John Hutton on his return to Colorado: 'It'll be a wild ride'

John Hutton 600John Hutton and Jamie Ann Romero in “King Lear” for the Colorado Shakespeare Festival in 2010.

By Jill Kimball
For CU Presents

Longtime DCPA Theatre Company actor John Hutton, now based in New York, will make his return to the Colorado stage this summer playing lead roles in Equivocation and Cymbeline for the Colorado Shakespeare Festival at the University of Colorado-Boulder campus.

John Hutton quoteEquivocation is a scholarly Bard variation with a fun fictional hypothesis: What if the British government commissioned Shakespeare to write the definitive history of a national crisis, the treasonous Gunpowder Plot, into one of his plays? Cymbeline is the story of the mighty Roman king (Hutton) who banishes his daughter’s illicit husband into a Welsh forest.

Hutton, last seen at the Denver Center in Shadowlands in 2014, was known over the decades for his versatility and 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 theatre festivals and appearing in the Academy Award-winning film Lincoln.

We caught up with Hutton in Portland, Ore., where he is playing Magwitch and Jaggerss in Center Stage’s production of Great Expectations through March 6.

Jill Kimball: Given your recent credits, it’s clear you could be acting anywhere. Why do you keep coming back to Colorado?

John Hutton: 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.

Jill Kimball: You seem to have built up a reputation playing people in power, like dukes and captains. At Colorado Shakes, you’ll play another king in Cymbeline. Why do you think these are the kinds of roles you’re given?

John Hutton: 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.

Jill Kimball: Why are you looking forward to Equivocation?

John Hutton: 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 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.

Jill Kimball: What are some challenges you’ll face in the roles you’re taking on this summer?

John Hutton: 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.

Jill Kimball: What have you been up to since you left the Denver Center?

John Hutton: 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.

Jill Kimball: What makes TV and film different from theater?

John Hutton: 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.

For more information on how to get your John Hutton fix this summer, click here.
Read more about ‘Equivocation’ and ‘Cymbeline’ here.

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