It’s Cute, How I Thought I Knew Some Stuff

3 Jan


Tonight was the first of what I will refer to as “The Lady B Sessions,” so called, as it is a project in which my dearest former Mama (Lady Bracknell) and I (her former Gwendolen), collect her fifty years of theatre, polish it up bright as a new penny, and build it into a one-woman show.

After shooting her a 70-question Q&A sheet a-la “Inside The Actors Studio” for prep, I arrived with pad and pencil in hand, stayed thru dinner, dessert, and tea…until, I finally kicked myself out of the poor woman’s house, 5.5 hours later.

…From this, I have exactly one page of written notes and the original question sheet print-out, with zero minutes of what I’d planned to record digitally.

I am a lousy documentarian, all of a sudden.

…Which is super inconvenient, when you are starting research on a one-woman show…

…But it isn’t all my fault.

I blame Ezra Stone. And Sara Seeger. Also Opera stars: Dorothy Kirsten, Richard Tucker, Anna Moffo, Sherrill Milnes, and Marilyn Horne.

…I blame Rogers & Hammerstein, Gilbert & Sullivan, Puccini, Verdi, Wagner, and Offenbach…as well Oscar Wilde, Tennessee Williams, Richard Nash, Michael Cristofer, Alfred Uhry, and James Goldman.

…I blame The Metropolitan Opera, Polish theatre tours, La Boem, downstairs Czechoslovakian dinner-swaps, music theory, Amelia Earhart, WWII, original snapshots of major film stars from the late 40’s, Concerts in England, theatre in Germany, Holocaust Memorials, the American Airforce, and Betty Buckley.

…This is but a grain of what makes up the entire freakin beach, which could only fit in the first five-and-a-half hours conversation about this one woman’s life.

Her Mentors, her costars, her roles, the people she’s met… across fifty years: Solid gold.

…The more I listened and gaped with my mouth hanging open, and head nodding in reply, the less and less I felt sufficient to share table and tea with her, never mind the stage.

I was frankly hypnotized. For over five hours.

THIS is what a career in theatre means…even though she claims to have “never really gone pro.” If THESE are the stories, the people you work with, the memories you make, even without a Union Card under your belt…I feel ever so much more secure about my artistic future…lemme tell you.

…Provided (of course) I’ve got the “it” which is required to keep going. Which she so obviously does…to the point of brain-spinning brownout.

My mind has absolutely no idea where to start, how to filter this information between what she laughing refers to as, “only the good and interesting stuff,” and “other”…and fit it all into a neat and sleek little 90-minute or less package.

Fifty years in Opera and Theatre…from American soil to Europe, and back again. I’ve acted with this woman on stage, ate from her plates, sipped her tea…and she’s entrusting me to help collect all her memories into a piece worthy of the grande dame she doesn’t even realize she is.

…I gotta tell yuh: I used to think I knew some stuff. But that was like six hours ago. I know better now.

These two feeble pages of notes, are laughing at me as my brain circles back to Blackheath, Mobile, Frankfurt, Seattle, New York and all the places in between.

…How in the hell do you fit 50 years of that into an hour-and-a-half?

…And when in heaven’s name do I get to go back, and hear more of it?!?!


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