Actress Loretta Swit, best known as Major Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan on the television series M.A.S.H., once again embraces another impassioned female character as the star of the one-woman theatrical Shirley Valentine playing until Nov. 21 at Mississauga’s Stage West.
The New Jersey native, who now splits her time between New York and Los Angeles, is a vegan and animal rights activist. Her love for animals was apparent in her Discovery Channel series, Those Incredible Animals. The glamorous thespian, who served as a spokesperson for the Humane Society of United States, has appeared in over 25 television movies, in addition to motion pictures and on Broadway.
Mrs. Joe Bradshaw, nee Shirley Valentine, lives in Liverpool with her husband and two children. Her feminist friend invites her on holiday to Greece, Shirley accepts but with great trepidation and against the wishes of her husband. While there, her life changes dramatically.
“It’s a wonderful play written by Willy Russell, I love his work. He writes about people struggling in their environment, but trying to live fully,” explains Swit. “Shirley gives us hope, she tells us to have dreams and I believe in all of that. Shirley is very universal, she’s not particularly feminine in her feelings, I think men relate to her, as well as women.”
Swit, who has achieved many accolades including two Emmys, has performed the role of Shirley over 1000 times and won Chicago’s theatrical honour, The Sarah Siddons Award for this portrayal.
The actress credits her director, Ron Nash, the two worked together a number of times including in the musical and comedy Song of Singapore, for bringing a fresh approach to the Stage West offering. “Of course, part of your challenge doing theatre is keeping it fresh… that’s the joy of it. For someone in the audience seeing it for the first time, you are having that experience with them and that’s exciting for an actor in the theatre. When you have a good script and a great character like this, you can keep finding nuances and moments so it is easier to keep it fresh and alive.
Swit tells of how just a change in blocking evoked quite a variance. “There’s one section that had me walking, while expelling… now I’m sitting and with that one change different feelings happened. I am so excited by this newness.”
The actress says what is great about Shirley is her journey. Little by little she gets courage and strength — finally breaking out allowing for an enriching experience. Shirley finally realizes people are attracted to her warm spirit. Swit wants audiences to know they too can retain their youthful dream and hope, just like Shirley.
See the show
For tickets to Shirley Valentine at Stage West, 5400 Dixie Rd., Mississauga, book online at www.stagewest.com or call 905-238-0042.