Tag Archives: acting

Empathetic Acting – Okay or Nay?

“I’m curious about other people. That’s the essence of my acting. I’m interested in what it would be like to be you.”
– Meryl Streep

***

Okay, my dander’s all up.

For those of you that know me well, I’m sure you’re shocked. I mean, me?  Irritated? Feeling passionate about something? Shocking, I know. But alas, ’tis true.

And in this day and age, you’d think it would be about politics or Trump or something. But nope. This time, it’s about theatre.

Theatre?

Yep, theatre. I’ve argued over a lot of things before, but theatre is new to the list.

[Disclaimer: I had originally intended to say that I was arguing with an actor for the first time, but my husband politely reminded me that that is sooo not true. I have a lot of friends who are actors. And I argue with them about everything. So, I scratched that and made it a little more specific – it’s definitely the first time I’ve argued with someone about acting.]

To be even more specific, the argument was over who should and shouldn’t portray certain characters.

Okay, here’s how it started. This was a post I saw on Facebook.  Apparently it’s a new “pledge” that we’re supposed to take, both as actors/directors, but also as theatre and movie-goers (that’s all of you):

“As a cis performer, I will never play a trans character. Should I ever direct or produce, I will never cast a cis actor to play a trans character. As a cis consumer, I will do my best to avoid projects that do the above. In addition, as a white actor, I will never play a non-white character. As an able-bodied actor, I will never play a character with a disability.

I will not occupy space that isn’t mine.”

I write about a lot of things in this blog, so I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that I’m a community theatre actress. I’m also sure I’ve mentioned that I live in tiny little nowhere, right smack in the middle of the bible belt.  And if you didn’t know, now you do. And armed with that knowledge, I’d say you could probably correctly infer that “trans” actors, “non-white” actors, and “disabled” actors are probably a bit few and far between in this area. So, when I saw that “pledge” that all of us actors are supposed to take, I recognized the absurdity – at least for my little neck of the woods.

If we waited for those people to show up – especially ones that had the ability and the desire to tirelessly work, unpaid, for months, to produce a show that would be viewed only three or four times – we’d never get anything done.

So, I said that. I commented on the post.

And it all went downhill from there.

I was accused of not hearing these people’s cry for justice. For not allowing them to tell their own stories.

Okay, stop.  If this were Hollywood, there might be tons of people showing up to claim these roles. But it’s not. It’s a little county in the middle of the North Carolina mountains. We performed The Wiz for goodness sakes. We had approximately one and a half black people in it and we had to beg them to do it.  (And how lucky we were to get them – holy crap, they were phenomenal.) But were they offended that we did the show anyway, even though we were unable to cast the entire thing with people of color as it is intended?

I don’t think so.

Or were they?

We did To Kill a Mockingbird. While we had a few people of color who were able to join us but, again, we were faced with a 99% white cast. But we still did it. And it was phenomenal.

Should we have left that story untold because we didn’t have enough people of color to play the roles?

We performed Wait Until Dark. I portrayed a blind woman, Suzy. Should I not have done that? Should we have not performed that powerful show about a disabled woman who uses her superior intellect to outwit her would-be killer? Should we have not shown that audience that anyone can overcome their disabilities and kick some bad guy booty, simply because we didn’t have a real blind woman to play the role?

And how about when we performed The Dixie Swim Club. My good friend and actress Rebecca portrayed an aged woman with Alzheimer’s disease, who didn’t leave a single audience member dry-eyed for four straight performances. Should she not have done that?  Should she not have given a voice to the millions that suffer from that horrendous disease because she didn’t herself?

What about my sweet friend Cynthia portraying Shelby, the diabetes-ridden daughter in Steel Magnolias? Should she not have done that since she’s not diabetic herself? Should I not have portrayed her distraught mother who loses a child because I’ve never lost one myself?

No.

No, no, no.

Let’s stop this.

Theatre is one of the most beautiful things around. If you haven’t been a part of it, you’re missing out. It accidentally teaches you empathy. You become another person. You literally “walk a mile in their shoes,” so to speak. What better way to understand someone than to tell their story? To actually become them?

Now, I get it. I know where this pledge came from. Apparently Hollywood actress Scarlett Johansson was recently cast as a trans man in an upcoming movie and there has been a cry from the trans community about not being represented fully because it is not a trans person playing the role. There’s even a hashtag for it – #supporttranspeopleinentertainment. I get it. I do. But my question is this – was there a more qualified trans candidate?  You have to be more than trans – you also have to be an actor. A damn good one. Acting is a business, like any other. You have to be great at what you do, or you’re going to passed over.  I’m all about fighting for equality – believe me. I run my mouth about it all the time. But there comes a time when you have to really ask yourself what you’re doing. Are you really asking for equality? Or are you asking for special treatment?

