So I’m watching film about actors in the theatre…which is like my favorite thing.
…You know: “All About Eve,” “Bullet’s Over Broadway,” Being Julia, ” “Noises Off,” “A Midwinters Tale,” “Somewhere In Time,” “Mrs. Henderson Presents,” “Curtain Call, ” Stage Fright,” “Tootsie,” “Waiting For Guffman,” “Shakespeare In Love,” every Mickey & Judy movie…to name a few?
…I’m secretly addicted to this practice. It’s like the best of both worlds. You get your cinema effects and star power on instant never-aged replay for life, but your little foreign freak world of hysterical “will they make it work or not” deal, of the world I know best. Plus really good smarmy one-liners. Cuz it’s internationally known that “actors” are whip-smart diva-bitches. Like, as a race.
It’s always fun when actors get to make fun of actors. No one knows how fucking neurotic we are better than ourselves. We can slip-stream right to the guts of it and make the “ouch” of truth, fucking hysterical. Cuz we are crazy freaks in our own way…not always the media-enhanced one, but faintly strange non-the-less. And we know it. We know the normals know it. And they know we know we know it. So to see one of us, BE one of us in all our process-filled glory, is a secret delight.
…Maybe because in true fashion of how the world looks at us, everything in all of life seems to be about an Actor when an Actor is in the room. Which is not (I guarantee you) the fact as it stands. Almost nothing is about us. Ask my creditors, and customers I serve 40 hours a week…the reports I run, the laundry that needs doing, groceries that need to be bought, the sleep I don’t get.
Actors are just people. And while it might be weird to think that Meryl Streep buys toilet paper…so did your first grade teacher, and you got over that whole shock and awe moment in the grocery aisle once…so maybe you’ll survive this too.
Thanks to my taxes I just filed, I happen to know for a fact that in 2013 in five shows, I’ve gone to 107 rehearsals, did 63 performances and traveled 5,958.36 miles. So that’s 170 days out of 365…and on most of those I also pulled a full 8 hour shift at the office. So sure, it’s my “career” and my “other full time job,” but if you think my landlord, or the guy I sell a garage to at work gives a flying shit, you are sorely mistaken. Like “theatre,” the cinema about it is a heightened reality of the truth…it shows what we want to think of as the lifestyle in the best of circumstances. Which means it’s semi-autobiographical…but only in the “working like a sunofabitch” sense.
…For instance: I’ve never known anyone who shows up to the theatre in full makeup, hair, and designer threads, with an entourage of handler’s in their wake. Even the famous people. We all show up the same way: looking like junkyards…it’s what yoga pants and oversized sunglasses are for. This is also true of our dressing rooms. They are never the elegant well-lit mirror-fest of solitary joy, full of flowers and blue M&M’s. It’s 99% of the time, a tiny pit, in the back corner or bowls of the stage, populated by anywhere from 4 to 47 other people. Even the nice theatres upkeep this tradition. A face-lift in the lobby and front-of-house…state-of-the-art sound systems and light boards mean dick to the non air-conditioned backstage, sweat fest, badly lit, real-deal where we all live.
…But for some reason, film (for the most part) likes to glamorize us while simultaneously showing how socially fucked up we are. Basically this makes it 50% right. Films like “Bullets Over Broadway” and “Noises Off” capitalize on the sheer ridiculousness of our lifestyle…the stakes we play at, how bad the really bad can be…and how psychotic we must be to do it all voluntarily. This is mostly true. Which is the sad/hysterical truth. Films like “Being Julia” and anything by Noel Coward, like to give us “class” and grandeur, wit and elegance. This is true maybe 5% of the time, though we’d like to claim it as biographical truth…yet it is difficult to be those things while sweating like a motherfucker, through endless quick changes, and wig swaps, in period underwear that keeps riding up, with an audience full of coughers.
…Mickey and Judy “lets put on a show” films are basically like tech week with teenagers…and don’t even get me started on the faux reverence of “Shakespeare” and his haloed language, when it’s contemporary people trying to wrap their heads around an inside joke that’s hundreds of years old, and relate it to people in the seats more occupied with remembering to pay their gas bill than watch a show right now.
In my opinion, there is one perfect example of theatre as shown by film. and that is Mankowitz’s “All About Eve.”
…Prob’ly cuz it was written and directed by a theatre boy from way back. He should know. And he gets so much of it right…from the raw longing, to the near misses and near hits, to the dive dressing rooms, and bliss of Openings…the politics…the power plays…the self-conscious aches, euphoric highs and shitty, shitty lows…showmances, and sexual drive…to sense of family and loyalty…all rolled into one. As well as the smarmy, bitchy, luscious extravagance of quick wits and one-uppers. Basically, it’s creative sex on film for the theatre kid. It’s our story, told extremely well…by people who get it…by people who were there.
…By people who got us here.
…So it goes that sometimes, I open up the decedent little box of joy that is the story of our life in what we do, and I watch it. Not, I think, for nepotism. Mostly for sense of “togetherness.” Like Christmas dinner with the family.
…It’s a strange little freak of a gene pool…but it’s mine. And I love it.