Tuesday, April 17, 2012

First Acts

Last night I took the first acting lesson of my life. 

It was at once fun, exhilarating and a little frustrating. I came to this adventure through a friend of mine.  I met Elisa about a year and half ago along the Adam Lambert trail.  Its unlikely our paths would have crossed otherwise… and another reason to be happy about Adam and his impact on my life.  Elisa saw me perform at the last play and apparently it inspired her to want to get back into acting.  She asked me to join her in the class, which sounded like a great idea to me. 

It’s a small class…seven have signed up, but only five showed up.  The four others were all younger than my youngest child, but if you’re 35 in your head, that matters not at all.  Early in the session we filled out a survey ….favorites – actor, film, play, director, tv show - why we were there, did we have regrets in life, a four word description of ourselves.  We were all there basically to get better at this fun part of our life.  One girl was there to encourage her public self, which she thought in some way lacking.  Another was there because she likes to sing and dance and  act and has Monday evenings off from her job.  The only male student seemed to be there for validation and encouragement.  He said he has auditioned, been told he was good,  but never been given a part. 
The instructor is an actor, producer and director who has a nice list of credentials…tv shows, soap operas, live theater, movies.  He has some age on him, graying dreadlocks, a teller of tales. He included his middle name when he wrote on the board.  He told stories that were long and meandering…the source of my frustration.  I like stories. Hell,  I tell stories to be sure, but in a class, they must have a point and be to the point.  I’m there for skill-building, not to be an audience. He never did say how he came to be in Houston, but I suspect we’ll find out.

The class was 2 hours…exercises, games, some tips on auditions, what we can expect.  It went pretty fast, except for the stories.  I’ll reserve judgment for now, but I’m hopeful that we’ll really get down to it in the next seven weeks.     

Monday, March 19, 2012

Stage Right

I walked across a stage this weekend in very little.  And for a voluptuous woman in a size zero world, that takes some doing....or does it?

I've always acted in my life in one way or another.  During elementary school summers, my friends and I put on shows on a patch of grass in the middle of our circle.  Today we'd call it a cul-de-sac.  The guy wires from the telephone pole in the middle  held the bed sheet at an odd angle, but we had our curtain.   Later, I had the lead in our eighth grade play which was about a girl who had lost her parents.  At a rehearsal, I cried during one very poignant scene. It surprised me, but confirmed to me that I was supposed to be on that stage.  In high school, I chose to debate primarily, but appeared in an odd production or two.  I felt happiest with eyes on me.

Acting was not to be my career, but there seemed always to be an audience...a theater audience, a group of business associates, a client. Sitting with a friend or two, if I can tell you a story and you're listening, I'm happy. My husband used to say, "Don't give that girl a microphone because you'll never get it back!"  True words.

So this weekend, after a couple of months of rehearsal, I put on a little black nightie, a boa and feather-laden slippers, and strode in my character's most dignified way, nose in the air, across the stage.  Even in character, there is a part of the real me who is observing.  So Andrea was a little bit present while Bertha Gale, the floozie, walked past the would-be lover, his wife,  his sister and the nun.  As Andrea, I felt not the least bit embarrassed or exposed.  In my 35 year old  mind's eye, I was voluptuous and appealing, not chubby and well past middle-age.

My eyesight is very good.  Everyday I see the current me, warts and all, when I look in a mirror. Once the mirror is not in front of me, however, the image is gone and my mindset takes over.  I like it that way.  My dad, still terrific at 93, told me years ago that he never felt his age.  "Age is a only a number," he always said.  It must have stuck in my head because today I enjoy the freedom and confidence to be the Andrea I was at 35...and that's a good thing.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

When I Zip-Lined

I went to Costa Rica this winter for a week with the Davison Troop.  We used to be the Clan, but while we were in Costa Rica, we learned that the monkeys, who came on our boat during a river expedition, run in troops. My brother-in-law Chuck thought it apt. We're a lively, chattering family, so it fits.... maybe more than we think.