Regardless of the big Hollywood story, however, let’s take it back down here to our level. In the community theatres of the world, you are just not going to have the abilities to fill every role with a person who is what they’re portraying. And, frankly, isn’t that what acting is all about?  Isn’t that what we’re doing?  Telling a story for someone else?

Is there really something wrong with that?

If you ask me – NOPE. Not only is there not something wrong with it, but it is exactly what we all should be doing – acting or otherwise. We need to take every opportunity we’re given to try to understand what it’s like to be someone else, and to let their story be heard. For the actors of the world, we do that with our acting talent. For the writers of the world, we try to do that with our writing talents.

I recently read Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult. Ms. Picoult wrote a powerful, almost life-changing novel from three perspectives – a privileged white lawyer, a discriminated black nurse, and a male white supremacist. And my, what a story it was. In the end of the book, she wrote an author’s note. In that note, she said that she was well aware of the backlash she’d receive from writing this book. How dare her try to speak as a black woman? And she was right – there was definitely backlash and mixed reviews. But as she described in her note – she has written about many characters in the past – victims of rape, men, abused spouses – all things that she, herself, is not. And how did she do that? By talking to them. By learning about them. By putting herself in their shoes and living their lives through her words.

And why did she do it? Because she could. She was given a gift. She’s a storyteller. And with this gift, she knows that it is her duty to give voice to the voiceless. She is using her talent to change the world, one novel at a time. And, personally, I think she’s doing a damn good job of it.

Stories deserve to be told. Silencing them is never the answer.

Never.

What say you?

***

“Stop explaining yourself. Shut up and act!”
~ Craig MacDonald

***

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Proof

“Of course we all come to the theatre with baggage. The baggage of our daily lives, the baggage of our problems, the baggage of our tragedies, the baggage of being tired. It doesn’t matter what age you are. But if our hearts get opened and released — well that is what theatre can do, and does sometimes, and everyone is thankful when that happens.”
– Vanessa Redgrave

Tonight is Ashe County Little Theatre’s opening night of PROOF by David Auburn. I’m the director.

The director.

As someone who has only chosen to be on the stage for 30+ years, this is the first time that I’ve truly seen the “other side” of theatre. I’ve been a part of this process from the very beginning – from the very first day as I sat all curled up on my couch in my pajamas reading this random script that I had found at Goodwill.  (Yes! Goodwill!)  I’m not generally a “script reader.” But this one caught my attention – not only because I found it at Goodwill (I mean, seriously – who finds a theatre script at Goodwill!?), but because of the content. It was amazing. It was funny, dramatic, romantic, sad….real. I was hooked.

I remember gasping during one part and my husband looking over at me asking if I was okay. I looked up at him and my only response was, “I have to direct this show.”  Not, I want to be in this show.  But I want to direct it. I had never directed anything before. But I knew now was the time.

And here I am a few years later. After months of worrying, laughing, crying, rehearsing, rehearsing, and more rehearsing, I will have the privilege and honor of watching my beautiful cast make this story come to life tonight at the Ashe Civic Center.

Photo by Troy Brooks of Ashe Mountain Times

I want you to take a look at this group of people here to your right. These people (including a few more who aren’t pictured) have become my family. While struggling to bring you, the audience, a story about love, life, loss and moving on, each and every one you see sitting on that stage has been going through the exact same things in their personal lives. Bringing you a little two-hour production is not easy. Each of us are real people – we have lives off of the stage. And if you can name it, someone on that stage has probably experienced it in the past few months. Marital problems, job losses, family trouble…even the death of family members (two of us lost our grandmothers and one of us lost our mother, just in the eight weeks of rehearsals for this show). So much life has been happening to us behind the scenes.

But has that stopped us?  Nope.

The love of theatre – the love of art itself – is a hard thing to describe. You know the saying, the show must go on? Well, it must. It’s a pull in our souls that we can’t explain. We have to tell you this story. We just have to. All of us. From the director, to the volunteers who are moving the set around in between scenes – each and every one of us knows that we have to play our part in bringing you this story. Why? Heck, we don’t know. We just know it has to be told. And nothing will stop us from telling it.

I hope you’ll find a way to come see our show. We have poured our heart and soul into telling you a story, and we want you to come hear it. We want you to find yourself in this show – whether it be remembering what a first love felt like, remembering the tragedy of a loss, or finding confidence in yourself to pursue the dreams you know you’re capable of – you are going to see a piece of you in one or more of these characters.

This is theatre.  We have all felt what each other has felt, and we are going to get up on a stage and show you that. You are not alone. None of us are.

Come join our family this weekend, won’t you?

Allow me to leave you with the perfect words to describe our show and why you should be there. This is from one of the four stars of Proof: my dear friend, Ike Smith.

“Proof is a thoughtful, compelling story that at its root is about relationships: parent/child, sibling/sibling, and romantic. It’s about how people connect — or disconnect — when life becomes unexpected and uncertain. It’s about how we deal with conflict, both internal and external.

