Tuesday, November 14, 2006
Summer and Smoke
During my long-ago undergraduate years, I took an acting class because it was the only thing that would work with my schedule, and I needed it for a humanities requirement. As I loathe theater, I'd never given the stage much thought. At my high school, our theater department was run by a sweet woman named Betty with a thick braid that below her waist and consisted of a few people who fancied themselves actors (intense brooding conversations, lots of vests with decorative pins on them) and another class of mentally challenged students whose acting troupe was named, rather unfortunately, The Betty's Specials. And I've always found musicals loathesome; I can't get around the whole singing and dancing for no apparent reason thing. I'm able to suspend my belief in all sorts of ways, but not this one. So I was not, as Christopher Guest says in Waiting for Guffman, going to Broadway!
Even so, I was excited about the college acting class -- we had to do a try-out during our first week which consisted of picking a small piece to perform in front of the class. I chose a Sylvia Plath medley, and man, was it not good unless you consider my inadvertent potrayal of a lobotomized, lithium-addled woman who knew a lot of Sylvia Plath poems a triumph. Our teacher had one rule for these first performances -- the class had to clap for everyone, or they wouldn't be allowed to clap for anyone. Most of us voted not to clap at all, the generosity from the would-be performer in us completely underwhelming. Over the course of four months, I improved. It would be hard not to, given where I'd started. My last role was a spinster aunt in Summer and Smoke. Our instructor divided all the girls up into two groups -- fat and thin, character actress or hot young thing. Ever the kind soul, he said that our weight would determine our role in the real world so we'd do well to get used to it now or stop stuffing our faces like hogs (his exact words). He put me in the fat group, even though I weighed about a hundred pounds soaking weight. You're in with the large ones, he said, because you have a heaviness about you. I took it as a compliment -- all my life, I longed to be taken seriously. When I delivered my scene, my instructor said, I've never heard someone sound so sad in that part. It wasn't much, but I clung to the praise like my life depended on it. I might not have been an actor, but the ego part, the clawing insecurity and desperation to be loved, well, that I had down.
Michelle's Spell of the Day
"We have created enchantment." Tennessee Williams
Drinking movie suggestion: Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? I usually don't think plays translate well to movies, but this one is absolutely brilliant and has the added bonus of Dick Burton and Liz Taylor having a high old time as a couple on the brink of a nervous breakdown.
Benedictions and Maledictions