"The minute you feel cozy and secure, you get complacent, you stop doing your work, and they'll start to see habits or mannerisms." — Michael Hume
EH: I saw you in “Clay Cart.” You look nothing like you looked then.
MH: I had a shaved head and I had a little thingy up there.
EH: That’s why I didn’t recognize you. Do you consider yourself a director or an actor?
MH: I’m an actor who directs every now and then. There was a period back in New York where directing gigs came along fast and furiously, so I didn’t act for about two years. I would like to say that all of those directing jobs made me rich, but they didn’t, not in this business. Nobody gets wealthy in the theater. And then, going back to acting: I could feel the scales of rust falling off. But ultimately it’s like getting back on a bicycle. A couple of weeks in the rehearsal hall and you’re fine again.
I trained at The American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco. And I studied with Uta Hagen many years ago when I was in New York. I was with her for about three years. She was a great teacher. It’s a great blend. I had that grand theatricality of ACT; and hers is the specific moment-to-moment internalizing. I think they’re both great. Uta was strong and truthful, just really a wonderful actor and teacher. She was scary. If she got angry at an actor, she was so loud she could clear a room, “Don’t you ever do that on the stage. You’re lazy.” She was very nurturing, but she was tough. She knew the discipline and she knew the commitment and if you didn’t do it, ultimately she’d kick you out of class. I thought she was tremendous, never offensive. I thought the world of her. Like in any acting program, there were people in the class who came in and did their exercises and scene work, and that’s all they ever did. They would work in their bookstores or bartend, but they weren’t out in the world learning it and doing it. It’s definitely a scary world because you’re always going to be broke, and you’re always looking for work. Everybody’s a vagabond.
The Oregon Shakespeare Festival is an anomaly. There has been a commitment to creating a company here. You get hired on an annual basis. I have repeated that 18 times now. But the minute you feel cozy or secure, you get complacent, you stop doing your work, and they’ll start to see habits or mannerisms. Every year in July the phone call has to come, and they invite you back or they don’t. For me, it’s raised a family. It’s been great.
A lot of us have been here a long time. We’re a genuine ensemble. You don’t want to get type cast, stuck in just any one type of show. You don’t want to just do comedy; you don’t want to just suffer. I want new stuff. I don’t want to just do stuff that I know I can do, where there’s no growth no true exploration. What you haven’t done before I think is what keeps you fresh here. It’s a repertory company; we should be playing everything.
I like writing, too. “Dog Park the Musical,” which I co-wrote with Jahnna Beecham and Malcolm Hillgartner, just opened at the Milwaukie Rep, and it’s doing great business. Also, I’m directing “Dick Whittington” at Southern Oregon University. It’s a musical that my mom wrote. It’s based on a true story from 700 years ago. We’re changing it a bit to make it much more accessible to age groups other than younger children. It’s still very visual; there’s a kitty in it and a pretty princess. Some of the jokes will go over the kids’ heads. We’re going to “Shrek” it up a bit. It’s been a blast.