Is PROOF a comedy? Maybe, -ish. Is it a drama? Sort of. Sometimes it’s funny, and sometimes it’s serious, and that’s life. PROOF is real.

David Auburn wrote a great story, and we’ve got a great cast and crew to tell it for you. If you can, please join us. You won’t regret it.”

See you tonight!


***

“The theater-goer in conventional dramatic theater says: Yes, I’ve felt that way, too. That’s the way I am. That’s life. That’s the way it will always be. The suffering of this or that person grips me because there is no escape for him. That’s great art — Everything is self-evident. I am made to cry with those who cry, and laugh with those who laugh.”
– Bertolt Brecht

All show rehearsal photos by Bobbi Jo Scott, Producer.

Stage Managing: Tales (and thank yous) From The Dark Side

“I regard the theatre as the greatest of all art forms, the most immediate way in which a human being can share with another the sense of what it is to be a human being.”
– Thornton Wilder

I am an actor. I’ve been acting for as far back as my memory goes.  From my 3-year-old debut in my grandmother’s church play to my professional acting gig as Glinda at the Land of Oz, and all of the many, many community theatre performances in between, acting has always been a huge part of my life.

And now finally, after 30+ years in the theatre, I’ve done something that I have never done before.

I’ve crossed over to the ‘dark side.’

YonkersI am ashamed to say that it has taken me this long to finally see what it feels like to not be in the spotlight. I was recently offered the opportunity to be the stage manager for Ashe County Little Theatre’s upcoming performance of Lost in Yonkers by Neil Simon. Since February, we have been working on a show that will open this weekend, April 8-10, at the Ashe Civic Center and run for only three performances.

Now, this idea of working for months on something that people will only see for a few hours is not new to me. As an actor, I’ve done this many times. But I always knew that it would culminate with all that ‘thunderous’ applause as I humbly bowed to my adoring audience. You know – the icing on that well-earned cake. A successful show, a stroked ego, and then off to work on the next one. Everybody wins!

But the thing I am certain that I didn’t notice – didn’t appreciate – was the group of people sitting in the dark while I basked in all this post-show limelight.

Until now. Until I became one of them.

My husband is the sound tech for our theatre. One time, during the run of one of our shows, he said something to me that really resonated.

“If I’m doing my job right, you won’t notice me.”

At the time that he said that – back in my oblivious actor days – I thought that sounded ridiculous. Why would you pour your heart and soul (not to mention time and energy) into something that you hope no one even notices? Why on Earth would you want to be the background music (literally)? What is the point?

Ah. Now I get it.

There is so much more to what happens in a theatrical show than what you, as the audience, sees. I have developed a level of appreciation for what happens back here on the dark side, an appreciation I would have never known had it not been for this experience. And what a shame it took me so many years to be able to say this.

crew

Cast and crew (but missing a few) of Lost in Yonkers, ACLT Spring 2016

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying the actors don’t work hard, too. They do. Really. But as the stage manager for this show, I have been able to see the show in a new perspective. Rather than focusing on my particular role in the process, as I did as an actor, I have the ability to now see the show as a whole. I see all the working parts that make it come alive and realize how lost we would be without even the tiniest of them.

In other words, I now have the ability to see the things that my loving husband pointed out that “shouldn’t” be seen. And once your eyes are open to something like that, you can’t go back.

So with that said, I hope you’ll join me as I take the time to give a little appreciation to all of the pieces of this little puzzle we’ve created together.

First, there’s the director, Jim. Jim has taught me so much through this process. My job was supposed to be to help him, but he has definitely been the one to help me instead. Taking a chance on a self-absorbed actor to be your right-hand man was a pretty big risk if you ask me. But I’m glad he took it. Thank you for believing in me and casting such a fantastic show. The lessons I’ve learned are invaluable.

Then, there’s the producer and costumer, Rebecca. Rebecca has a constant helpful nature. She is always working behind the scenes during these shows to be sure each character looks their best. As the person who was always putting the costumes on, I never got the chance to actually see what they looked like. As I step outside the confining the walls of the stage itself, I can now see the beautiful portrait these costumes paint. There is such a precision with choosing what we wear, and I really had no idea. One of our stage moms noted, “I love watching the Bella character grow up through her costumes.” And once she said that, I see how right she is. Each character’s costume in each scene tells a subtle story, and I’m glad my eyes were opened to that fact during this run.  Rebecca also made sure to take care of us during show week as well. One night this week she brought in pizza for everyone, exclaiming that her mother always taught her that “the way you show people that you love them, is to feed them.” So, thank you, Rebecca. We love you too!

And our “booth crew:” the sound technician, Richard (my hubby – you may have heard me mention him before), the spotlight operator Kelly (my daughter…and I may have mentioned her a time or two before as well), and the lighting technician, Jeremy. These three are the lucky peeps who get to listen to me on headset trying to tell them what to do and when to do it. All three of them have very similar personalities – calm, organized, chill. And thank God for it! My first night on headset, I was a nervous wreck…and yet they calmly did what they were supposed to do (whether I remembered to tell them to or not) and told me I did a great job (even when I was certain I didn’t). The people like these three are the true heroes of a show, believe me.

