I spend my summers acting. Sometimes I’m a Shakespearian court member or a soprano in the chorus, sometimes I’ve got something juicier. I don’t really care — I just love being a part of our wonderful group. I’m greedy, so this year I’m in both productions, Annie Get Your Gun and To Kill a Mockingbird. For Annie I’m Chief Eagle Feather, complete with blonde hair and Danish complexion, as well as singing as high as an A (below high C). Don’t think I could sing a B or a C, but fortunately I’m not called to. And our theater group, Greensboro Art Alliance and Residency (GAAR( is wonderful in finding ways for me to participate even though I can barely walk right now. I just limp onstage and cop and squat, then do lines or sing from that vantage point.
In Mockingbird I’m a 98 year old racist/morphine addict. I was also supposed to weigh 98 pounds but that seemed unlikely. Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubose is downright nasty, but beneath it all she’s a romantic. I can’t really soften her much, but I’m having fun saying awful things to the actors playing Scout and Jem.
Unfortunately I haven’t gotten much writing done. So today I’ve printed up what I have of HEARTLESS (working title for Brandon and Emma) and I’ll work on that during the downtime. I’m in three scenes in Act One and not sure how many in Act Two. In Mockingbird I’m dead by Act Two, so that should give me lots of time to work before curtain calls.
Acting is a great way to open your mind up to different forms of creativity. It’s easy-peasy for me to create a backstory for my characters, to know them in and out. It gets my mind going in different directions, which is always a good thing. And most of the actors (lots of them Equity members from NYC) are wonderful, particularly our artist in residence, Marla Shaffel, who was nominated for a Tony award for lead actress in a musical a few years ago. We’ve got a couple of stinkers, and every year I make a tentative gesture of friendliness towards them, only to be iced out. And then I ignore them. I do have a hard time understanding why people are unpleasant when it’s so much nicer to be warm and sharing, but that’s the way it is. I’m not cut our for a competitive environment (one reason I haven’t gone to RWA for a number of years. The other reason is that’s our theater season, and I get a lot more joy and satisfaction out of the plays).
Some summers I’ve written every spare moment and cherished the time I had. (Two summers ago). Some summers I’ve written grudgingly and resented it but I had a deadline (last year). This year my only deadline is my own, and I intend to do exactly what I want to do. Which is write this book — I need to live partly in my fantasy world to feel truly alive – and rehearse and hobble around and be glad I’m not in the madhouse at San Diego (though San Diego is a wonderful city).
Next year’s going to be a harder decision — it’s a choice between GAAR and our brand new multi-million dollar theater or Disney World. And I really really love Disney World.
Fortunately I don’t have to decide this year. I just have to get to rehearsal in 45 minutes and sing my little heart out as a Scandinavian Native American.