A Day at the Beach.



It was a mere 113 degrees in the Los Angeles Valley where my daughter goes to school on Monday, so thank goodness that was the day they had chosen for a class trip to the beach where it was a balmy 89. What a magnificent day it was out there. The waves were high and strong, and one kid had to be rescued by a cute lifeguard after being pulled out too deep by the undertow, but then we got some rules established, and they had an absolute blast. So did I. I played football, swam in the invigorating sea, laughed with the kids, dug up sand crabs, and the best treat of all, we watched a pod of dolphins riding the waves, their darkish bodies outlined in the curl of the water as the sunlight streamed through it from behind. The kids shouting, “Look, the dolphins are surfing!” with so much wonder in their voices. Magical.
Watching the kids experiencing all this I was reminded of our final performance of “Much Ado…” the previous day.
Before each show we all gather on stage to do a few connecting exercises and warms ups. We all hold hands and the director, my husband Joseph, says a few words before we start. The night before we had a high school group of fifty come in, and they had been a wonderful audience, staying afterwards for a question and answer. Now, these kids were not from a great area, they weren’t the kind of kids who, without a special teacher, would ever have experienced an evening of non-stop laughter and tears at a live performance of a show over four hundred years old, and their faces had glowed with enthusiasm and delight. So, as the cast stood together on Sunday before the final show, Joseph thanked us all for our talent and our efforts and let us know there was another school group coming in for that show. What he basically said was, “This is the reason for what we do—if we can inspire just a few young people and bring them the joy of theatre and writing and art and they continue that tradition, then we have done something worthy.” There was a hum of agreement and a few people with proud tears in their eyes. 

We stayed after the performance to talk to this group too. They were a bit younger, but every bit as enthusiastic. Some of them had recently performed in “Romeo and Juliet” at school and we encouraged them to give us a few lines. Embarrassed, but encouraged, they did their best and received enthusiastic applause from a real Shakespeare company.
And my day was made.
I love what I do. I love writing, I love performing on stage and hearing people lean in and breathe together when I really have them. I love being a mom and taking my daughter and all her friends out to expose them to the wonderful, brilliant, massively multi-faceted world out there. I have always traveled with my girls for the same reason. They used to hate museums, and now my eldest would like nothing better than to be a curator of one, preferably in Venice, Italy.
Sharing our knowledge and passion with young people, and learning along with them, that is my best effort. It is a question of values,of perspective and choice. What do you want to say with your life? “I made a lot of money?” “People envied me?” Or— “I loved what I did every day, I shared my enthusiasm and applauded and encouraged others.” My choice is the latter, and so today, I am delighted.
Blessings to you all. Especially the teachers. You are more appreciated than you know, and more important than any movie star ever was. My enduring gratitude goes out to you. 

Shakespeare, Theatre

And…we’re off!

Opening night! I spent most of the two hours, I got to the theatre early, before the show fixing peoples costumes, (why can’t twenty-somethings handle a needle and thread? Who wants to be that helpless?), setting props and, finally getting myself dressed and ready. I didn’t have time to be nervous. Until our stage manager, Ashley, called ‘places’. Now, here’s how it works. She calls dance call about thirty minutes before the show, we all go on stage and run through the dance, we wander off. She calls warm up about twenty before, we go on stage, squeeze hands, do a shake up, wander off. She calls ten minutes, “Thank you ten,” choruses from the gang. She calls five, “Thank you five.” She calls, “Places,” That means the audience is in the house and it’s time to get to our opening positions. Mine, is waiting in the main entrance. 

So that’s when the nerves hit me. I’m standing in the dark, able to see the faces of the audience on both sides, I’m not really concerned about knowing my lines or acting, but things happen, lines slip away, from you or a critical cue from a cast mate. I notice that there are not one, but two women in the house who auditioned for my part, that’s always fun, looking out at someone with their arms crossed staring hatefully up at you. 


But I take a deep breath, plant my feet and step forward, “I pray you sir,” I mostly shout over the air conditioning and fans, “Is Senior Montanto returned from the wars or no?” And we’re off!!  I make it through the first scene, grateful for the rehearsal that keeps me from seizing up, and then, it all calms down. By the time I’m trading quips with Benedick, we’re all good. Nice house that night, but an audience of smilers rather than laughers, it happens. We do get laughs, but now what we expect. Peeking, unprofessionally, out from backstage however, I see broad smiles of enjoyment and amusement on most of the faces, that’s good too. On Sunday, my nephews, 8 and 10 are in the house, and I’m so preoccupied with entertaining them, that I go cartoon, which is probably real close to what the Bard was going for with this one. 

So, now to  settle into the next five weeks, and get back to writing!! I’ve just had an edit in on a new book, so I’m off to try to please a single editor instead of a full house. I’ll start a blog on that one, for anyone who is interested!  

Excuse me, it’s my cue for the second scene. I enter, “How tartly that gentleman looks. I never can see him but I am heart burned an hour after!” I see you out there, wink wink. 

Acting & Experiences, Shakespeare, Theatre

3 To Get Ready.

We’re down to the wire, only three rehearsals left until we open on Saturday. We’ve had air-conditioning problems at the theatre, during one of our hottest weeks of the summer, so it’s been ‘hell’ week in more ways than one. The AC should be fixed today, I hope so. Aside from trying to project lines over four noisy fans, let’s just say kissing someone drenched in sweat isn’t optimal. Oh, it might work if you’re in love with an Olympic athlete and you like that sort of thing. I’m reminded of a girlfriend who referred to her exercise-crazed boyfriend during an Atlanta summer as a ‘big ol’ slip and slide,’ but on stage? Well, I’m just glad Benedick is my husband. In the meantime, costumes tear, lines flee from your head when they are needed most, and we have to remember not to ad-lib things like, “Waz up?” or, “Sweet rags,” when called upon to be background on stage during the masked ball. The worst thing last night was the director getting a little personal about the Hero-Claudio kiss, which I though was a bit rude and overwrought. I mean, I know it’s supposed to be chaste and all that, but come on, they’re both young, gorgeous, and you get bored doing these scenes over and over. Personally, I’m all for it. Plus, Claudio is one of those handsome young devils with a body fat ratio of .00023 so he doesn’t sweat as much as my hubby, who has a hundred or so pounds on the young squire. 

Acting & Experiences, Shakespeare, Theatre


So, I just wrapped up a weekend of rehearsing “Much Ado…” which can be so frustrating and so funny. Terrific cast this time, and of course, the Bard’s words are an amazing joy to do. Literate, literal, audible art. Words that flow and sing and only come truly understood when spoken with feeling.
And then, there’s the dancing. No problem for me, I dance, but for the gentleman playing Don Pedro, the prince, it was clearly a moment that panicked him. Ultimately, he deigned, “The prince does not dance, I just decided that.” After a round of laughter, the director concurred. Then he stood around smiling and gesturing as the rest of us moved through it.
I spent the rest of the day weeping and cursing men in general in the ‘my cousin is belied’ scene. It impresses me so much that Shakespeare, in a time when women were not even allowed on stage, wrote a female character who says the line, “Oh that I were a man, I would eat his heart in the Marketplace!”Now that’s art that a girl can really sink her teeth into.