And then there’s Ken and Judi. Ken designed and built our set (together with many helpers: Doug, John, Jim, Bobbi Jo, and Richard to name a few…I know there were more) and Judi spent lots of time painting and “sprucing it up” (the set is a Grandma’s apartment so Judi added all the small, Grandma-ish touches that, like Richard pointed out, you’d hardly notice…unless they weren’t there.)  Once that was done, Ken and Judi jumped in to help backstage throughout the run of the show, Judi helping with the many costume changes and Ken helping me with the set changes between scenes. More unsung heroes right there, that’s for sure.

And then there’s the makeup ladies, Charna and Cynthia. Spending all that time working on making others look good, with no applause for their efforts. Consider this your applause, ladies. You are appreciated, needed, and loved. I hope you know that. (They even had the added bonus of using makeup to cover some tattoos in this show…and they’ve done it fabulously!)

And a special thank you to Linda who designed our show poster and programs. Another small, yet huge, addition to the puzzle. What would a show be without advertisement and information? Thank you, Linda.

And then there are the parents and spouses of all of the people involved (too many to list here) who have sacrificed their time with their loved ones while we spent so many hours bring this show to life. We thank you, from the bottom of our hearts for your patience and your support. Your sacrifice is just as much a part of this show as any of the other working parts, and we appreciate you.

And last, but most certainly not least, our actors. Yes, you get to applaud them as the show ends, but those are just the characters. I want to tell you a little about how special each of the real people are behind those “masks.”

First, there’s Mason and Olivia. These two kids have family in the show and have willingly volunteered to serve as extras for a few of our scenes. And when they’re not onstage, they are helping backstage – Mason helping his brother Levi with costume changes and Olivia bringing her dad a glass of water between scenes. The work you two do is noticed and the enthusiasm you show while doing it is contagious. Thank you kiddos. 🙂

Then there’s Bobbi Jo. Bobbi Jo is a warrior, let me tell you. She’s my friend so I know the sacrifice she’s had to make to be in this show. Between a working hubby and having to bring her little ones to the theatre with her, having more than her share of car trouble, and even losing her father during the months of rehearsal, she has not missed a beat. (In fact, just before one rehearsal when she realized her car wouldn’t start, I found all 100-pounds of her walking on the road headed to rehearsal when I came to pick her up. That little thing was so dedicated to the show, she was going to walk the 3+ miles to rehearsal and hope she got there before her appearance in the second act. Now, that is some serious dedication, folks.)  So, Bobbi Jo, thank you for the love you bring to this show. It is noticed and appreciated.

stage managingNext, there’s Baron. Baron and I have worked in a few shows together now. He brings something to every show that would be missing if he wasn’t there – and that something is fun. Baron is always there with a snicker or an inside joke and makes sure we keep laughing through all the work we are putting in to this thing. People like this are a joy to be around, and I hope he knows that. Thank you, Baron. (“Gooooper, honey….”) [See? Inside jokes…]

And then there’s Ike. This is only my second time working with Ike and he brings an experience to the stage that can’t be overlooked. This dude can act. And the first role he was cast in with our theatre? A small role as an aide in an insane asylum. With the vast experience and knowledge that he has of the theatre, he was still happily willing to play a small role in order to be a part of the show. He is the living example of the saying, “There are no small roles, only small actors.” This, my friends, is no small actor. And if you get to see this show, I promise you’re in for a treat when you see this guy walk out onto the stage. (And I’m not just saying that because he strips down to his boxers in one scene…) 😉

Then, there’s Sharon. Sharon plays the Grandma in this show and, like her character, she brings a wisdom to the show, both on and off stage. A veteran of the theatre, Sharon knows her stuff and has had excellent ideas throughout the show’s run. Thank you for putting up with this family of misfits, Sharon!

Then, there’s Abby. Abby is new to our theatre and what a welcome gift she is. Abby has single-handedly shown me what an actress should be. She is full of energy and life and will bring you a performance that will put chills down your spine. And then, once she steps off the stage, she is thanking everyone. She has more than once thanked me for the work I’ve put in as the stage manager. I know I will be a better actress after this experience, and Abby is part of the reason for that. Thank you, Abby, for teaching by example.

boys2

Photo by Cassondra Greer

Ah, and then there are our boys, Rowan and Levi. These two kids are the focal point of the show, on and off the stage. These kids are phenomenal! Their talent goes well beyond what you’d expect from kids this young. And what professionals! Learning their lines from the get-go and carrying many scenes alone – I’m not sure they realize what a huge undertaking that is for young people. There are so many kids who’d be mortified to get up in front of people, and these two steal the show in scenes where there isn’t an adult in sight. They are going to go far…long after the memories of this show have faded. I just know it. You two are fabulous and I am honored to be sharing in this experience with you. I’m so proud of you!