When Chuck received use of a friend's beautiful vacation home in Guanacaste on the northern Pacific Coast of the country and invited us, the first thing I thought of was zip-lining.  I don't know why, but this idea just surfaced.  If I told you I've watched every season of The Amazing Race, would it then make sense? Perhaps.    If you know me, you know I avoid certain types of  physical risk-taking...no skiing, no carnival rides, no air balloon rides.  To some, not much risk; to me, lots of risk.  I could get nervous just thinking of my husband's desire to bungy jump or sky dive. For whatever reason, flying over the treetops on a steel cable seemed like a perfectly fine thing to do.

Not everyone in our troop would be going, but most were.  We did some homework, but finally chose the zip-line recommended by the owner of our villa.  It had a double steel cable.  I would have gone on a single cable line.  We drove about an hour and one-half up into the mountains.  Away from the beach and the towns, the roads get very poor and our 113,000 mile rental van labored while our guts were jiggled every which way.  Not a good omen for some.

We arrived at the hotel that offered the zip-line experience and paid our fees.  Two sisters-in-law not zipping with the rest of us, chose an ATV tour to a waterfall. In the end, it was not as benign as they thought...tricky ATVs, slippery waterfall rocks.  The rest of us piled into an open air vehicle and drove past grazing pastures, and  an albino water buffalo before reaching the staging area. We were harnessed into our gear and led to the first platform area where we received a lesson in proper zip-lining.  Then it was time to do the first of 10 zips down the mountain. There were 3 couples from Philadelphia in our group.  One man, a tall beefy guy, nervous, sweating and red in the face, couldn't even muster the strength to approach the platform.  I, on the other hand, had no nerves...not one.  No second thoughts as I looked down onto the treetops.   No jitters looking at the steel cables that would carry me across the valley.  The other group, less the nervous guy,  hooked on and flew across.  Our group was next and no one stepped forward to be first except me.  I went to the platform, stood close to the edge and let the man hook me to the winch.  "Brake about half way across, " he said.  I placed my hands, now covered with impossibly heavy lined gloves, on the cables.  I was released and hung on for dear life as I moved across the treetops.   Behind me they were yelling, "Let go. Don't brake."  No wonder there was heat building up in one glove.  I let this glove rise slightly above the cable, more guiding my way on the cable than hanging on. Now I was zipping!   In an instant the platform on the other side was there, and I was being unhooked.  When my sister-in-law came across behind me, she had trouble standing up...her nerves had made her knees like jelly, but she did it.  She told me later when I originally said I was doing it, she thought if Andrea can do it, so can I.  Even the nervous man came across, initially in tandem with one of the zip-line guides.  We all cheered enthusiastically as he reached the platform. All of us zipped the next 9 runs with ease.  By the last run, even the reluctant man was fine, literally hanging upside-down, doing stunts on the cable.  So much for nerves.

Which brings me to the question... why not one small nerve?  No jelly knees, no second thoughts?  For a person who has never gone on a roller coaster, or even climbed a rock wall,  it seems odd.  What's also interesting to me is at 35, I probably wouldn't have done it.  In the end, I don't know.  Perhaps as we age, we take the inevitability of our demise less seriously.  It now seems somewhat possible, where when I was younger it was harder to accept...and I wasn't going to do anything to encourage the inevitability.  Perhaps as we age, the mellowness that we seem to grow into transfers to this sort of cautious danger-baiting.  Or perhaps it has taken me longer to learn the pleasure that others have felt in the exhilaration of walking to the edge and letting go....

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Matter of the Heart

It's been almost a week since Dinah (@dinahhmite) and I met Adam Lambert.  Dinah and I talked a couple of times this week and discussed the Aftermath of this day of being close to that glorious spirit with the incomparable voice.  In our crazy giddiness over being in the same room as Adam, touching him, looking into those beautiful, thoughtful eyes, we both agreed that it seemed like forever ago.  How is it possible that only a few days later, we both felt an emptiness that you feel when you are left by a loved one?  How is it possible to miss someone this much, a stranger who gives you a few minutes of his time? We are invested in this Adam Lambert. We have decided that, for whatever reason, this person provides us with a focus that has been absent before. During what I called my fan tour for Adam Lambert and Glam Nation, I met lots of people who had stories.  Sure, some just loved this once-in-a-generation voice, but many had a reason like me.  Moments of escape in the music from something not pretty in a life, visions of possibility to be yourself, recognition of strength in one's self to express the inner being hidden by the constraints of society or family or school. There is almost a messianic feeling among Adam Lambert's fans.  He may not have brought world peace, but some part of him has given something very peaceful to many people.  That he is beautiful to look at, articulate, smart, and real with his fans helps, but in truth, it goes far beyond that.  To inspire so many, to gain the public voice that he has, requires something more.  Charisma? Maybe.  Spirituality? Maybe.  Honesty? Definitely.  Hopefulness? Yes.  He's not been an overnight success either....people like this.  His hard work, his ups and downs before and after fame, give inspiration to his fans that their hard work, their persistence may pay off for them even in the face of life's normal vagaries.  So, yes, of course, we feel like our meeting was so very long ago.  The heart wants what it wants...and Adam Lambert has entered our individual and collective hearts....and he's there to stay.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Repeating a Dream Come True....

