Singer Sophie B. Hawkins has had her share of hits in the music world, but now she's trying to score in another medium ... Acting.
She plays Janis Joplin in a new play, “Room 105: The Highs and Lows of Janis Joplin,” which covers Joplin’s entire life and ends with her overdose in room 105 of the Highland Gardens Hotel in Los Angeles.
Can you tell us the significance of “Room 105”?
“I think that it's significant because I don’t think Janis intended to die. And so the whole play, it’s not just about her career—it’s about her childhood, it’s about her inner life. This play, more than anything I’ve ever heard of, deals with Janis’s feelings about her life, and her feelings about things as they went by…In “Room 105”... as I’m about to overdose, I’m telling the story of how I got to this point... I’m talking about how I might have felt at that moment, what I was thinking about, what I was feeling. And the greatest thing is the last song I do a Janis [version] of ‘Feeling Good’ from Nina Simone. And the anger, that I'm dying, it's just great, because I don’t believe that Janis intended to go, and I think that she was almost at the point of breaking through in her life.”
What are some of the things about her life that you didn’t know before?
“What I have learned was how much of an artist Janis was all the time. I knew she was an intellectual, but I didn’t know how much she fed her intellect all the time. She was never without a book…she would argue, she would challenge...And Janis’s whole life was about trying to be as present as possible, because I have a feeling that Janis suffered so much when she was lonely and ostracized that when she began to have people who understood her brilliant mind, it’s like if suddenly Van Gogh was appreciated during his lifetime. Janis had this moment where suddenly people got it.”
What was her early life like?
“Well, Janis’s early life, she actually had a very warm and supportive family. They were very disciplined. Her mother was a great opera singer... But her father was also a great intellect, and they read seven books a weekend and discussed them. They didn’t watch TV. Janis was an A student. She started singing with her mother at 6 years old at the piano! So she went from being this really kind of coddled child who knew she was on top of her game and at the top of her class, and suddenly puberty hit and it’s like they threw acid in her face. She was socially unacceptable, and she started reading the Beats… She started realizing that this society was completely unacceptable and backwards...She went to being socially unacceptable physically, emotionally, intellectually. She was ostracized, she was marginalized, butit’s even worse in a way having been so embraced—it was like going to Siberia.”
What were your goals in this play?:
“My goal was to understand, to walk in her shoes. Elvis Presley said you never know aman’s life ‘til you walk a mile in his shoes. So I started studying everybody she studied first—Leadbelly, Bessie Smith, and Ma Rainey. And I didn’t just study them, I actually wrote out the melodies and the phrasing, everything. And when I got to Janis, I thought, ‘Wow! I really have her in my guts, under my belt.’ And then I started studying Janis, and I learned so much about Janis that I never would have known because of the perspective of studying where she came from.”
Plus, check out this song Sophie B. Hawkins recorded just for our pledge drive!