Magic time

Anyone who knows anything about the great John Uhler “Jack” Lemmon will get the title of the blog tonight.

Tonight I went to a fairly new theater space (to me) to read a couple of brand new (to me) works by a new (to me) author, with actors I have never met before, in front of audience members who don’t know me.

Usually on the 2nd Tuesday of the month, I go to a familiar place with familiar people, and though the works are new, I feel comfortable. It’s my theatrical “home” at Cleveland Public Theater, has been since they cast me in my first post-college show way back in 1992. They didn’t know my “type” back then, and cast me as Anne Frank’s older sister in a drama about Ethel Rosenberg’s last days in prison before she got the chair. I not only had to have a slight Dutch accent, I spent a chunk of the end of act one reciting prayers in Hebrew, alone, in front of a candle on the stage so raked an actor fell off of her heels on it during one performance.So yeah, that show was a lot of work; the good kind of work. They took a chance on me and it paid off, for both me and the theater, I like to think, since they have continued to hire me for shit periodically for like 20 years now.

I’m branching out in my “new leaf” identity. The writer of tonight’s work saw me in something at CPT, and then saw me at something I did recently at Ensemble, an East side theater, where I was once again cast against type a couple of months ago at my first appearance there, which has opened doors.

Sports traffic downtown nearly made it all impossible, but living here for more than 20 years has made me cognizant of every shortcut for every traffic eventuality, and I managed to get there on time. Five minutes before when I said I’d be there, even. We quickly read through the two pieces I was in, me and the other new-to-me people, and found our voice together. The guy who played my husband in the second piece looks a lot like the character Tom Keen in the Blacklist, one of my favorite TV shows, and I kept calling him “Tom” in my mind and couldn’t remember his real name. We made up a hilarious backstory for our characters prior to the evening’s beginning, riffing and making jokes and improvising dialogue, as actors are wont to do, with the writer/director adding his bits as well.

The readings went great. I am always self conscious when I read at a music stand and the audience just watches me, but years of orchestra training taught me; don’t move when it’s not your time to move. Be present, and focused, and a part of the piece if you are in it, but don’t animate yourself until it’s time to do so. I’m now very comfortable in that spot. I imagine the people out there want me to succeed in whatever I am bringing them, and I have no nervousness at all.

After the short plays I was in were read, a few people came and introduced themselves to me, and complimented me on my work, which is such a gift. “You know so-and-so from the theater, then?” one of them asked, meaning Tom Keen Whose Real Name I Can’t Remember, and I said oh no, I just met him tonight; all of them, in fact.

This is a particular dance that only creative types can play, and it is a wonderful, amazing thing. To show up, speak the same language and then sing together with little to no preparation, it’s amazing. Musicians can do this as well, as they all speak the language. I love when this happens, and so enjoyed meeting these new people tonight. We went out for a drink after and I learned what the younger generation is doing, and how people new to Cleveland are discovering it, and how they find it to be. I am now old enough to offer sage advice, which is both awesome and a little scary.

Despite my horrible, searingly bad sore throat, I made it through. Surely my glands will go back to normal size tomorrow.

It is a time for me of things being unsettled, and of little I can count on. And Mercury preparing for retrograde on Monday. I can’t count on moments like tonight happening, I just have to enjoy them when they do. I can’t prepare for the negative moments that are springing up, I just have to find a way to get through them, find the path through and go down it, one step at a time.

Last night, I dreamed that I completely forgot that I had my son this week, and forgot to pick him up from school. It’s the adult equivalent of the dream about test day in college, where you are unprepared, and haven’t done the reading, and can’t find the building. In the dream, I had stayed late at work to get a project finished, and planned to go straight to the theater. As I was walking to my car, I got a phone call; it was school aftercare. I hadn’t come to pick my son up and they were closing in 10 minutes. Them staying extra costs you money by the quarter hour. I usually pick him up a full hour and change before they close. I had to be at the theater in 20 minutes on the other side of town, and the sitter was already at my home waiting for me; she texted me and said she was waiting outside my home. I was panicked. Shaking, I tried to call the sitter to suggest she should pick up my son. But she is not on the approved list. She does not have a car seat. There was no way it would work. I would have go to home and get him, and rush him home, too quickly, drop him off too quickly, and then be too late to make my theater obligation on the other side of town. I had shot myself in the foot because I’d finally lost control of the organization, the calendar, the order of things, the plates I keep spinning. I was despondent and desperate and alone and sick with guilt. I was driving as fast as I could to school and trying to figure out if it was worse to be an hour late to the theater or to just outright cancel entirely, throwing my professionalism (which I pride myself on) into the garbage, when I woke up. I sat straight up in bed, covered with sweat and panting. I think I said something aloud, though I don’t know what. I had to go physically check on my son, sleeping soundly in his bed, to make SURE I hadn’t actually forgotten him somewhere. I felt like garbage, and a failure.

I know this is stress, and my current Spring cold, manifest. And that that was the low; I bounced back up to two different high points today, including the one tonight. But damn, the roller coaster gets exhausting.


2 thoughts on “Magic time

  1. Just discovered your blog. I remember seeing that CPT play about Ethel Rosenberg (being terrifiedly fascinated with the McCarthy Era), and vividly remember all the candles and your Kaddish (if Kaddish it was). Later got to meet and do a short film with the extraordinary Annie Kitral, who portrayed Ethel. Thanks for bringing back the memory.

    • I learned it phonetically from a recording I was given, and, as with most lines from plays, haven’t retained any of it so not sure if it was the Kaddish; I have the play on VHS somewhere and need to get it transferred to DVD as I would like to see it. Annie was and is amazing, it was such a pleasure to work with her; the whole cast, really. I’m glad you got to see it, and thanks for reading my blog.

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