Meet the Artist: Fellow Travelers’ Hadleigh Adams
We’re thrilled to have New Zealand baritone Hadleigh Adams making his company debut in Fellow Travelers, starting June 16 at The Cowles Center in Minneapolis. Hadleigh will sing the part of Hawkins Fuller, a dashing State Department official in 1950s Washington, DC, who finds his secret love affair with a recent college graduate, Tim Laughlin (Andres Acosta), threatened by forces beyond their control. Recently, he was kind enough to sit down with us to answer a few questions about Hawkins and the relevance and resonance of this particular love story.
Could you tell me about the character you play?
HA: It’s always interesting talking about the character you play in a show. As an actor you spend so much time thinking about the character, their motivations, conscious and subconscious, their flaws, and how they got that way. I preface my answer, because in Fellow Travelers my character Hawkins does a pretty terrible thing to someone—who he says—he loves.
Hawkins is very successful. He’s gregarious, handsome, good at his job, and often fawned over. He’s attracted to men, but views sexual encounters with random men as the totality of the gay experience for him. He doesn’t see any path forward to having a life with a man; living together, building a home, and nor does he seem to want one. Now of course, this is a pretty common viewpoint for a lot of closeted men in the 1950s, and to an extent, it’s easy to understand way. The way the LGBT community in the 1950s was treated was abhorrent, and for a powerful man who would otherwise have the world at his feet, the thought of falling to the very bottom of the social hierarchy would surely have been a petrifying thought. It’s easy with hindsight to castigate Hawkins for his weaknesses, but from his perspective, he’s just doing everything he can to keep his head above water.
What are three of your character’s most prominent qualities?
HA: Confident. At the beginning of Fellow Travelers, this guy sits down on a park bench and starts talking to a cute guy he’s never met before, and in under five minutes he’s insinuating that he should be screwing instead of talking. I mean, that’s pretty ballsy. That combined with the fact that because he knows he “passes” for straight, he doesn’t have any fear of being found out, and can exude this gregarious sexuality with men or women at the flick of the switch.
Self-interested. His primary thought is for himself and what he wants. There’s not much he’s had to fight for. He’s started his life as an educated, handsome, white guy. That’s kind of the socio-economic jackpot in the 1950s, isn’t it? But also, is it a bad thing to be self-interested? No, not necessarily, but I feel with Hawkins it comes from a place of privilege. There’s nothing much in the world that isn’t available to him, and he wants to experience everything he can. At one point he says to his lover “It’s a great big world, let’s let it burn us”. To want to be burned, means you have the resources to deal with it after the fact.
Damaged. Aren’t we all though, right?! I feel that somewhere on his journey, when he was younger, Hawkins was really hurt by a guy he really had feelings for. When you get hurt like that, you tighten your heart into a knot so you don’t have to hurt. As he’s matured into his 30s, he’s kept that viewpoint. It’s kept him emotionally safe from pain, and partly what causes him to be so closed off from the man he loves and the possibility of their very own home.