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From Titan Magazine (Fall 2003)

Tony - Nominated Titan Brings 'Kabul' to L.A.

She sits alone on stage, with not much more in the way of props than a small collection of hats and an outdated guidebook to Afghanistan. But for the next hour, Linda Emond ’82 (B.A. theatre arts) will hold her audience rapt in “Homebody/Kabul,” currently at the Mark Taper Forum.

Reprising her Obie Award-winning performance, she plays a British housewife who begins the play, Emond explains, with “a tale about something that has happened to her. She gets sidetracked along the way and, ultimately, makes a decision and goes to Afghanistan, to Kabul. And she disappears.” She brought the role to life two years ago off-Broadway.

The drama, penned by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner (“Angels in America”), subsequently follows the journey of the woman’s husband and daughter in Kabul to find her.

“It deals with a variety of subjects and issues,” Emond says of the play. “It certainly is political. But at its center, it’s about a family, mourning and their search for understanding.

“As an actor, it’s the most amazing script I’ve ever read, that I’ve performed, including Shakespeare and Brecht, in terms of something that I have done from beginning to end. It calls on everything I’ve learned: technical, emotional, psychological strengths. It’s like a monumental mountain to climb every night.”

The ‘training’ for that climb was extensive as well. “I had lived with it for almost 2 1/2 years before performing it,” she says, of the period she spent helping develop the play. But, understanding the economics of mounting a play in New York — i.e., not having the box office draw of say, Maggie Smith — Emond “didn’t take for granted that I would play the role on stage.”

Kushner, however, never had any doubts. “I think Linda is one of the greats, an actor of incomparable brilliance, depth and intelligence,” he says. “I admired her work for years before we were able to work together. I think there may have been some fantasizing on the part of the producers about getting a movie star to do the part, but it was simply out of the question; I would never have done the play without Linda. She owns the part.”

With the exception of the current run of “Homebody/Kabul” in Los Angeles, Emond has been living and working in New York for the last seven years. Television viewers have seen her in guest-starring roles on such New York-based series as “The Sopranos,” “Law & Order,” “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” and “Third Watch.” Silver screen credits include “City by the Sea” with Robert DeNiro and the soon-to-be-released “Almost Salinas” with John Mahoney (“Frasier”).

In addition, she has provided voice-over narration for Lifetime television’s “Intimate Portraits” series, as well as shows for National Geographic, the Discovery Channel, The Learning Channel and A&E’s “Biography” (Gypsy Rose Lee). Her books-on-tape readings include “Candyland,” “The Secret Hour” and “Good Harbor.”

Emond made her New York stage debut in 1996 in the off-Broadway production of “Nine Armenians,” and in the following year, made her first Broadway appearance in the musical “1776,” playing Abigail Adams opposite Brent Spiner’s (“Star Trek: The Next Generation”) John Adams.

Earlier this year, she and Spiner played another married couple in Tony Award-winning playwright Yasmina Reza’s (“Art”) “Life x 3” on Broadway.

Her performance brought more accolades, including the Outer Critics Circle Award and a Tony Award nomination for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play. As much as she works, she readily admits that “far more often, I audition for something I don’t get.” Yet, she doesn’t adhere to the claim about how tough the entertainment industry is. “I would not say this business is hard. Coal mining is hard.

“I do something I love, have a good deal of variety, get to work and create. I’ve been really lucky and have had fantastic experiences.”

As of press time, “Homebody/Kabul,” starring Emond, is scheduled to run at the Mark Taper Forum through Nov. 9.