Ai had the great honor of speaking with stage and screen artist, Loretta Swit. Ms. Swit is also an accomplished fine artist with a book, SWITHEART – The Watercolour Artistry & Animal Activism of Loretta Swit to support animal welfare programs, highlighting Ms. Swit’s love of animals through the art she has created over the years.
While she is known [well] for her role as “Hot Lips” Houlihan in the landmark series, M*A*S*H, Ms. Swit is a versitile stage and film professional with credentaisl that include a scene-stealing “Pigeon sister” opposite Don Rickles and Ernest Borgnine in an L.A. run of “The Odd Couple” and “Agnes Gooch” in the Las Vegas version of “Mame” starring Susan Hayward and (later) Celeste Holm. Broadway aidiences saw star-turns in Same Time next Year, The Mystery of edwin Drood, and regional productions of Shirley valentine, The Vagina Monologues, and now in the title role of mame.
TV audiences are aware that Ms. swit’s appearances read like a list of trhe golden age of television with Gunsmoke, Mission: Impossible, Hawaii Five-O, Mannix, the puilot of Cagney & Lacey and hybriding stage and snmall screen in the TV version of the stage musical It’s a Bird… It’s a Plane… It’s Superman! (1975).
You are a part of TV history but tell us about yourself as an artist?
I love watching films … oldies, new ones, classics … I’ll watch a great film over and over.
I love giving Master Classes. I love Q&As after a performance. I love the rehearsal process … love it! I miss reading the way I did when I had more time. I love dailies; it’s like going to school … watching yourself and learning.
That was the most diverse answer to that question … ever. thank you!
You have some wonderful stage credentials including Same Time, Next Year and The Mystery of Edwin Drood on Broadway and multiple powerful roles across the country’s stage. Tell us about your relationship to live theatre. Also, NY v the rest of the country: how does the theatre differ?
My relationship to live theatre … I’ve always felt to be a love affair. The audience and the actor(s) taking a journey together, inseparable. Especially in the case of a one-person play like Shirley Valentine or Eleanor Roosevelt. It can be a remarkable experience to bond with the audience…….laughing together….crying. Feeling together. I love touring. I’ve worked in many of our most beautiful theatres, some of them converted opera houses……..others layered with posters and memories of great players….
Lets discuss M.A.S.H. and television …
Always a pleasure to talk about MASH. We were blessed with the genius of Larry Gelbart and the wisdom and expertise of Gene Reynolds. That’s for starters! Then we enjoyed a collection of incredibly gifted writers who consistently turned in literate, interesting, intelligent scripts … with a cast of actors — beginning with the original six right through the departures and arrivals — who bonded at “hello” and became a devoted family.
In addition to that was our ensemble who also felt a strong sense of family and connection. And our crew who worked hard, enjoyed laughing at us and with us.
Do you keep in touch with any of your co-stars?
It’s deeper and more meaningful than “staying in touch.” We are family in its most sincere form.
That is truly wonderful to hear on so many levels. Aside from M.A.S.H., your name was on the credits of some of television’s most memorable series. How has the industry changed over the years?
Over-all, technology has made much of it highly impersonal, and that’s sad because it’s contrary to how personal it is for an artist to offer himself/herself and isn’t permitted to do that anymore. Putting yourself in a script– reading it for the producer-director-writer. Very personal. Winning or losing. I think today artists feel they never got up to bat.
Sadly, I agree. OK, do you think a series of its style depicting Vietnam or the Middle East Conflicts work today?
I think social media, all the news, videos, etc. cover it already. Just put in a relationship or two and maybe you’ve already got yourself a pilot. Know what I mean?
I do. The hand-held phone has become the world stage – go and bad.
What do you still desire to do in your career? A particular part? Directing or producing?
More of the same! A lot more ! As for a part, yes, I’ve read a few projects I’d love to do. And I still enjoy re-visiting characters like the great Eleanor Roosevelt.
That’s great. May we all have your vitality and interest. I read that you are still a supporter of Gene Frankel Studios and return to speak there on occasion. What’s your advice for the next generation of actors?
I love talking to students………anytime, if I’m available. I think what applies to all generations is the hard work to develop a good solid craft. It’s a tough, demanding road filled with hopeful competition. All you have is yourself. The more secure you are in your work, your craft, the stronger it makes you. There’s more, of course, but I’ll save it for our chat.