 

Whew…tired of my list yet?  Are you still with me?

And see, here’s the thing – even after listing all of these names and roles they played in bringing a performance to you, I’d be willing to bet that I’ve left someone out. (And if that’s you – I’m so sorry! You are appreciated too. I promise.) The list goes on and on. The amount of effort that goes into something like this is astronomical.

So, in closing, here is what I’d like to ask of you. The next time you go to see a show, I want you to do me a favor. I want you to notice things.  Yes, yes, I know my husband said you’re not supposed to notice people like him…but don’t listen to him. Listen to me. 😉 Seriously…read your program. Read the bios of the actors you are about to see. Read about the director.  And then, don’t forget to flip to the last page of that program, and run your finger down the list of all of those behind-the-scenes names, won’t you? Behind each of those names is a heart for the theatre. A heart that has sacrificed weeks of their time to bring you two hours of entertainment. Give them all a little silent thank you in your mind, won’t you?

I know I will.

Oh, and one more name I forgot to add to the list: you.

That’s right – you’re important too. The theatre is a family. And as you walk into it, you become a part of the family as well. That’s when you step into your role as the audience. Without you, why would any of us be here? You add your touch to the show as well – your laughter, your sniffles, your smiles, and your presence.

You place that final piece into the puzzle that makes it complete.

And we thank you.

Yonkers cast

***
“Theatre was my first love. I can’t take the theatre out of me. And I wouldn’t want to. To me, it’s home.”
– Jim Parsons

Traces

“What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us; what we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.”
– Albert Pike

Traces

Leave behind a legacy, friends
Carve your names in stone;
Be remembered for what matters
For what is you and you alone.

For the artist, be remembered
For a canvas filled with swirls;
For the dancers, make your memories
Of pirouettes and twirls.

For the writer, leave the beautiful words
That you were born to say;
For the actor, leave those scenes to last
Far beyond the stage.

Musicians leave your music,
Singers leave your songs;
For when we leave behind these parts of us
We’re never really gone.

***

In memory of our friend and fellow actor, Michael Yelton.
Your legacy lives on.

oliver2

***

“Choosing to be in the theatre was a way to put my roots down somewhere with other people.
It was a way to choose a new family.”
– Juliette Binoche

Tribute to a Friend

“Happiness is often the result of being too busy to be miserable.”
– Anonymous

So, as you can probably tell from my prolonged blog absence, I’ve been a little busy lately. Between getting ready for a wedding, a marathon, an Oz performance, and a community theatre performance, my plate is a little full. Okay, it’s actually overflowing if you want to know the truth. But you want to know a secret? I’m loving every second of it!  Being busy keeps me sane.  Keeps me grounded.

But, of course, there can be a downside. When your plate is full with a few things that take up most of your time, some other certain things may have to get left off of the plate at all. And lately, one of those things has my writing.

But I decided to pop in here for just a second and revisit you guys in blog world. How are you?  Miss me?

And, actually, to be quite honest, I really don’t have the time to write the blog I’m writing now either. But I decided I had to make the time in this case. It’s fresh on my mind, and I think I have a good story that should be told.  I don’t expect it to be a literary masterpiece or anything like that…Simon and Schuster aren’t going to be knocking on my door with any publishing contracts anytime soon.  But, you know what? Sometimes it’s the simple, personal topics that tend to go overlooked in a writer’s world.  They’re too busy paying attention to the big picture and concentrating on where the next story lies, to recognize the little mini-stories that may lie right in front of their faces.

Well, not this time.  Today, my topic is simple.  I want to brag on my friend, Rob.

robbobbi

Rob and Bobbi Jo

First, let me introduce you them as a couple. These are my friends Bobbi Jo and Rob.  Cute, huh?  Everybody say, “Hi Bobbi Jo and Rob!”  (Did you do it?  Out loud?  Okay, good.)  Now, Bobbi Jo and I have gotten pretty close over the past few years.  We met through theatre and have had lots of fun working on various shows together.

Well, most of the time it was fun anyway. Here’s a picture of her slapping me in the face during one of our shows….*sigh*

bobbijo

“Mama Won’t Fly” – March 2014 Ashe County Little Theatre

(Okay, I admit it.  That was actually fun, too….)

Now, I adore Bobbi Jo. She’s one of my favorite people in this world. I’m so glad to have gotten to know her and her family and am certain my life is better for it.  In fact, she’s the one that will be taking pictures at my wedding!  Talk about a wedding gift!  But for this blog, I’m going to switch gears for a bit.  I want to tell you about her husband.

As it is in most cases with female friends, I know Bobbi’s husband, of course. But I never found myself in a situation where we were able to talk much.  Seemed like a pretty cool guy, but I didn’t know him like I knew Bobbi. But lately, that has changed.

