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Head-Hunting

By Ross G. Forman

NEW YORK. For many the word connotes tall buildings and grungy streets, where traffic jams abound and businessmen juggle the fortunes of the nation.

It is a place of contrasts, of poverty and wealth, hope and despair, constraint and freedom. And for actress Linda Hunt, who visited Harvard last week, New York is both a source of inspiration and of fatigue.

Calling the city "a mixed blessing" and "such an overstimulating place," Hunt says she was inspired by its vitality when she began her career. She says that although New York life "gives back a great deal, you have to work very hard at it."

After graduating from the Goodman School in Chicago as a young woman, Hunt moved to New York, where she "did nothing for a long time." Much of her career has been spent on New York stages, and she recently finished an engagement as Charlotta in Peter Brook's acclaimed adaptation of The Cherry Orchard, which played at the Brooklyn Academy of Music until last week.

But after years of living in the East Coast's largest city, Hunt says her feelings have changed. "In the earlier years when I was very involved in my own struggle to work in the theater, the intensity of life in the theater [in New York] was inspiring." Hunt says she is now "in a different time in my life when I don't think I need the city as much as I did."

Although she will spend this summer--a "summer of freedom" uninterrupted by acting commitments--at a home she bought in Connecticut a few years ago, she does not intend to give up the city. "I can't imagine not living there part of the time."

BEST known for her roles in such movies as The Year of Living Dangerously, which won her an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, and the screen adaptation of Henry James' The Bostonians, Hunt has spent much of her career on the stage.

Even as a child, Hunt says, she knew she wanted to act. "There was hardly a time when I thought of anything else." So she trekked to Michigan to attend Interlocken, an innovative performing arts school, and later the Goodman School.

Her first professional theater job was with the Longwharf Theater in New Heaven, where she worked for six seasons. Since that time she has acted in many theater roles, both in and out of New York. She has won several Obies and a Tony.

Hunt says her small stature has "in every way" affected her life, in the same way that size, shape, race, religion and nationality affect the lives of others. She has been able to avoid the crippling effects of typecasting and enjoy a versatile acting career. And when asked what roles she plays, she answers, "All roles."

Despite her current fame and her air of satisfaction with her career, Hunt says her life has been one of uncertainty, not knowing about work from day to day, and "then anxious about work" when you get it. But Hunt thrives on it.

Though she says she sometimes feels her "nature" would be "happier doing something less open to continue change," Hunt adds, "the function of the actor is really to exist on uncertainty." Because it is uncertainty that is at the heart of creativity.

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