Played Hecate, a small part in Shakespeare’s Macbeth that was expanded to act as a sort of Greek chorus, observing all the main action. Produced by Monroe County Civic Theater. Directed by Sheila Butler. Performed at Third Street Park in Bloomington, IN. View photos.
Saturday is the start of the BloomingPlays development series. This weekend features two all-day workshops where plays are read and then structured feedback given immediately by the actors and audience. It’s a great way for playwrights to develop their work and hone their skills. The revised plays will be back in November and then January for additional reads.
Kindred, the one-act play I wrote with Lori Garraghty, is up for a read on Sunday at 2. I’m nervous about the feedback. It will be facilitated and I know people will be nice, but it’s always a little nerve-wracking to have someone critique your work!
I’ll also be reading the part of Lena in Auditions Saturday morning at 11. Sunday at 11 I’m in The Dragon’s Wrath. Both are full-length plays. They will be “table reads” but “without the table” as Tracy Bee says. The actors set in chairs on stage and read from the script. The facilitator reads the stage directions.
The most nerve-wracking part of all is a phone sex scene I have to play in The Dragon’s Wrath! Eek! I’ve never done anything like it and suspect it will be the source for ongoing mocking from Gabe, perhaps for the rest of my life. I’m wondering if I can have a coughing fit in the midst of it. I envision either being so embarrassed that I can’t pull it off, or laughing so hard I fall off my chair. Either is sufficiently mortifying. Ah, acting!
See the full schedule of readings at the BPP’s site and come out! It will be a lot of fun and a unique experience. You get to give feedback directly to playwrights, who may actually listen! Imagine! 😉 Seriously, come out. We’d love to hear from you.
Tanqueray in Men in Sheep’s Clothing. A seductive Southern belle who entices a “Bible-thumper” away from his path while her companion gives the other fundie a tongue-lashing. Few people seem to realize that the scene takes place in Hell and all four characters are damned souls.
C in Nicotine High. My best character name yet. Played a tough-talking “cop” who eventually drives two high-rise ledge climbers to jump. Ah, theatre!
Vintage Scenes is produced by the Bloomington Playwrights Project and was staged at Oliver Winery.
What a week. Started another round of Nell’s classes on Wednesday. Good group of people. I hurt my back while doing an exercise called “architecture” and was very bummed to have to sit out until we switched the form.
“Architecture” shows how little you have to do onstage to be interesting. You just pose your body using straight lines. Like standing upright and holding your arms bent at the elbow at 90 degrees or lying with your back on the floor and extending arms and legs upward. Three of us went at a time, which created fascinating relationships and negative space. She’d stop us periodically and have the viewers name the current tableau.
Auditions for Vintage Scenes
Right before Nell’s class, I scooted over to the BPP for Vintage Scenes auditions. This is a collection of short (3-page) scripts that are some of the favorite mini-plays from years past. I’d rehearsed 3 of the 6, so of course the ones we got asked to do were parts I hadn’t worked on.
I’d spent the day traveling and in high-stakes business meetings, so was completely fried. No idea what I wrote on the audition form. Wasn’t fully present. That contributed in part to my lack of nerves, which was disappointing. I need more auditions where I’m nervous so I can get used to that. It also helped that I was better than my partner—that doesn’t mean I was good, it just means I was a bit better! That helps build confidence. I left feeling disappointed that I hadn’t given my best.
I got the email next day that I’ll be playing a Southern lush in one of the plays (what non-typecasting! :-)) and “C” in a funny scene where A is trying to kill himself and B is just trying to smoke a cigarette—on the 30th floor. I’m looking forward to getting started.
That was Wednesday night. Friday I met Kevin and we recorded the latest iterations of Deadbird—oops, I mean Redbird. It’s not perfect but it’s close enough for the songwriting contest we’re entering. I really like working with Kevin—he knows So Much. The song has come along nicely. Hard to believe how depressed I was when I wrote it.
Saturday morning was Goddessdaughter #2’s blessingway, done at the UU church by Bill Breeden. It was a short and simple ceremony, but sweet enough to make me all weepy. (This bit obviously doesn’t count as performing arts, but I want to throw it in.) I gave her her gifts, but of course her favorite thing was a bundle of bread, salt, and coin that she could carry around. I love the ring I got for her. I hope she will, too, someday.
After a “I’m so stuffed” blessingway lunch at Opie’s, I burbled off to the BPP again for the staged readings of some of the plays for the ’09/’10 Bloomingplays. I read the part of Daisy in The Good Daughter.
It was interesting because I’d rehearsed with the voices of the 4 other characters in my head, but of course those parts weren’t read the way I’d heard them internally. So some of my stuff didn’t come out right, because I wasn’t reacting quickly enough to what was given me. It was a lot of fun though—theatre’s a helluva lot easier with a script in your hand!
Bob Berry of The Actor’s Workshop in Indy came up afterwards to ask me to read a part in his play, which will be read in August. I was terribly flattered and got a nice big bloated ego over it until I found out he’d asked 3 or 4 others, too! 🙂 A good come-uppance for me.