WUDflyer

Rob, who had never been involved in theatre before, decided to dabble a little after seeing his wife get involved.  He started helping with tech work, helped build a few sets, even had a few non-speaking roles here and there. But then, much to his surprise, after deciding to audition for our current show, Wait Until Dark, by Frederick Knott, Rob was cast as one of the lead roles, Mike.

Now, I don’t know if my readers know much about this show or not.  You may have seen the movie back in the 60s starring Audrey Hepburn and Alan Arkin?  Basically, it’s the story of a blind woman (played by yours truly) who is “befriended” by a con man (played by Rob) who, while working with two other conmen, is trying to get back something that this blind woman unknowingly possesses. The role played by Rob is no joke, people. It’s difficult. He’s not only playing a character, but he’s playing a character who is conning someone else. Meaning, he is essentially playing two roles in one…and doing it all with a blind co-star.

Pretty easy work for a newbie, wouldn’t you say? Ha!

Now, anyone who has been involved in theatre for years like I have will tell you this – chemistry between actors who are working together is extremely important. If you can’t work well together before the curtain rises, the audience is going to recognize that once the lights are on you. They may not be able to pinpoint exactly what is missing, but they will know that something is. And, almost always, that missing component is chemistry. And, in this case, the chemistry between the roles Rob and I play is even more important because the connection between the two is what carries the show. The audience has to buy that the blind woman has become friends with this man before the con (the central plot of the play) is going to work.

So, Rob and I had a challenge before us. It was time to get to know each other…to learn to work together. And honestly, I think we have done a pretty good job of that in the past few months of rehearsals. We know each other a little better than we did before. We now consider each other friends – no longer any need for the terms “my wife’s friend” or my “friend’s husband.”  We were going to be just fine. The show was going to be just fine. We were ready for opening night tomorrow.

But then last night…. hmmm….how do I put this? Let’s just say that last night something happened that pushed us over the edge of “fine.” Last night, I discovered something in Rob that I didn’t know was there before.  Last night, I realized that our work together isn’t going to just be fine.

It’s going to be phenomenal.

And here’s why.

Last night, Rob and I got faced with an actor’s biggest nightmare.  Now, granted, let me go ahead and give the disclaimer that it wasn’t a show night.  We are still in tech week rehearsals, and this was our second-to-last dress rehearsal before the “real” opening night on Friday.  But, as it often happens with dress rehearsals, we had a few audience members here and there…a few friends, family members, other theatre friends, etc.  And, in the world of theatre (and any other performance art), an audience of even just one person is still an audience. In our minds, it was “go time.”

Well, part of tech week is working out the little hidden, last-minute kinks that tend to present themselves. And last night?  Yeah, last night there was a kink. A big one.  One of our other actors had a major costume change that was being implemented for the first time between scenes.  In the process of this actor’s “conning,” he goes from one character to another – which involves a pretty drastic change in appearance.  And this change in appearance requires a rather lengthy costume change.  A little more “lengthy” than any of us were expecting.

So, let me set the stage for you.  (heh…See what I did there?)

“Mike” (Rob) and I have just been involved in a scene where a “police sergeant” (not really – it was another conman) has been asking me a lot of uncomfortable questions. In part of their “good cop/bad cop” routine, Mike defends me and manages to make the sergeant go away and leave me alone. But just after the sergeant’s exit, another conman is supposed to arrive at the door.

You following me? So, here Rob and I were onstage, mid-scene. Sergeant leaves, doorbell rings, Rob goes to answer the door and….

Yep, you guessed it.

No one was there.

Now, we actors have this technical phrase that pops into our heads anytime something unexpected (like a missed entrance) happens onstage. It goes something like this…

OH SHIT!

But you want to know what Rob did?  Rob – newbie Rob – opens the door, sees no one is there and simple says, “Huh. There’s no one there.”  He then calmly closes the door, comes back down the stairs, and starts a completely improv conversation with me. Just like that. He kept his cool and kept the conversation flowing. The two of us completely made up a complete conversation so the audience wouldn’t realize something was wrong…and that conversation was completely lead not by the veteran actor that has been onstage for 20 years, mind you, but by the person who was speaking in front of an audience for the first time in his life.

Wow.  That’s all.  Just wow.

So, you hear those stories about how people go through tragedies together and it brings them closer, right?  Survivors of airplane crashes, first aid heroes and the injured, things like that. Well, on a somewhat smaller scale (but to an actor, not really), I feel like that’s what happened last night with us.  We survived!  We got offstage and I practically bear hugged the dude. He saved our butts real good with that one.

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Cast and crew of Wait Until Dark – ACLT Oct 17-19, 2014

So, there you have it, folks.  Today’s blog was just a tribute to my co-actor and friend, Rob Scott. Want to see him and all the rest of this extremely talented cast in the show this weekend?  (And btw, no worries – we have those timing kinks all worked out….) 😉  Then come on down to the Ashe Civic Center in West Jefferson, North Carolina this weekend.  We’d love to have you join us.  Come see what all the fuss is about.  Come watch the hard work and dedication that a small group of talented volunteers have put together solely for your entertainment. And trust me – you will be entertained.  Maybe even a little spooked, to tell ya the truth.

