Home, as they say, is wherever you hang your hat. That cliché happens to be true in the case of most actors. For Judith Ivey, returning to Long Wharf Theatre to appear in Fireflies certainly reinforces the old saw.
Ivey is a native of Texas. The setting of Fireflies is a fictional small town in Texas. Once she started working on the script, the connection was hard to ignore. “They say you can take the girl out of Texas but you can’t take the Texas out of the girl, which I’ve discovered over many decades of not living there,” Ivey said.
Ivey plays Grace Bodell, across the street neighbor of Eleanor Bannister, the stern teacher played by Jane Alexander. Grace is, to say it politely, extremely interested in what is going on with Eleanor and Abel Brown, the drifter who has wandered into their small town. “She wants to grow up to be Eleanor Bannister, even though we are all in our 60s,” Ivey said. “I can relate to the whole Texas aspect of it. I grew up with women like this. I recognize them. They are iconic in the Texas culture.”
The fictional town described in Fireflies, Groverdell, was inspired by Sanford’s own hometown of Ganado, Texas. Ganado, located near the Gulf Coast, has a population of only about 2,000 people. “I grew up in small towns even once I left Texas. So even the small town aspect speaks to me as something I know,” Ivey said.
Fireflies isn’t the only thing in New Haven offering Ivey a reminder of home. The play marks Ivey’s fourth appearance at Long Wharf Theatre. Her first appearance, playing Amanda Wingfield in an extraordinary production of The Glass Menagerie, won her affection and acclaim from LWT’s audiences, which was only reinforced through her work in Shirley Valentine and Curse of the Starving Class.
“Actors always like to have (an artistic) home because we usually leave our homes to go to work … I do like having a history with a theatre. It was kind of a fluke when Gordon first asked me to do The Glass Menagerie. But I love the staff, they are always so nice, always helpful, always want the best for you. I haven’t had a bad experience, so why wouldn’t you come back?” Ivey said.