Guts, Glitter, and The Birdcage

la cage banner

Over the past three weeks, I have seen Theatre Tallahassee’s production of La Cage aux Folles four times, including opening night and the closing performance. And I am happy to announce that I have finally figured out how to pronounce the title!

That’s enough, right? Goodbye.

…..just kidding….

I don’t know how I missed watching The Birdcage in my lifetime. Because I had not seen the Birdcage, the storyline and music were all pretty much “new” to me. I found myself repeating to people “I didn’t know there was so much life wisdom in La Cage aux Folles/The Birdcage.” It’s really not that complex:

RESPECT (Look Over There)

There is a point where Jean-Michel is explaining to his father the many disappointments of life with Albin as his other parent: the school shirt request that resulted in a blouse, the beatings from those who looked down on his parents’ lifestyle, the “lack of respect.” How many of us can look back at a time in our lives when we felt disrespected by someone who actually had only our best interests at heart?

How often is someone concerned
With the tiniest thread of your life?
Concerned with whatever you feel
And whatever you touch?

GUTS

I (as the Optimism Light) ended up using this lyric as a hashtag in a tweet congratulating Theatre Tallahassee on its sold out final weekend:

GutsGlitterThe only thing I would change is: I saw a lot of guts (not just a little) displayed over the course of this show. Actors who brought everything they had (and more) to the stage. Legions of people behind the scenes who brought the show to life. A storyline that reminds us that it takes courage to stand up for being exactly who each of us is meant to be.

We face life though it’s sometimes sweet and sometimes bitter;
Face life, with a little guts and lots of glitter.

THE BEST OF TIMES IS NOW

Admittedly, I have been struggling with embracing that this is “the best of times.” The demands of parenting, caretaking for an elderly relative, finding myself at a professional crossroads, and life in general have threatened to erode my usual optimistic outlook. All I can say is that four 2.5 hour shows gave me a total ten hours of powerful reminder that I am indeed fortunate to have the opportunity to keep forging ahead, and to remember that “now” is not something to take for granted. It is, for all its imperfections, “the best of times.”

Because the best of times is now,
Is now, is now.
Now, not some forgotten yesterday.
Now, tomorrow is too far away.
So hold this moment fast,
And live and love
As hard as you know how.
And make this moment last,
Because the best of times is now, is now.

I AM WHAT I AM

If there is just one thing I want my children to take away from a lifetime of being raised by me, it is to be happy with who they are, and to respect who everyone else is. These lyrics speak for themselves ….

I am what I am
I am my own special creation.

**

There’s one life, and there’s no return and no deposit;
One life, so it’s time to open up your closet.
Life’s not worth a damn ’til you can say,
“Hey world, I am what I am!”

Lyric hopping aside, a few more thoughts:

There may be other “show must go on” moments that I was not privy to, but I give the maddest of props to J. Brown, the actor who took over as Jean-Michel on less than 8 hours notice for the closing weekend. I know that can’t have been easy, but he pulled it off well. And displayed why it always is a good idea to be prepared to learn something on very short notice — you never know when your perfect opportunity may present itself.

Lastly, I am so thrilled that Tenley (my daughter) had the opportunity to work with this phenomenal cast, and the opportunity to hone her acting skills in the company of these people. The minute amount of acting I have done has convinced me that being in the company of others doing what they are passionate about is an energizing and affirming place to be. I have to admit that try as hard as I could to keep my mouth shut when I was seated next to someone I didn’t know, I usually couldn’t resist sharing “that’s my daughter.” Mom’s prerogative, right? Just proud and happy, that is all!

after la cage

Kudos to Director Naomi Rose-Mock, and all the cast and crew for a wonderful run. It may be a while before I can get this earworm out of my head … and that’s just fine with me!

cagelles

The Cagelles
Photo Credit: Caroline Sturtz Photography

Faster, With More Energy

I love being an extra on film sets.  When I try to pin down exactly why I love being an extra, I find that the reasons refuse to define themselves in a linear list.  I enjoy having a “bird’s eye” view of the production process, the great people I meet, and the sense of common purpose shared by cast and crew.  Because my full-time job is filled with tasks that will not show any type of defined outcome for years (if ever), it is nice knowing that putting in hours on set now will result in something to watch at an appointed time.  Here is me in a “jazz club” scene for Waking Eloise, an MFA thesis film I know I’ll get to see in August.  Hooray, a defined outcome!  (And note the look on my face because it applies later on in this blog.)