Hey, don’t say I didn’t warn ya.

And do me a favor, won’t you?  After the curtain falls and you’re shaking hands with the actors who have brought this show to you…give my friend Rob an extra little pat on the back, won’t you?  I’m not sure he realizes how much he deserves it.

See you there!

***

“Walking with a friend in the dark is better than walking alone in the light.”
– Helen Keller

Robin Williams

“This news hit me as if I actually knew him.” – random Facebook poster

Robin%20Williams-7I want to talk about Robin Williams.

But I don’t just want to talk about him per se. I want to talk about why the news of his death yesterday hit so many people in such profound ways.

Now, first of all, I’m no psychologist. I have no degrees in psychology or sociology or psychiatry or anything else that ends in a “y.” I’m no expert. But now that those disclaimers are out of the way, let me tell what I am.

Human.

And being human [See what I did there?], that makes me somewhat adept at understanding my fellow humans. (Well, sometimes….) In fact, I’m pretty fascinated with other humans. Why they do what they do, what motivates them, what makes them so different, so alike, etc. And a few of my fellow humans have had a response to Robin Williams’s death that is reminiscent of the responses to many other previous celebrity deaths. What response is that, you ask?  Let me summarize:

Why do people care so much about a celebrity death? Stop posting all of these “RIP” messages on Facebook for someone you don’t even know. What about all the senseless deaths in Gaza, Iraq, etc. etc. Get your priorities straight, people! Being famous doesn’t make his life any more meaningful than anyone else’s. What about the soldiers that die every day? What about this, what about that…why is he getting so much attention? It’s a shame you people don’t put as much thought into the real problems of the world as you do into some celebrity’s death…

And so on and so forth.

You’ve seen them, right?  Maybe you’ve even posted them? Or at least thought them.  And hey, I get it. I do. I hear what you’re saying. I really do.

But I want to tell you why you’re wrong.

I used to be the same way. Seeing the outpouring of grief over a celebrity used to fill me with almost a bitterness in a way. I had all those above thoughts, and more. But this time is just different somehow. Hearing of the death of Robin Williams suddenly made me understand something that I didn’t understand before about celebrity death grief.

I just lost someone I know.

Now, of course, I don’t really know Robin Williams. I’ve never met the man. But, like my fiancé Richard said when he heard the news, “I feel like I grew up with him.” See, that’s just it. Robin Williams, and other celebrities, are people that have impacted our lives in one way or another. We turn on the TV, and there they are. We watch a movie, and there they are. They portray situations and events in their roles that give us something to identify with. We remember them.  Especially actors like Robin Williams – the ones who have been around for quite a while. We connect them to events from our past because they were there.

Let me explain.

When I think of Robin Williams, the first thing that immediately pops into my head is Mrs. Doubtfire.  And let me tell you why.  The movie Mrs. Doubtfire first became popular right around the time that I was living in Germany. There’s a scene in the end of Mrs. Doubtfire where Robin Williams, dressed as the old lady “nanny,” gives a speech about parents and children.  He talks about their physical location and the love that remains between a parent and child no matter the distance that may be between them. I hadn’t seen the movie, but I can remember opening a letter from my dad back in the states (my step-dad was the one in the military and I lived primarily with him and my mom), and in the letter my dad told me to be sure to watch that movie. He said there was something at the end that he wanted me to pay special attention to.  So, when I watched it, and heard that part, I cried.  I knew my daddy loved me…even though I had only seen him twice in three years.

And you know who was there for that moment that I remember so well?  Robin Williams.

I know that’s a stretch. But psychologically speaking, I don’t think I’m the only one who connects these people to events from my past. They’ve always been there. We’ve always known them.

And then they’re gone.

And in the case of Robin Williams – here we have lost this man who, on the surface, appeared to be full of happiness and laughter. And what took his life?  Depression. Oh, how we can relate with that.  Don’t lie – you know you can.  Who among us hasn’t felt depression?  Obviously not to the extent that he must have, poor man, but we know that feeling. We know the overwhelming sadness. And, we know what it feels like to paint a smile on to cover it up. We identify with Robin Williams. We identify with his family, with his pain, with their pain. We have lost one of our own.

It’s not a sadness that needs to be belittled.

Now, I’m not saying that the other events of the world are not worthy of our attention. Of course, we need to be saddened by all of the atrocities that are occurring overseas right now. But, thank the good Lord, we can’t identify with those atrocities like we can with the death of Robin Williams. We feel the most deeply over things that affect us. Maybe that’s selfish, but it’s just human nature.

