Naples woman will portray screen legend Katharine Hepburn in one-woman show
Story by Glenn Miller
Joy Davidson has enjoyed many roles: Opera singer, wife, mother and performer.
Now, the Naples resident has a new role – that of Katharine Hepburn in “Tea at Five,” a one-woman show at the Naples Philharmonic. Shows are scheduled for Sunday and Monday as part of the Phil’s lifelong learning program.
Davidson has been working with Fort Myers resident Annette Trossback, artistic director of the Laboratory Theater of Florida and the Gulf Coast Shakespeare Festival, to capture the Hepburn essence.
“The rhythm of her personality,” Trossbach said. ”What sets her off. What makes her laugh. So in many senses it’s like sitting in a room with Katharine Hepburn and watching the joys in her life and how she dealt with pain.”
Hepburn died nearly a decade ago at the age of 96 and remains a screen legend whose roles and distinctive voice and characters remain well known to movie fans. Her career included films such as “The African Queen,” “The Philadelphia Story” and “Bringing up Baby.”
She did it all on screen and off with an independent spunk and spirit, wearing slacks in the 1930s when that was very rare for women.
When interviewer Barbara Walters once asked if she owned a skirt, she told her, “I have one, Ms. Walters. I’ll wear it to your funeral.”
Davidson’s goal is capturing that Hepburn.
In the first act, the 75-year-old Davidson plays Hepburn at 31. In the second act, Hepburn is 76. Davidson has immersed herself for months in Hepburn, reading the actresses’ autobiography, “Me: Stories of My Life,” and A. Scott Berg’s biography of the actress. She’s also watched Hepburn clips on You Tube.
“I have to tell you I’m not sure how fond I am of Hepburn,” Davidson said.
As Davidson spoke, she sometimes spoke in her Hepburn voice, as when she talked about how the screen legend’s father did not approve of her career choice.
“Becoming an actress is more despicable than becoming a prostitute,” Davidson said, channeling Hepburn. ”Because at least hookers have plenty of employment opportunity. ” The prostitute line is from the play.
As a youth in Fort Collins, CO, Davidson participated in community theater and wanted to pursue acting, but her father didn’t think that was the way to go.
“You’re going to be a teacher,” she said, recalling her father’s directive.
Instead, she became an opera singer and she recalls that on her first national tour she was on the road 48 weeks. She and her husband, Rob, had two babies at the time.
“Not everyone can imitate a voice,” Trossbach said. ”Joy is being very, very modest because she’s got the voice. You’ll listen to her in the play and close your eyes and you’ll think it’s Katharine Hepburn.”