8.21.2005

Lady in Waiting

Last night I realized that I've been waiting nine long years for the call.

That's not just any call, mind you, I get all kinds of those—mostly from telemarketers I'm in no shape to buy things from and creditors with whom it's not the best time to reconcile, despite my every best intention to do so on some unknown future date. No, I'm talking about the call, the one that says, baby, you're in! You've sold your Big Script! Landed the Big Assignment! Closed that Big Deal to re-write the new Spielberg project in some lofty corner office serviced by three private elevators overlooking the entire breadth of the Dreamworks lot!

Anyone can see I've more than done my part in preparation for untold wealth, infamy and stardom. I went to a very Big Deal Film School, after all, where I wrote all kinds of hilarious and heartfelt scripts and met any number of encouraging and powerful people. On top of that, I've set my cell phone ring tone to play the Hallelujah Chorus on any and all incoming calls from My Very Supportive Manager.

Unfortunately, most of the time Supportive is only "checking in," which means trying to gauge my general mood while not asking any direct questions about how far along I am or am not on that dazzling new spec script of mine.

In the meantime I got nothing.

Which is why I was so chagrined watching my Very Serious Actor Friend starring in The Two Gentlemen of Verona last night at the New Village Arts Theater in Carlsbad, about ninety miles south of L.A. Not only did Serious headline the thing, he also directed it, designed the set, co-founded the company with his wife and ultimately produced a Very Small Child who appeared beside him in a speaking role. As if that weren't enough of a contribution to the great tradition of the theater, he's been running this Free Shakespeare in the Park Series for the last five years in an effort to remove "social, economic and educational barriers that prevent many in the community from attending cultural events." That sounds like the mission statement of the Old Globe Theater, by God, with an actor of all people taking it upon himself to change the world one stage play at a time.

I was not struck simply by my friend's originality in getting up there to perform on the sprawling lawn of a hilltop high school at nobody's invitation but his own. In fact, there's a bitingly funny Kenneth Branagh movie covering just this territory. It's called A Midwinter's Tale, about a modern day Shakespeare troupe that forces itself upon some distant shire with a Christmas Hamlet revival performed in the failing local church. This is the actor's burden, part of a great tradition of hunting and trapping his own audience—even if that means traveling the countryside and serving up religion and jug wine along with the theatrics.

What struck me last night even more than that kind of moxie was the boundless talent up on the stage. Re-set in the 1950s, the long outdated farce was peppered with clever cultural references to La Dolce Vita, The Godfather and The Lone Ranger, to name a few. When Valentine set off to Milan from Verona, he drove a vintage roadster right off the stage and through the high school parking lot. The famously loutish Proteus performed a soliloquy to the tune of Elvis Presley's Love Me Tender, matching its tempo in previously unharnessed iambic pentameter.

This guy and his pals not only understand Shakespeare, but they also figured out how to make him relatable to a modern audience jaded by movies, TV, advertising and rock'n'roll. To deliver all the musical fun, every last chorus member had to be at the very least a triple threat; my friend and his co-founder, it's worth noting, earned their M.F.A.s at the Actor's Theater in New York.

All this, and you will probably never know any of their names—which is just Jim dandy with them. These folks are like Lone Rangers themselves, compelled by the opportunity to serve in relative anonymity rather than chase the dubious reward of fame and fortune. Well above waiting for any Big Hollywood Call, nobody's even home to hear the phone ring, since they also have to break down their stage long into the night and pitch in to clean up the littered grass.

My longheld belief about how success should come and get me seems pretty dumb this morning. I'm like a thumbsucker headed off to kindergarten with a childish habit I can't seem to shake.

I know in my heart today more than most I might have to do just that, because there's a whole lot more talent out there than there is a market for it—even for those who do figure out how to cultivate their own.

Though we weren't exactly sure how to find this remote suburban location last night—nor could we manage to round up any friends to come along—My Always In Charge Older Sister and I somehow made it time for the curtain. Of course we did bicker quite a bit during the hike from the car—about how it is we are always late, who had the wrong directions and why one of us broke the other's borrowed shoes. Each concluding the other was solely responsible for these transgressions, we uncorked a very welcome bottle of Temecula wine—along with a picnic of pate, bread and cheese, and some caramel cookies and chocolate covered almonds from Trader Joe's.

I guess in some small way we did make our own party, found our way up there and laid out our blanket under the stars. We ate, drank and laughed, swayed by the sheer force of will humans can call upon when they're convinced they have something important to say—even if it's only that families are difficult, love is hard to find and life is a big silly farce. We wrote another chapter in our own little story, and for the moment, that will just have to do.

4 comments:

  1. What makes me sad is that you truly are in waiting. You're waiting to be annoited and for someone to deem what you've worked so hard on as worthy.

    I wish I could preach the gospel of another way, but it's hard to do that when you're fighting for a lot of the same things you are and getting about the same kind of response. I'm in the midst of a struggle that is not more noble or better than yours, merely different. While I am a little more in the driver's seat, I'm still waiting to annoited, just by a different sort of character.

    Well, there's books more to say on the subject, but for now I'll leave it at that. Take care.

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  2. The journey must be worth it, or you would have already settled for obscurity. Fight the good fight, Julie; it ain't ever over 'til YOU quit.

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  3. I am very flattered to have made either one of you feel anything at all with my little post. I suppose if a writer is defined by the act of having done so, we are all three safe in the knowledge of who we are, at least for today. Maybe there's nothing more to it than stringing some words together and putting them out there. Call it Shakespeare in the Dark.

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  4. Anonymous7:57 PM

    Right on Les.

    Goethe said, "Art is long, life short; judgment difficult, opportunity transient."

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