Think how silly it sounds if you put it this way. What if mine and your fathers both passed away at the same time, and I got downright angry at you because you weren’t as sad over my father’s death as you were over your own father’s death. How ridiculous is that?  Of course, you’re not going to be as saddened over my family member as you would be over your own. You know your father, you don’t know mine. Both are human lives that are lost, but one affects you more than the other. It’s just the way it is.

See the connection?

And that’s all I want to say about that.

Rest in peace, Robin Williams. I am so sorry for the loss that your family is facing right now and for the pain that you felt while you were here on this Earth. I hope you know what a legacy you have left behind you, and I hope you and your family will get the respect that you deserve through this devastating time.

Thank you for being here.

Thank you for the memories.

Thank you for giving us the laughter that you couldn’t seem to find for yourself.

***

“No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.”
– Robin Williams

The Company You Keep

“You are known by the company you keep.”
– Heather Dubrow

I noticed something this week that I would like to share with you.

See that quote up there?  I’ve heard that sort of thing all my life. I always applied it to friendships and the workplace and things of that nature.  But something else has just recently dawned on me. The company that I keep is not really friends or coworkers at all. The people I’m around the most is my family.  And I want to tell you a little something about a few of them.

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Richard and Kelly

See these gorgeous creatures right here?  This is my boyfriend Richard and my daughter Kelly. Now, between Richard and I, we have a total of four children.  But for various reasons (other parents, summer commitments, etc.), the other three aren’t around quite as much as Kelly is these days. So, more often than not, it’s just the three of us spending time together. That makes them the two people that I spend most of my life with.  The “company I keep” if you will.

And I want to tell you a little something about them.

This week my community theatre is putting on a marvelous production of Les Misérables. This is a massive musical that is not known to be done by small community theatres…but ours didn’t let that silly little fact stop them.  Now, usually, I would be involved in the show since I’m the actor in the family.  But I decided to sit this one out for a while. I just didn’t think I had the energy to put into it (you can’t imagine the time and dedication it takes to put on any musical – much less this one! – unless you’ve been involved in one before).  But, as it turns out, I ended up being the only one of our little threesome that wasn’t involved.  Both Richard and Kelly volunteered their time to be “techies.”

Now, for this past week (the week that has lead up to the show), Richard and Kelly have been scarce.  They have spent their every waking moment at the theatre.  This is quite a turn of events for me.  Usually I’m the one at the theatre while the rest of my family sits at home wondering how late I’ll be coming home. It was odd being on the receiving end of that for a change. However, I honestly haven’t minded the time alone. I was able to catch up on some laundry, some cleaning, some reading…and some thinking.  While piddling around the house last night (opening night!), a thought crept into my mind:  My boyfriend and my daughter are just friggin awesome.

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The Southern House in Transit

Now, I’ve always known this, of course.  This wasn’t a “new” thought.  But last night, I had something specific to apply it to.

For those of you who don’t know, Richard is a musician.  He’ll tell you he plays the drums but just owns a guitar – but he’s full of it. He plays them both and is wonderful at it.  Oh, and he sings, too.  This man who has the ability and talent to get up in front of audiences and make beautiful music (even making some decent money at it at times), has spent the past few weeks of his life volunteering to help others sound their best. He’s the one you won’t see when you go see this phenomenal performance, but everything you hear will be because of him. The man who makes music is just as happy (if not happier) this week in the shadows watching as he makes sure you can hear the actors making music.

I don’t know, man.  There’s just something about that.  Such humility. Such a lack of need for attention or applause.  The ability to derive pleasure from helping others receive recognition.  That’s no small feat, in my little book.

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Kelly as Annie

And then there’s my little Kelly.

Kelly is no stranger to the spotlight.  This is the girl who played the role of Annie last year to five straight sold-out audiences.  She got up in front of hundreds of people and sang her heart out, while “Sandy” jumped on her, licked her face, sniffed in her pockets for the treats she knew were there…etc.  I’m telling you, Kelly was a pro. It’s hard enough to trust other actors when you’re onstage, but to get through an entire scene with just you and a canine as your co-star…and while singing!?…let’s just say this kid earned some serious points in my respect book for those awesome skills.  But you know what I respect even more?

The role she’s playing now.

That’s right.  This week, little Annie’s redhead is nowhere to be seen.  That spotlight that she knew so well last year?  She’s now sitting behind it.  She’s the follow spot operator.  She is making sure that you can see others as they shine.  And you know what?  She loves it.  Like I mentioned before – that takes a special kind of person.  A person who is not looking for recognition, but just wants to help.  She’s just as happy shining the light on others as she was feeling it on her own face as she played a title role to a sold-out audience. In fact, I think she’s a bit happier doing what she’s doing now.

Wow.

I hope you don’t mind the fact that I took an entire blog to give a shout-out to these two wonderful people in my life.  If that old saying is true – if you really are known by the company you keep – then I can’t even begin to tell you how proud I am to be known as the mom to that hard-working little girl and the one who is loved by that humble, talented man.

What a lucky lady am I.

***

company