John Hutton returns to CSF
(Above: John Hutton and Jamie Ann Romero in “King Lear,” CSF 2010)
Coloradans may have thought they’d seen the last of John Hutton when he took his final bow with the Denver Center Theatre Company in 2014. But the extraordinary actor, now based in New York, just can’t seem to stay away.
That’s great news for local theatergoers who, like many critics, believed Hutton was one of the biggest acting talents Colorado has ever seen. At the Denver Center, he was known for his versatility and his singular distinguished air. Post-Colorado, he’s proven that his talents translate to a wider audience on both stage and screen, taking gigs at award-winning theater festivals and appearing in the Academy Award-winning film “Lincoln.”
We caught up with Hutton between rehearsals at Portland, Oregon’s Center Stage to chat about his upcoming return to Colorado and CSF.
Given your recent credits, it’s clear you could be acting anywhere. Why do you keep coming back to Colorado?
I wanted to keep my hat in the ring at the Colorado Shakespeare Festival since I did “King Lear” there in 2010. Really, I was led by “Equivocation,” which I really like. It’s one of those great pieces that I think plays really beautifully onstage. And of course, I miss Colorado and all my friends there, so naturally I jumped at the chance to spend the summer in Boulder.
You seem to have built up a reputation playing people in power, like dukes and captains. At CSF you’ll play another king in “Cymbeline.” Why do you think these are the kinds of roles you’re given?
I’ve wondered that myself! Part of it is that I always let other people cast me rather than choosing my own roles. I’ve been playing parts like this since I was 21… I’ve played people’s fathers and the heads of corporations and kings and dukes. I was never a Romeo or a Hamlet or any of those young roles, even when I was the appropriate age. It’s a little bit of a mystery to me, because one never has a complete understanding of one’s own impact on other people. But honestly, I’m OK with it. If there’s a role I want to play in “King Lear,” it’s Lear.
Why are you looking forward to “Equivocation”?
It’s so theatrical. Some plays make you think, “This would be a better movie,” or, “This would be a nice TV show,” but “Equivocation” really belongs on stage. I love the way the playwright investigates these pivotal iconic plays like “Macbeth” and “King Lear.” It’s also kind of interesting to ruminate on what impact a play about the Gunpowder Plot would have in Shakespeare’s time. There’s one scene in particular that I love where my character, Henry Garnet, is on trial. It’s a wonderful, wonderful scene in which I argue with the prosecutor, Edward Coke, and it becomes a great, gorgeous conversation about big things. I think actors are attracted to those long scenes where characters are articulate and powerful and vulnerable all at the same time.
What are some challenges you’ll face in the roles you’re taking on this summer?
Right now I’m faced with the challenge of getting to know “Cymbeline,” because I’ve never read it or done it before. In “Equivocation,” the real challenge will be becoming part of a true ensemble. It’s a play within a play, where there’s the cast of “Equivocation” and then there are the guys in Shakespeare’s company. In Shakespeare’s day, his acting company was famously tight—they went all over the world together, they owned those plays. They were a true ensemble. That will be an interesting challenge, to achieve that kind of collegiality with the rest of the cast in just a few weeks of rehearsals. It’ll be a wild ride.
What have you been up to since you left the Denver Center?
It’s been kind of an amazing time. I stepped off the cliff into the abyss leaving the Denver Center and coming back to New York after being away for almost 25 years. I went to Prague to shoot for PBS and to Oslo for a miniseries on Norwegian television. I started a recurring role on a TV series called “Power” on the STARZ Network. TV and film are so interesting to me because I know so little about them.
What makes TV and film different from theater?
It’s acting, but it might as well be engineering for all the similarities to stage acting. If you’re on stage, the things you do have to be seen and heard by everyone down to the last person in the back row. In my initial forays into the TV and film world, I really had to dial it down. Everybody is playing it so close to the chest in film and TV, and that kind of subtlety only sometimes works on stage. In theater, you have to be larger than life. TV and film are sometimes a little smaller than life.