Ask almost anyone in the theater establishment in these parts about who from the ranks of the city’s working actors would be at the top of their list for a given play, whether classical or contemporary, and the response is virtually always a variation of: “You mean, besides Holly?”
“You don’t remember the first time you heard Holly’s name, because everybody talks about her,” says Anne Kohn, the producing director of a startup company, No Rules Theatre, for which Twyford will direct a play this summer, Diana Son’s “Stop Kiss.”
“She’s a dream to work with,” says Michael Kahn, who is directing her in the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s current critical hit, “Old Times.” Adds Joy Zinoman, former artistic director of Studio Theatre: “She has a kind of class that’s not commonly seen. And she’s also ridiculously smart.”
Two decades into her Washington theater run, Twyford continues to add significant bullet points to her lengthy resume, one that has so many Helen Hayes awards and nominations that they make up the bulk of her Wikipedia entry. “Old Times,” for instance, marks her long-anticipated debut with the region’s premier classical theater. “Stop Kiss” is another milestone in a career full of them, for with that production she sits for the first time in the director’s chair.
Twyford appears a bit conflicted by the notion that she occupies some rarefied pedestal. She’s gratified and, at the same time, conscious of not sounding as if she takes anything for granted. “Have I been very, very fortunate? Yes,” she says, as she lunches in a coffee shop on U Street NW, near the home that she shares with her longtime partner, Saskia Mooney, and their young daughter Helena — which happens to be the name of the Shakespearean heroine she played in “All’s Well That Ends Well.” “Scripts that are very fulfilling and interesting, and people who are very generous to work with, seem to come my way.”
If one were to list the roles and plays for which Twyford has distinguished herself since making her D.C. debut in 1993 in a production by a now-defunct company, this article would have to disgorge an awful lot of ink. From prominent companies such as Arena Stage down to the child-oriented Adventure Theatre — with which she performed for the sake of her daughter — she has worked, and worked, the D.C. circuit.
Her range is such that it can be hard to find a pattern: Over the past few seasons, she has portrayed a British researcher (in Tom Stoppard’s “Arcadia”); a medieval homemaker (in “The Second Shepherd’s Play”); a Hollywood agent (in Douglas Carter Beane’s “The Little Dog Laughed”); a brain-damaged recluse (in Neil Simon’s “Lost in Yonkers”) and a South African English teacher (in Athol Fugard’s “The Road to Mecca”). That’s not to mention a recent stint as Electra. Oh, and here and there, some big parts in Shakespeare.