Martha Hackett Sculpting A Character of Flaws & Strength


Gil Kaan

Writer, Registered Critic


The Garry Marshall Theatre's next play (in their inaugural season under their new moniker honoring the late Garry Marshall), Edward Albee's OCCUPANT will begin January 31, 2018. Albee's hypothetical interview of modern sculptress Louise Nevelson will feature Martha Hackett in this integral role. Martha was gracious enough to spare us some chat time in the midst of her rehearsals.
Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Martha!
Have you inhabited any Edward Albee characters before Louise Nevelson?
In college and acting school, I performed in BALLAD OF THE SAD CAFE and SEASCAPE. I was a lizard-like sea creature in SEASCAPE - great costume.
I was most lucky to catch VIRGINIA WOOLF many years ago in London with Dame Diana Riggs and David Suchet. Have you had the pleasure of seeing someone perform Albee?
I think WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF is an American masterpiece, and I've tried to see whenever I can, especially with a strong cast. I saw Glenda Jackson as Martha, with John Lithgow - twice! Also Kathleen Turner and Bill Irwin - both of those casts were amazing. You were very lucky to see Diana Rigg.
I've also seen THE GOAT, OR WHO IS SYLVIA? and A DELICATE BALANCE - great plays.
Edward Albee writes his characters with glaring flaws, worts and all. What would you describe as Louise's flaws?
Louise Nevelson certainly had flaws, as she was a real human being, and a friend of Albee's in actual fact. But the play is not strictly biographical. I think Albee plays with Louise's tendency to spin a yarn, or outright lie - as a way of creating a narrative for herself. On top of that, she might not be voted the world's best mother, as she was detached and unhappy in that role. However, she did have bouts of depression, and of course, that's not a flaw! I think it's hard for me to judge her too harshly while I'm playing her - as I'm seeing things from her point of view! The main spine of it is that she was destined to be an artist - and what it takes to become an artist involves great sacrifice, and a strong sense of self - which she worked tirelessly to develop.
Looks like Albee was ahead of time, writing about gender disparity in the sculpting arts. How relevant is OCUPANT with the recent revelation that Michelle Williams got paid much less that Mark Wahlberg for the reshoots of All the Money in the World?

I'm not sure Albee was writing about gender disparity per se, but it was so glaringly obvious that it's certainly woven in there. And though I don't necessarily think Louise identified as “woman artist,” she couldn't help avoid that issue - and she let Albee know about it. The truth is, the intense bias against female modern artists makes Louise's achievements even greater. Not so ‘modern,' eh? Odds were definitely stacked - very, very high - against Louise.
In terms of OCCUPANT being relevant right now, with the discussion of pay equity in Hollywood - well, it's been relevant for just about forever. This is not a new issue….it's been this way for a long time. Although I think there was a time in Hollywood when some actresses were the highest paid performers…..Lillian Gish, perhaps? And during the 30's and 40's, I think (could be wrong) there were a few actresses leading the way because they were such important box office draws.
There are also some fascinating parallels in this play about the immigration conversation happening right now. How immigrants were treated, and how valuable they become…

How would you compare and contrast Louise with Seska, your character on Star Trek Voyager?
I don't think I'd compare Louise or Seska at all - don't get me wrong, I LOVE Seska - would play her again in a minute. But Louise was a real person, and I've been able to read about her life and study her art. Louise was about lifting the human condition - the mind/body response to art - and Seska, well, she was a warrior in the more classic sense! World domination!
Have you and the late Garry Marshall's paths crossed on a set or at his previously named Falcon Theatre?
I never had the pleasure of crossing paths with Mr. Marshall - sadly. Big fan though…
Any dream roles you'd like to tackle on stage?
Hmm, dream roles - there are so many! And I'm sure some haven't been written yet. Here are a few off the top of my head - Arkadina in THE SEAGULL, Martha in WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF, Lady M (again!), Gertrude in HAMLET, and anything in a Pinter play.

What would you like the Garry Marshall Theatre audience to leave with after experiencing OCCUPANT?
I hope the audience leaves with a better understanding of the deep sacrifices, grit, and most importantly, the sensitivity that is necessary in becoming an artist of any depth. There will always be some blood on the floor, mostly your own, but sometimes mixed with others'. Also, I hope that if they aren't familiar with her work already, that they another look at Louise Nevelson's incredible body of art. It's pretty darn breathtaking.
Thank you again, Martha. I look forward to seeing how you inhabit Louise Nevelson.
Enjoy the show!
For OCCUPANT ticket availability and schedule through March 4, 2018, log onto GarryMarshallTheatre.org

Gil Kaan, a former Managing Editor of the now-defunct Genre magazine, has had the privilege of photographing and interviewing some major divas in his career, including Ann-Margret, Diana Ross, Faye Dunaway, Carol Channing, Shirley MacLaine, Catherine Deneuve, Liza Minnelli, Sandra Bernhard, Anna Nicole Smith, Margaret Cho, and three Catwomen—Eartha Kitt, Lee Meriwether and Julie Newmar. He had the fortuitous opportunity to conduct Lily Tomlin’s coming out interview. Gil has since reviewed movies and theatre for a number of local and national outlets.
A photo montage of Gil’s Halloween Carnavale photos through the last decade was recently included in the WeHo@ 25 juried exhibition.