Tuesday, November 30, 2010

#4 - This is why I came here...

Two things happened this weekend that represent why I came to this Mecca. Perhaps if I put it down in words, some of my motivation for this upheaval to my life will be apparent.
Some of you know that I have a beloved cousin in LA who is "in the business". Well, Stuart Gordon got his start doing theater in Wisconsin (where he met his bride of a gazillion years Caroline, but I digress) and then moved to Chicago, where he started The Organic Theater, and I did some time working where ever non-acting help was needed. That struggling troop of players birthed many names from TV and film that you would recognize, but the man of the moment I want to tell you about is Andre De Shields. He was a formidable force on the stage those 30 years ago, and nothing has diminished his skills. He sings, dances and can act the skin off a lemon...but there were no lemons on that stage Sunday. I went to an off off (probably another off) Broadway theater down in the lower East Side (remember Henry Street from Funny Girl, that part of the tenements) to see Knock Me A Kiss. This is a play about W.E.B. DuBois. Andre plays the Black icon who tries to further the cause of "the Negro" by arranging his daughter's marriage to a more suitable man of letters than the jazzman she loves. Well, drama abounds. I have been looking forward to seeing Andre perform on stage for years. The tingling magic of sitting up close in a tiny theater, feeling the vibrations of talent that exuded from actors inhabiting their characters, is why I came here. It is fun seeing a musical or a show that has great press on Broadway, but seeing actors do their thing close up...that's breathtaking.
After the show, we talked about the old days; of counting the evening's take and divvying  it up amongst the players in a circle on the floor, old friends from the Chicago days and of changing clothes back stage (I have seen lots of famous actors "butt nekked"). Even a seasoned actor, like Andre De Shields respects the roots that must be developed, so that they can stand on today's stage. It was a wonderful day.
The next day, Monday, being the day most actors have off, they rest by singing at night in concerts or fund raisers. Last night was filled with at least 3 events I would have liked to have gone to, but I chose to go to Broadway Speaks Out's "A Very Mary Holiday". Marty Gould Cummings (a very funny and glam fellow) was the host to so many great singers and to Laura Benanti (just one of the most beautiful and talented actresses EVER), who got an award for her good works for issues of equality. No room now to go into the talent I saw, but the focus for me was going with a friend, the very interesting and connected Elisa Schneider (who is very funny and smart about theater people), schmoozing with people I was meeting for the first time, and laughing (and trying new concoctions from the bar). The event made lots of $$$, and I got to watch the theater people work the room, networking and air kissing. The sociology of the charity party is worth a full semester of credit at any good acting school. It was a fascinating evening. I will go to lots of these Mondays. They are magic too, because all the participants are gifted and happy to perform for fun.
A long but necessary post. Thanks for staying with me....tonight maybe the Rockefeller Center's Tree lighting and Brief Encounters with Susan. 

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