Dreams don't generally come true twice. If we're lucky enough to have one come true, we experience it and then have the memory. So, to be lucky enough to have another shot at the dream...impossible, improbable, so very very highly unlikely.  But, for whatever reason, the dream gods were with me and a dear friend indulged me for which I can never thank her enough.

During a rehearsal for a local play I'm in, my cell phone rings.  It's 4pm on a Sunday afternoon and my friend, Dinah, has called to ask if I can drive to Dallas the following day.  Unable to scream loudly during the rehearsal, I said about 4 times, "Are you serious?"  You see my favorite singer, Adam Lambert, was on a radio station promotional tour in anticipation of his second album and our fan group had been trying to get passes to these events all week.

My teenage-like obsession with this extraordinary singer began when I heard him on American Idol in 2009.  Many who  know me know that his voice was the first thing in 2 years that gave me any hope of feeling good after my husband died.  For that, I will forever be his devoted and loyal fan.   The first time I met him, I told him how his music brought joy back into my life and how for a few minutes each week I forgot I was sad. His genuine warmth and sweetness toward me in that moment only confirmed to me that his spirit was as beautiful as his voice.

In order to get passes to the radio station events, my Houston Glammie friends (Lambert fans are known as Glamberts, an allusion to his early days of favoring glitz, glitter, and glam-rock) had spent close to a week hard at work texting, calling and entering contests at local pop music radio stations both in Houston and Dallas, hoping to be one of the select few chosen. With a pass, they would hear a 2 song set, listen to a short interview, and take a photo with him. Most importantly, there would be the maybe once-in-a lifetime chance to breath the same air and be physically close...maybe get a hug.  These women, who have come into my life because of Adam Lambert and are counted now among my  friends, share an uncommon passion that has been a surprise for its intensity..and for me personally, an intensity never experienced before.

  "I mean, can I post it on Facebook, can I tweet, can I go public with this?  "Yes," she laughed.  Later, when my son called and we talked about it, he said, "You're very lucky, Mom,".  "You don't know how lucky," I replied.  There has developed  a code of honor among Glamberts that says if you have met him at an organized event, you should back off and let others have the opportunity who have not yet had the experience. I met him once before, prior to a Houston concert, so I was pretty far down anyone's list. I held off even trying to win early in the week, but I succumbed to my passion.  I rationalized by knowing I would also receive a guest pass for someone who had not met him. Then one of my closest buddies won 2 passes to Dallas, but there were other women who had never met him that were ahead of me and rightfully so.  I felt certain that it wasn't in the cards,  but the good spirits of pop music were shining on me.  The other women received tickets some other way and my position on the list was now good.  I didn't even have enough time to get too excited.  The first time I had a Meet and Greet with Adam, it was an out-of-body experience.  I recited my memorized lines as if I were in some play.  This time I was just happy for the chance to see him again.

The trip to Dallas, some 3 1/2 hours north of my home, was done on a day without a cloud in the sky.  My friend Dinah and I listened to bluegrass, talked, and arrived so early, the station folks sent us off to lunch to kill time before the event.  We came back to the studio, dealt with the logistical issues and waited in the lobby of the radio station with only 16 other fans for The Arrival. Adam Lambert drove up in the front seat of an SUV with his guitar player and a 2 person entourage.  While he was hustled through the lobby to a waiting elevator, he smiled, said "See you in a minute, guys," and went upstairs to the studio.  About 20 minutes later, we were taken to the station conference room where 2 stools were set up, a sound man was checking his recording equipment, and the afternoon DJ entertained us.  Adam came in, stylish, boyish, filling the room with his presence.

