My acting life, as you might be able to guess from the picture above, is a collage of the thrilling, horrible, and completely mundane. Rita Stafford, my kindergarten teacher gave me my theatrical start. The big kids (fourth, fifth and sixth graders) played the leads in OKLAHOMA.
I played a little kid role. (Don’t worry, I won’t be showing every picture from elementary through graduate school.) This was the same class that some of the boys would chase the girls around trying to kiss them when the teacher left the room. Boys and Theatre! Who knew it all started there. But even acting from that moment all the way through college, I wasn’t going to do it for “real.” Too crazy! Too insecure a profession. Be a teacher. A saner idea…right. During my senior year at University of Pennsylvania, while finishing up my English degree, I was able to begin teaching, taking over a fourth grade class from a very pregnant and very lucky woman. One typical day, I walked into my classroom to find one of my students shoving another through an open window with everyone else cheering or screaming. He was dangling halfway out when I arrived. My classroom was on the third floor. Clearly a problem. It was then I had my “aha” moment, or more like my “Holy explective!” moment.
My short story
I marched down to the principal’s office and quit right then. So off to graduate school and then my first professional job, equity card and all, eight months with Center Stage in their children’s touring company playing such illustrious roles as Yum Yum. At one elementary school a young man told me, “When you sing, I put my fingers in my ears.” A scathing review, but not my last. And I really don’t blame him. I am definitely not showing those pictures! So fast forward past the plays, movies, tv, voiceovers, commercials, having worked with so many wonderful people and of course a few jerks. I’ve graduated from the “ditzy” to the “dotty” although I like to think there’s some “cougar” in the mix. (All women live in hope.)
ACTING HAS GOT TO BE EASIER THAN THIS!
As the lyrics go in THE KING AND I, “by your students you’ll be taught.” And indeed I have been, for which I am extremely grateful. I know all the lyrics because I was in THE KING AND I in the fourth grade. Anna’s son was changed to a daughter and I played it. I don’t know why the sex change. The sixth grader playing the King shaved his head. We were very professional. .
Back to teaching acting. I was hired by my former professor, Stephan Rudnicki, to be one of five guest artists at the C.W.Post Summer Theatre, a division of Long Island University acting in plays such as PICNIC, AS YOU LIKE IT, HAPPY END,
and I believe, THE MARRIAGE, an absurd Polish play. In addition, all the visiting artists had to TEACH two classes a week. Visions of my elementary fiasco flooded my head. But to the rescue came Myra Turley, a wonderful actor, teacher and coach. So one night over Greenvale vodka, (The town on Long Island actually had its own brand. I don’t recommend it) she gave the four of us a crash course in teaching acting. With her help, and all I had picked up from my teachers Mark Hammer, Bill Graham and Michael Howard, I turned out to be pretty good. But that was that. I had no thought of continuing.
Months later, Darci Picoult, a good friend and excellent actor and writer, called to say she was moving to Houston and would I take over her class. That same day, two of my former C.W. Post students started running down the street yelling, “we got our Equity cards, now will you teach us.” Heeding the signs, I started a class. Years later, I roped my partner and now husband, Martin LaPlatney into teaching with me. We would lean over to each other and decide who had more expertise on a particular scene or exercise and take it from there. That led to teaching at MCC, the NYU students at Stella Adler, New Actors’ Workshop and Antioch University as Chairperson of the Independent Masters Program. This was the part of my life which just seemed to happen. No stress, no mess.
My students became professionals and that led to coaching them and other professionals when I was in town. Agents and managers began sending my their young clients. I was very grateful because I enjoyed the process. But after a time, the casting directors began calling me for my kids and not myself. When a seven year old has a better career than you do, it’s time to reevaluate. So I pretty much stick to coaching grownups now. (Actually, I do take on some special young people.) My former students and coachees (is that a word?) are scattered all over the theatre, TV, film and now the internet. I love seeing them onstage, or turning on the tube or renting a movie and going, “oh there’s so and so.”
I am available for private coaching at the moment. I can’t take on a teaching commitment because last week my commercial agent called to say I booked a “job” to be part of Fashion Week. The designer for “Imitation of Christ” was looking for women 45-80 to model and act in her performance art piece. The pay for the “job” turned out to be a pair of beige high heels
impossible to walk in but hey I’m just starting out. This first modeling venture might not have been so great, but I’m sure by next week I’ll be a Supermodel, so that's OK!!
The Siamese and I
Still not able to sing!