Backstage with Tommy's wig supervisor Judith Haugh
By Tom Moran
TheaterWeek July 11-17,1994
Receiving a phone call from a total stranger who found your phone number scribbled
on a wall next to a payphone usually isn't the sort of thing you tend to remember
fondly in later years. But in Judith Haugh's case it brought her to Broadway--and
changed her life.
through the stage door of the St. James theatre an hour or so before performance
of Tommy, hang a sharp right, and you enter the claustrophobic domain
of Judith Haugh, wig supervisor. Since the show's elaborate electronic equipment
takes up every conceivable inch of wing space, the cast uses Haugh's wig room
as the unofficial green room. During a performance the action there is as frantic
and as carefully choreographed as anything onstage. "Stand in the wrong place,"
Haugh mentions calmly as I enter, "and you're liable to get an elbow in the
Stryofoam heads glare down at us from their perches on the wall. They display
a wide variety of wigs, some intended for cast members you didn't even realize
wore wigs in the show ("So many of our young men," Haugh sighs, "are
what Michael Cerveris calls 'follically impaired'".).
The wigs are everywhere, like so many souvenirs of a mass scalping, and Haugh
delights in discussing both their intricacy and their expense. "There are
ninety-one wigs and hairpieces in the show. Mostly all human hair. There are sixty
wig changes and in the first act alone." Haugh smiles, "That always
Not too many years ago, Judith Haugh was a forty-something Connecticut house-wife
and former beautician with three kids taking college courses in theatre, with
vague ambitions of an acting career. "I had been doing wigs at Candlewood
Playhouse," she tells me, "but it wasn't paying, and it was a big job.
Five major musicals a summer, with only one hair person. You get paid two hundred
dollars a show and it only ends up being about five cents an hour--which is about
average for regional theatre. So I wasn't planning on going back." "But
David Lawrence was doing costumes for the Candlewood the next summer. And he needed
a hair person. He saw my name on the wall next to the payphone and left this charming
message on my answering machine." (Asked to confirm this story, David Lawrence,
who has since gone on to design the hair for Beauty and the Beast, recalls:"Scribbled
among these phone numbers was: " For wigs, call Judith.' I just assumed it
was free advertising.") "He was so charming over the phone, Haugh continues,
"that I ended up telling him, "You sound like so much fun that I'll
come and help you with La Cage aux Folles, and if I get paid I'll come
back.' And we had such a good time that I stayed and worked the whole summer."
"Eventually David asked me, 'Would you like to swing on Broadway?' Because
he does major hair on Broadway. And I said, 'Sure!' And then she sort of forgot
about me." "I was going away (from the Heidi Chronicles) to
do another project." Lawrence relates, "and the girl that we'd hired
wasn't tall enough to reach Joan Allen's head in this quick change that happened
in full sight of the audience, during a blackout." "So he called me
up," Haugh says, "and I did Heidi Chronicles for about nine
days, and then went back to college. Then David called me up the next semester
and said: 'Quit'. I actually had a year left of school. And I never did graduate.
That's how I started working on Broadway--I replaced him on the The Heidi Chronicles."
Although Haugh was not a fan of The Who or Tommy when the original album
was released in the '60s ( "I was too busy having babies," she points
out), working on the show with its young cast has turned out to be the ideal job
"Because I was a mom for so many years, and being a Libra, I'm good at negotiating.
I'm good at listening. Actors are people whose emotions are very close to the
surface, and they need to be able to dredge these emotions up really quickly.
Tears, laughter, whatever. These people are told 'no' all the time, rejected all
the time, and it's nice for them to come into a place where they're made to feel
welcome. And that's what I always try to do."
According to David Lawrence, "One of the reasons why I wanted Judith to do
(Tommy) was because she's really great with people. For a lot of the
kids it was their first Broadway show, and they needed somebody they were comfortable
Tommy isn't Laura Dean's first Broadway show, but she has special reasons
for being glad that Judith Haugh is a member of the company. A real-life mom herself,
Dean replaced the Tony-nominated Marcia Mitzman in the role of Tommy's mom, Mrs.
Walker. "The first thing Judith noticed about me when I walked in the room
was my hair, " Dean remembers. " I have very large curly hair, and she
went: 'How are we gonna fit that under your wigs?' We tried pin curling and it
didn't work-it looked I had a head full of hockey pucks--so they decided to wrap
up my hair, which was something new to Judith. But now she's an expert wrapper.
It takes her about twenty minutes to do my hair every night, and I love those
twenty minutes. She knows the minute I walk in the room the mood I'm in. Which
is really amazing --because sometimes if something's happened that's hurt me during
the day and I'm trying to keep it under wraps because I just can't get into it,
she looks at my face and say's "what's wrong?' I just love Judith. She's
really become a good friend."
Haugh points out, however, that being supportive can only go so far, even with
a very young cast. "I refuse to be their mother--or their therapist. I've
done that in the past, and it's felt like the marrow's being sucked out of my
bones. You can get too involved. And you aren't their therapistl so you're not
going to be able to fix whatever's wrong. I just try to be a friend." "My
soul didn't need to act," Haugh admits gratefully of her decision to stay
behind the scenes, and give up a possible acting career. "I get my creativity
for my soul in what I do here. I am so happy being backstage and being a support
system." Haugh's marriage, however didn't survive the inevitable strains
endemic to a theatrical couple--and there can be drawbacks to being a single gal
working on a Broadway show. "You never meet anybody," she states flatly.
" I don't really date much at all. When I was on tour, and going from city
to city, I would meet different stage hands, and they would ask me out. Thirty-five
year old men seem to find me attractive. I'd say "Does your wife know that
you've asked me out? Could I have a note from her please?'"
But all in all, for a self-described " little Connecticut housewife with
an interest in theater and an interest in hair who managed to put the two careers
together, " this is the golden age of Judith Haugh. David Lawrence, for one,
is glad that she's content to be the unofficial den mother of the Tommy cast:"
As far as I'm concerned, if she's happy there, I'm happy with her there. That
would be fine with me--if she stayed on until the day it closed. Judith is one
of the unsung heroines of the backstage world.
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