The final play was Kindred, the one I co-wrote with Lori. Margot read the part of Pam really well; much better than I could have done. It was so interesting to hear these parts that I’ve spent 4 years writing come out of the mouths of different actors. They find different things than I intended, which is a great experience for any artist to have. You let your creations out into the world and they take on lives of their own!
A group of us (rather raucously) went for drinks afterwards (which translates to “water” for me). Had a really good time with Gabe, Holly, Heather (in from NYC; I’d heard her do cabaret at Nell’s Midsummer Night’s Romp), and Rich. I feel like I want to get as much time with Rich as possible before he leaves in August.
This morning a larger group of us met for brunch at the Uptown. More hilarity, but with that bleary-eyed quality that comes from too many late nights. Gabe’s mom told a “I will embarrass you now” story about how he was born with bruised testicles. Perfect conversation for breakfast.
I wrapped up the day with a viewing of Douglas Fairbanks’ Robin Hood at the Buskirk-Chumley, accompanied by Hesperus. The advertising said the event was free but tickets were actually $25! I thought it was outrageous but paid anyway, since I’d so looked forward to it.
It was great fun to see him on big screen and especially to hear people hissing when the bad guys came onscreen and then cheering when The Hero Gets The Girl. The picture wasn’t filled with as many stunts as I expected, but it was good fun. I was also impressed with how much Errol Flynn’s version was clearly influenced by this version. What pressure there must have been, trying to walk in Douglas Fairbanks’ footprints!
I had to nap when I came home and then have quiet time with a book to calm my jittery brain. Now I’m off for some movie-watching, though I’m really in the mood for playing a game with friends like Scrabble or something. I get tired of trying to fill the hours but oh well. (Today’s another day where I think I might be depressed but the damn meds have altered my symptoms.) Onward!
I mentioned earlier that my co-written play Kindred made it into the 2009-2010 BloomingPlays festival. The cold reading/first reading of it is on 23 May at the BPP. Lori, my co-playwright, will play Pam, while our much-respected colleague Margot will play Rose (I can’t relate to a character who’s a member of the Junior League!).
Earlier that same day, I’ll be reading the part of Daisy in the new play The Good Daughter. It’s written by Brenda Hiatt Barber, about 30 minutes long, and is a great snapshot of family dynamics.
Like our play, it examines mother/daughter relationships, but in a more humorous way. Mom decides it’s time to stop living independently, so she offers a million dollars to any of her three daughters who’ll take her in. The daughters are very reluctant until they hear the dollar figure, at which point they start falling over each other to get at it.
Daisy’s a very fun character to play; vain, self-involved, a touch of Valley Girl, and lovable. She has some sort of issue with her sister Barbara — she’s continually needling her.
While the plays are supposed to be cold reads, I’ve been reading through my part silently and aloud like crazy. I might even have bits memorized by the time the read happens. Stop me now! I’m having fun. Thanks, BPP!
Nobody knows I have Mama’s white gloves, but I do. I was thirteen when I first saw them. Before that, I’d only seen them in the pictures.
The week after Mama’s funeral, Daddy and the boys were packing up all of Mama’s things. Daddy said it was too hard to have them in the house. And there they were, lying right there, on top of that box.
I think Mama would’ve wanted me to have them.
Sometimes I sleep with Mama’s white gloves under my pillow. Those are the nights when I have my favorite dreams.
I am looking through a keyhole, and on the other side is a glorious ballroom filled with men and women waltzing, almost as if they’re floating. They are all so well-dressed and look so stunning.
I see Mama. She is the most beautiful one there. She dances about and the music flows through her body and drifts through the keyhole and whispers into my ears. Mama smiles.
Tomorrow, I have to wear my own white gloves. Grandmother bought them for me. I don’t want to wear them, though—I’d rather wear Mama’s. I try my gloves on and my arms suffocate. It is horrible. When I wear Mama’s gloves, I am alive.
This is a backstory I wrote for the monologue Tatiana, written by an unknown playwright at the BPP. The monologue is about 2/3 page long and only hints at the recent past. I wanted to place Tatiana into a more extensive context, so I wrote this. Some of Mama’s history is drawn from the story of Irina Skariatina.
It is 1963. Tatiana sits in a tearoom in her Mississippi hometown, across from her maternal aunt. It is the day before her wedding. Tatiana is about to disclose a secret she’s never told anyone. For her aunt, the secret has much more resonance than Tatiana will ever know.
Tatiana has been raised as a Southern belle: polite, charming, well-behaved, and controlled. She had a very close bond with her mother (“Mama”), who died when Tatiana was 13. All Tatiana knows about her mother’s past is that Mama came from Russia a long time ago with Aunt and Great-Aunt and that they were part of the aristocracy in some way.
What we know:
Mama was raised in a large, aristocratic family and was a minor princess. She was born in 1906, the fourth of six children. After the Revolution, her family moved from city to city, trying to find a safe place. First her grandfather disappeared into Bolshevik hands, then her father. At that point her remaining family determined to attempt emigration. Great-Aunt went first with Mama and Aunt. Mama was 14. It was 1920.