I have been auditioning at the FSU Film School twice a year for about five years now.  Until today, I chose one of the “sides” provided by the film school for each audition.  With these sides, one of the FSU Film students reads a part and I read the other while being filmed.  After the first reading, one of the students gives direction about how to read the part differently, and I read it again.  This time I did a monologue that I had chosen; doing so gave me the opportunity to memorize the part in advance.  I have found that trying to read material I am not that familiar with while also trying to emote and make eye contact with the other “actor”/the camera is disconcerting.

As much as I love being an extra, I discovered when I had an opportunity to have a speaking part in an FSU Film (Water Wings), that I love that too, and that the experience rocked my “I -want-to-express-myself-in-addition-to-being-a-mom-of-two-kids-with-a-full-time-job” mindset out of dormancy. (Read about it here.) When I prepared for Water Wings, my role was a monologue with several accusatory questions in a row:  “Why did you do this? Why did you need to hurt me? What was so wrong? What couldn’t you take?, etc.” When I practiced this at home, I spoke them as I read them, with pauses in between each question. As it turns out, the Director wanted more of a rapid fire delivery. Check.

It was in giving me feedback about today’s first monologue delivery that Aaron Nix summarized in four words an improvement I need to make in my acting (foreshadowed by Shane Spiegel’s direction in Water Wings) that I also want to make in my running (and in my life).

Faster, with more energy.
As of noon today when the audition occurred, I had not decided what the subject of tonight’s blog was going to be.  I still want to write about the “scientific so,” but that requires more research (pun intended) as does the reason that several convenience stores I frequent feature men’s undershirts and clean “tshirts” near the checkout (apparently sales are brisk, even at a significant markup).  But Aaron’s four words crystallized a great blog topic, so here goes.
Last night, in preparation for today’s audition, I decided to record myself delivering my monologue.  Someday, when my acting improves and if I accumulate additional credits, I’ll get a good laugh out of this.  There’s only so much you can do with your point and shoot camera when you are holding it at arms’ length and recording yourself, but I saw enough to decided that a) my glasses create a barrier that doesn’t help me engage and b) my delivery was so low-key that I wouldn’t want to watch me! 
With Aaron’s feedback about my second delivery today, the direction I received in Water Wings, and my own observation from my self-recording last night, I am starting to detect a theme!!  Furthermore, what’s with that de-energized look on my face in the shot from “Waking Eloise”?
It’s exactly what I want out of my running:  Faster, with more energy.
For running, getting to that sub 30 5K is obviously going to require “faster,” but the “more energy” part is something I can tackle.  I think sometimes I apply restraint to my running on the premise that I need to conserve energy when there’s more need to push myself, and to apply more energy to the things in my life that can improve my running, like better eating habits and more challenging cross training.
As for acting, I love it therefore it’s time to figure out how to get to “faster, with  more energy.”  As Seth Godin says in his blog about the dangers of the category of “neither”, “If you spend your days avoiding failure by doing not much worth criticizing, you’ll never have a shot at success.”
As the week begins, I encourage you to look for that territory beyond neither.  As Godin says, opening yourself up to taking the risk of being criticized may lead you to “encountering the very thing you’re after.”
I’ll “run” into you next week, readers.  I’ll be the fast, energetic one!
Some of the wonderful friends I have made on set — this one is “Banoffee Pie,” and FSU Media Production Narrative Project film!