Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Love, Loss and What I Remember

Circa 1994 - Clearly giving Meryl Streep a run for her money.
Way back in the olden days, when I was a single parent and had memory cells in my brain . . . (Hmmm...startling revelation: The disappearance of memory cells began when I was a single parent . . . interesting.)

Where was I? Oh, yes . . . the olden days . . . when we had more remotes than chargers. In an effort to provide more enriching stimulation than the afterschool snack-time fare of Fresh Prince of Bel Air and what I later found out to be the traumatizing family fun time Saturday night viewing of Profiler, I began to audition and be cast in plays with the new community theater group in our small town. The motivation for deciding to involve myself in an activity that would force me out of the house was to provide a strong and culturally competent role model for my children. Because, honestly, if I didn’t feel so pressured to be Super Mom, I would have sat with my kids as much as possible in front of the TV.  Back then it was a time when we were all engaged in the same thing; talking, laughing or evidently cowering, as I found out when I read Christopher’s third-grade year-end “About Me” book. His greatest joy? His greatest fear? The character Jack-of-all-trades from the show I made him sit through every Saturday night at 9pm. I thought staying up with me and Annie was a special treat; turns out I was terrifying him every week. Single parenting decisions: sometimes you nail them, sometimes they go tragically off-the-mark.

Once I had been in a couple of productions, Annie started doing some of the kid’s shows. This meant Christopher had to come along to either hang out backstage or venture onstage as the “Boy” or some other animal or fairy.  (God. This poor kid...what did I do to him??)  Mostly, it was a fun family activity and the only terrifying part was whether or not I’d remember my lines when the curtain went up. The great thing was--I usually did. I might have flubbed a line or two here and there, but as I was told by a friend one night and never forgot--the audience doesn’t have the script. They don’t know when I’ve dropped a line.  And it was community theater, so many of the residents of the community in which I lived were present at our shows. They were too nice to be too critical of my performances . . . you never know when a single mother will burst into tears.

As time went by, the kids got older and soccer and other divergent activities took precedence and I stopped auditioning. It was fine; although I was a drama major in college, I hadn’t really set my sights on a career as a thespian. The dose of acting I got during those wonderful days of rehearsals and productions, Coward and Shakespeare, donated props and expertly created costumes was enough to tide me over. Forever, if you’d asked me then. But apparently, only until now.

Despite the fact that I can barely remember why I open the refrigerator door, each Tuesday and Thursday night until the middle of December, I am going to leave my home and travel to the next town over to rehearse lines for an hour or two. The show is Love, Loss and What I Wore, written by Nora Ephron and Delia Ephron, and based on the book by Ilene Beckerman. If you look closely, you can see why I made the insane decision to put myself in what will undoubtedly be at best, a hoot and at worst, a spectacle along the lines of Sally Field’s Oscar acceptance speech. First of all, I don’t have to remember the lines! It’s a staged reading . . . no memorization! Next, it’s by Nora Ephron. She has been an inspiration for my own work for many, many years. When I auditioned, I read the essay, “I Hate My Purse” which I guess was included in the script because Nora wrote it and she could put anything in it she wanted. I wished very hard to get that role; but I didn’t.  Acting in a play by Nora Ephron would be like living a little bit inside her brain and I wanted that experience. And then, if those two little omens weren’t enough, it was being produced in Woodbury, the former small town where I began my illustrious acting career over 20 years ago. How could I say no? Or rather, I hoped I could say yes, providing they offered me a part.

They did. I have a short monologue all my own and I am part of several ensemble pieces; all about women, clothing, humor, love and loss. Being in a play is a little like riding a bike in that once you try it after a long period of time, it feels very familiar. You just have to work out the rusty spots. I am a little nervous, too. I’ve been doing readings and talks since my book has been out, so one might imagine I have some confidence about getting up in front of hundreds of people and hope words come out of my mouth and not, say, spit. I’ll have the script--magnified--in front of me, but I’ll still need my glasses to read it. But I get to read it. It is feeling like an opportunity to try something out, or maybe revisit something I once loved, but had to push aside for other obligations and responsibilities. It is truly both an exciting and terrifying ambition and I can’t wait for opening night.

I hope I remember to show up.

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