! And shows by former BU students, and anything by Robert Lepage

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Game of Thrones and doing a ballet barre in a hot pool…

What’s up next?: Good at New Repertory Theatre Watertown, MA in October; choreographing Journey to the West at Central Square Theatre in November; Directing a devised piece for BU seniors: Women in Character in January/February; choreographing Alan Brody’s Midvale High School’s 50th Reunion at CST in May.  I’m now retired from teaching at Boston University and ready to live life.  I want to experience a glacier before they’ve all melted.