In the Wings: A Conversation with Blood Wedding Star Judith Lightfoot Clarke

The theater vet chats about performing with Drexel students, how road rage gets her into character, and her slobbery first stage kiss.

JudithLightfootClarkeMy name is … as you might suspect, a family name, coming from Francis Lightfoot Lee, a signer of the Declaration of Independence.  Although when asked by a prospective landlord in NYC if I was related to Gordon, I didn’t deny it …

I am … blessed to work in the theatre, where talent, values, politics, vision and humanity all serve at the pleasure of bringing the written word off the page and into a room with people breathing the same air.  Turn off your cell phones and be present with us …

On opening night I … will be grateful that my husband, Dean Harrison, and sons, Owen and Beckett, are in the house (theatre house, that is … )

If I had to describe Blood Wedding in one sentence, I’d say … a wrenching poetic saga about forces, seen and unseen, that lead men to violence in the name of love while the women watch, written as only the genius Lorca can. (I’ve made it sound so upbeat! Truly, though, there is much music, love and laughter in the mix.)

To get into character for Blood Wedding I … drive the rush hour commute. Rage ensues.

How are you most like your character in Blood Wedding? We are both the mother of two sons, and know what it feels like to fear for their lives.

My first stage kiss … Oddly I can’t remember. (I remember more of the backstage ones.) How about first lesbian stage kiss? That was with the lovely Kathleen McNenny in an Off Broadway show a few years back.

The first play I was in was … The Wizard of Oz and I played Dorothy. A role I coveted at the time but it was a slippery slope working with a live dog. (Oh, now I remember my actual first stage kiss: slobbering dog.)

Judith Lightfoot Clarke in Blood Wedding. | Photo by Kate Raines and PLATE 3 Photography.

Judith Lightfoot Clarke in Blood Wedding. | Photo by Kate Raines and PLATE 3 Photography.

My dream role is … Martha in the great Albee play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.

This production is a partnership between Philadelphia Artists’ Collective (PAC) and Drexel’s Co-op Theatre. What’s one thing you’ve learned working with Drexel’s student performers? Well, I am constantly reminded of the beauty of youth, seeing them in the hallways, singing, playing instruments, talking about their courses and workloads.  Their commitment to the theatre is joyous.  I have learned that they can stuff dinner in their mouths at 6:55, after a day of studies, and still hit the high note at 7:10.

My surprising celebrity crush is … Helen Mirren.  At any age. And my husband gets to watch.

The most famous person I’ve ever met … well, I’ve dated some, so I better be discreet.  Hint: very famous comedian … early days, MacDougal Street in the Village.

The last thing I binge-watched was … the sexy and audacious House of Cards, because I had just worked on a Harvey Fierstein play with Reed Birney and wanted to see Reed work in a suit as well as a dress.

To stay in shape I … walk my chocolate lab and work out when I can.  When I can’t, dark clothing helps….

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Eric Scotolati, Judith Lightfoot Clarke, and members of the Drexel student ensemble in Blood Wedding. | Photo courtesy of Kate Raines and PLATE 3 Photography.

The last time I dined out in Philadelphia, I ate … vegetarian tacos right outside the Drexel theatre. We would define ‘dined’ loosely there (standing on plaza while wind whipped wildly.) This makes me sound much healthier than I am.  Evidence to the contrary: my son’s Halloween wrappers littering the floor below as I type.

The best show I saw in Philly recently was … Dan Hodge’s solo for PAC, The Rape of Lucrece.

You’re a veteran of both the New York and Philadelphia theater scenes. What is the biggest difference between the two? The best people I’ve met in both cities have been from the theatre. The difference is one of scale, naturally.  The sense of community and talent in both cities is palpable and compassionate.  One difference is the tendency of Philadelphia theatres to cast most plays well in advance; New York tends to cast more as they come.

Blood Wedding plays at the Mandell Theater at Drexel University through November 23rd. More information and tickets can be found here