A few years ago and I won’t name how many years back, but it’s been awhile, I was privileged to attend the American Academy of Dramatic Arts.
This was no ordinary school, I mean it’s attendees were such notables as Anne Bancroft, Robert Redford, Paul Rudd, Anne Hathaway, Kirk Douglas, Jessica Chastain and many, many more. See: https://www.aada.edu/alumni/notable-alumni#decade:all/orderby:all/display:panel
I was honored to get accepted. I’ll never forget the day I saw the ad in the paper looking for people to audition for the school. I was in Grand Junction, Colorado at the time and the auditions were in Denver. I applied and submitted my photo and they sent back what they wanted to see for the audition. At the time, I was 49 and I really didn’t think I’d be considered. After all, they want young, fresh, malleable students, right?
For some reason, I didn’t let that deter me. So, I prepared my song and a monologue.
The monologue was from a stage play called “Judge Lynch”. I was this hillbilly redneck woman whose husband had just lynched a black man for a theft while the real thief was a white man hiding in their woodpile. Very controversial piece and I put on the southern drawl and nature of the woman as I saw her.
The song I would sing was “Another Hundred People” from the stageplay “Company”.
At the time, I was associated with a group that had formed at a local coffee shop located in an old, downtown warehouse building. They were trying to generate traffic by putting on artsy events.
When I first moved to Grand Junction, it was shortly after a bust. A bust being where the town had vacated due to the oil shale companies closing down and everyone pretty much connected with it moving out or walking away from their homes. So there was nothing going on there.
Those of us who had lived in bigger cities were hungry for something, anything to put the arts back into our lives.
So, this coffee shop put out a casting call for “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and I auditioned. I got the part of Nurse Ratchet and was so excited! First rehearsal and only two -three people show up. We call the no shows and the next time we got a few more but missing others. After about the third attempted rehearsal, the play was cancelled. So much for that.
However, we had others showing up who had not made the cut for the play and who kept coming to the Tuesday night meetings and from there we formed an improv group, did poetry readings and such. And through that I met a man name “Bob”. “Bob” would have been the director of our play, and was no novice to theater and show business. It was he who suggested the song and monologue I would do for my audition.
Now “Bob”, not his real name, was obese. It was quite evident from the start that he was also extremely talented and smart, even if he was a bit brusque at times. Anyone who make a point of letting me know that I was meant for the stage, because as he put it, I didn’t have the boobs for film is brusque. The looks maybe yes, but no boobs.
In my opinion, maybe a long time ago that might have been true, but anymore now, no one seems to care. But, I still liked him. I just blew that part off. But that’s neither here nor there.
Anyway, I went to his home, which he shared with his mother, to rehearse. The first time I went, I look for his mom, he said she was in the kitchen. He then proceeds to lead me down the hall and eventually to his bedroom.
Yes, I said bedroom, but that’s not the interesting part. It was the hallway.
The hallway was predominately filled with pictures of him with stars and performing in all these musicals and stage plays. This guy had been a genuine Broadway star! It was hard to believe and yet I was fascinated with this man on the wall, compared to the man next to me, who in these pictures was a third if not one fourth the size was now and he was gorgeous. How did this happen?
I couldn’t help myself, I blurted out, “This is you?!” He says, “Yes” and I say, “Wow!”, as he continues to nonchalantly usher me to his room.(Now you know why I didn’t use his real name) I never asked, “Why?”.
His room was anticlimactic by comparison. It had a small bed and lots of electronic equipment and a keyboard piano, which is where I rehearsed the song with the orchestral background and then recorded the background tape for the audition. This guy had tons of scripts and sheet music piled high everywhere and it made me sad. He may have been brusque, but he knew his stuff and I couldn’t help but admire him. I couldn’t feel sorry because he would never have allowed it and yet… I do wonder where he is now or if he’s even alive.
I still sometimes wonder what it was that happened in his life to bring him to where he was at that juncture. Yet… well, I’ll never know.
For the monologue, I would go up to Aspen to rehearse with another actor, who’d played a bit part in “Forest Gump”, and who it turns out had other things on his mind, so I finished rehearsing on my own from there on out. At least “Bob” was on the up and up.
Never the less, I made the cut and off I went to L.A. What was nice is I had a choice of locations. New York or London. I couldn’t really afford to go to either New York nor London, and even though a part of me really wanted to see those places, I chose L.A.
Another reason was because my grandmother had been quite ill and she lived there and I knew I’d have a place to stay with her, plus I’d get extra special time to be with her.
It couldn’t have been a better choice.
Every day I’d get home, she’d ask me what I’d learned. She was so proud and protective.
One night I was getting ready to go to a party and she tells me not to take any drinks from anyone, because someone could put something in it. I laughed and asked her how she knew such things and she replied unabashedly, “I watch TV”. In the meantime, I pooh-poohed it saying, “Abuelita, I am 50 years old, who’s going to want to lace my drink?”
Weeell, I never told her, but she was right. I don’t know how, but I had not even finished half a beer when I felt it. If it had not been for me spotting a young student, only 14 who was in my class, with a beer in her hand no less, I might have finished that drink. As it was my mommy protective instinct kicked in and I gently imposed myself up on her making sure she didn’t finish the drink in her hand and that she got home safely. After I sobered her up, I called her aunt and uncle to come pick her up. She was a sweetie from England and was really okay with me interfering. However, had I finished my drink, it would have knocked me on my ass.
Ahhhh, “someone” was looking out for the both of us and No, I didn’t tell grandma.
Later, I would borrow some of grandpa’s clothes for my hobo dance and perform it for her. She just loved it! She loved for me to sing for her and never tired of listening even when she heard it over and over again. I think she had as much fun as I.
Yes, I made the right choice. We got to have some special times together and I even got to take her to get her US citizenship, which she was so proud of finally attaining. She died a couple of months after I left.