He joked about the conference room and pretended to call the meeting to order. He sang 2 songs, and answered the DJ's questions. Then it was time for the photos.  I had managed to get the first seat at the head of the table beside his guitar player, so the promotions person tapped my shoulder. Photos would be taken with the person you came with and Adam.  Dinah and I would be first for the photo.  Since the photographer wasn't ready and Dinah was giving her email address, I had more than my fair share of time with him.  We chatted and I managed to ask a couple of questions.  We laughed a little, I got a hug...and a good one at that...and at one point, he had hold of my hands while we were talking. More than anyone could ask for.  The rock gods were with me that afternoon. We took the picture with him, picked up the autographed promotional photo and were sent out of the room.  We rode home to Houston in the dark, but I swear the interior of the car was aglow. We giggled like teenagers, and waxed poetic about the spirituality of being close to this man who sings like the angels and  exudes such a  sense of calming love.  All in all, a pretty dreamy day...happening much against the odds, but inspiring belief and hope that dreams can come true more than once.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Dinner, Show and A Gay Bar

My older son left the unusually balmy Northeast to come and visit over the holidays.  He was staying until New Year's Day, so there was New Year's Eve to plan. When he was younger and would visit, the pace was a mile-a-minute with plans on top of plans.  Now he's a little older and a little more mellow, so we spent time relaxing and talking.  I'm a reality show junkie, and I heard that a Top Chef judge had a restaurant in Houston where I live.  I wanted to go.  My son is a foodie and obviously agreed.  The 6:00pm seating for New Year's Eve was regular menu at regular prices, I made the reservation.  I read that one of our local theaters, Stages Repertory Theater,had a naughty panto. For those of you who may not know what a panto is, it comes from English Christmas tradition where children attend a musical re-telling of a classic fairytale.  Panto is short for pantomime, but doesn't have the "mime" part in the English definition.  Instead, the production is directed at the children who participate by booing the villain and cheering on the hero and heroine, but woven throughout the show is double entendre, and political and social commentary. This dialogue sails innocently over the heads of the kids, but delights their parents.   Our  evening was set...but not quite yet.  The last piece of the evening puzzle I kept to myself.  I saw that a gay bar around the corner from the theater was featuring Raja Gemini, winner of the 2011 RuPaul's Drag Race. How I came to be interested in drag queens is another story.  Suffice to say my son and I are both straight, but having seen Raja before, I wanted to see her again.   We ate a delicious dinner at The Reef and drove to the theater to see the show.  By intermission we had our fill. All the subtlety had been left behind for not-so-clever dialogue in this naughty version written by one of the company.   It was only 10:30pm.  "Up for going to a bar? It's right around the corner."  And, again, my son agreed. As we walked the short block I explained we were going to see the same drag queen I had told him about before. He was up for it.  We went in, ordered some drinks and within about 10 minutes I was having a perfectly nice conversation with some guys who had admired my designer purse.  Then the show began.  One drag queen did her thing, lip-syncing and grabbing the dollar bills pushed her way.  Then it was Raja's turn...handsome as a man, gorgeous as a woman, Raja  pranced, preened and entertained the crowd at this small neighborhood bar. I was excited to see her the second time and my son enjoyed the show.  So much fun!  I'm sure I was the oldest one in the place.   The next morning, we had breakfast at a Mexican restaurant on the way to the airport.  My son says, " Mom, I really had a good time last night"  "Didn't you know how much fun I am? " I said. "I love bars, and music and dancing.  I need to open The Old Farts Bar for boomers like me." He laughed...but I'm serious.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Here We Go....

Top Picture: Myself in my head
Bottom Picture: Myself now
Somewhere along my way, I was mindset at 35.  Maybe it was because my 30's were good years...the kids were older, my workpath was satisfying and my social life was fun!  I liked the music and the times.  Women were coming into their own and I felt finally like an adult.  35 never left my head, however older my body became.  And now some decades later, it's just the same....I thought I'd share with you since I'm certain there are many others out there feeling just the same.  In fact, I know there are...join me then and let's see where the path takes us next....