In Depth: Tom Hudgens

tomIs this your first Ross Valley Players show? 
 I previously appeared in To Kill a Mockingbird (2011), Greater Tuna (2012), Enchanted April (2013), and Journey’s End (2014).

What excites you most about this show?
This play in particular, and classic Russian drama in general, is wholly character-driven. Our characters’ emotions tell the play’s story more than external actions, so we feel an extra measure of responsibility as actors. It really is up to us to drive this play. The audience can’t rely on an exciting plot or funny jokes or any kind of spectacle to engage this play–all they have is the pathway of emotions of each of our characters, as they weave in and out. If we, the actors, can manage to show that pathway with emotional honesty, that’s where the play’s excitement, humor, and spectacle emerge.

Tell us about your character.
Arkady yearns to be a good guy; he has a big heart; but as the young heir to his dead father’s fortune and estate, he was terribly spoiled in his youth by his doting, widowed mother, and is a terribly self-absorbed adult, barely able to see beyond his own desires and fears. Not able to see or acknowledge his deficient role in Natalya’s need for love and connection, he can only sense something is vaguely wrong in his marriage. He loves her, but is wary of the hurt and confusion that love can bring about. He wonders why she is not happy, when he believes he has given her everything she wants. He has long turned to technology and gadgetry as a much more reliable source of satisfaction than love.

What kind of research have you been doing to prepare for the role? 
I look up any unfamiliar terms or concepts, and practice visualizing them. In this play, Arkady has just built a weir on a stream that runs close to the house. I had to look up “weir” and sufficiently familiarize myself with the term so that I could develop a mental picture–what it does, how it’s used and operated, the shape of its gates, the experience of building it with my team of workmen, the color, the materials, how it fits into the landscape, etc. When I say the word “weir” in the play, I bring up those visuals of it in my mind. And really, this goes for many of the character’s lines–to say it convincingly, I have to really see it in my mind. So research helps us accurately “storyboard” the flow of visuals that accompany our character’s lines. For this play, this is the most important kind of research, I think. I’ve read up on estate life in 1800s Russia, too, and the political and cultural movements going on there at that time, but this play is less about its historical context than it is about the emotional trajectories of its characters, that transcend time and place.

A Month in the Country opens Friday, March 13 and runs through Sunday, April 12th. Buy tickets here.

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