Great-Aunt and the girls settled in Paris among the large Russian emigré population. Unbeknownst to the girls, Great-Aunt was pulling every string she could to try to get the rest of the family out of the Soviet Union. They had agreed to try to meet in Paris before deciding on a permanent home. Much to Great-Aunt’s frustration and fear, she heard nothing whatsoever from the family; indeed, she never heard from them again.
Great-Aunt and the girls stayed in Paris for two years, during which time Great-Aunt insisted on the girls’ keeping up their education and grooming for “polite society.” After seeing how quickly her finances were being exhausted, Great-Aunt determined to move to America in the hopes that she and the girls could leave the chaos of Europe behind and live comfortably within their means.
The threesome traveled to the United States, where Great-Aunt was drawn to the South for its culture of gracious hospitality among the well-to-do. She was actively grooming Mama, who was now 16, for a good marriage to a (preferably) wealthy man. While each of the threesome held onto mementos (photos, jewelry, clothing) from their past, they never spoke of Russia or the Bolshevik terrors again.
Even though Great-Aunt worked very hard to erase the girls’ Russian accents and replace them with a more Southern drawl, her efforts were only moderately successful. It took some time to break into polite society but their impeccable manners and air of mystery aided them.
Great-Aunt’s dream was realized when Mama married Daddy in early 1929. Mama was 23 at the time. Daddy was a landowner-turned-industrialist. Most importantly, he was rich. Great-Aunt and Aunt lived nearby until Aunt made her own, less “successful” marriage two years later.
The stock market crash and Depression didn’t affect Mama and Daddy’s social set to the extent it did so much of the nation, but they did recognize that times were tough. Still, they continued their old traditions of balls and debuts.
Mama gave birth to two boys (much to Daddy’s pride) and then, later, Tatiana. What no one but Mama ever knew was that Tatiana was named for the beautiful second daughter of Tsar Nicholas and Tsarina Alexandra.
Daddy was never much interested in Tatiana. Mama, though, bonded strongly with her. She would sometimes show Tatiana the photos she had smuggled out of Russia, naming each stiff, unsmiling, gorgeously arrayed relative until Tatiana could name them herself. It never occurred to Tatiana to ask where these people were. All she knew was that her mother was glamorous and beautiful, with a wonderful voice and impeccable manners that people still commented on.
Mama died unexpectedly after a brief illness when Tatiana was 13. Almost immediately, Daddy packed up everything of Mama’s, including the old photos, and took them away. It was during this process that Tatiana recognized a pair of white gloves from the photographs. She immediately stole them and hid them from her family.
What Tatiana does not know is that the gloves belonged originally to her maternal grandmother, then to Mama. Mama was to wear them at her formal presentation to court when she came of age, but the Revolution intervened. Her mother made sure that Mama took the gloves with her when she escaped the U.S.S.R. Tatiana has seen them on her maternal grandmother in those faded old photographs that Mama showed her, but is not conscious of it.
Tatiana’s Great-Aunt had a large, dominating personality which was matched only by Tatiana’s paternal Grandmother’s. When Great-Aunt died a few years after Mama, Grandmother filled whatever vacuum was left. Tatiana’s Aunt was more quiet, sympathetic, and sweet—a Russian-Southern angel. Aunt never talked about Mama but didn’t stop Tatiana from doing so.
All parties were determined to raise Tatiana as a proper Southern belle. Daddy didn’t bat an eye as Great-Aunt and Grandmother took Tatiana in hand after Mama died. Tatiana wanted to please them all. More than anything, she wanted to capture the elegance and grace of Mama. She idolized her memory and tried to do everything as she imagined Mama would have done. This sometimes brought her into conflict with Grandmother, who inevitably won. Tatiana confined her acts of rebellion to dancing with Mama’s gloves or sleeping with them under her pillow.
When it came time for Tatiana to think of marriage, she was oddly reluctant. She did not self-examine too closely. She just said that all the boys she knew were “boring.” The pressure from Daddy and especially Grandmother continued to mount until both said they would cut her off without a cent if she didn’t marry within the year.
By then, Tatiana was 26 and running out of options. She’d had a decent education but she was primarily trained to be a decorative ornament for her husband. After reviewing the few candidates remaining to her, she chose Frank, a middle-aged widower with plenty of money. Frank placidly accepted a year-long engagement but the day of the wedding is finally come.
Tatiana and Aunt are having tea in an establishment patronized by the wealthy of their town. About 15 years from now, Tatiana will rebel against the strictures of her society and her family and lead her own life, but today she is shocking herself giddy with a mad confession long held silent. She knows that she will squeeze her arms into her own white gloves tomorrow and be a beautiful and dutiful wife, but she is comfortably numb about exactly what that will entail.
Aunt is safe to confess to. She’s never been completely accepted by the family, partly because of her more gentle personality. Tatiana knows that her secrets will be safe with her. She is also subconsciously trying to reach out to Mama on this day before her wedding and reclaim some of that old wistful magic. To Tatiana, it feels like tomorrow is the end of her life.