One Big Union

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So excited to see this show today! Joe Hill was a labor activist and musician who was executed 100 years ago for a murder he may or may not have committed. This Plan-B Theatre original play contains Hill’s own songs, recently released to the public domain, and also highlights his work with Elizabeth Gurley Flynn, who visited him in jail here in Salt Lake, and went on to co-found the ACLU.

rebel-girl

Elizabeth Gurley Flynn was the inspiration for this 1915 battle hymn.

Plan-B is the only theater in the United States that produces entire seasons of original works by local playwrights, with emphasis on socially conscious themes and issues. It’s owned by one of my dearest friends and his husband.¬†http://planbtheatre.org/

It’s a relevant stage experience, following a week that has seen boys at a local football game chanting, “Grab her by the p*ssy!” and a white van trolling Rose Park, a Salt Lake City neighborhood rich with immigrants, screaming, “Trump is President! Build the wall!”

Don’t mourn… ORGANIZE!
joe-hill

*****

It was amazing! Very emotional at times, as they were describing precisely what we’ve been living with this week and for the last 18 months.

I have to go to more shows at Plan-B! I’m so cheap. I always say, “Next time,” and next time never comes. If nothing else, I should be supporting my friends. The real reason, of course, is that theater transforms us! It makes us think, laugh. It gives us a break from everyday and all that that entails, but it can also light the fire of our own creativity. Above all, theater connects us. This was wonderful.organize

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Careful What You Wish For

I literally prayed, “You can lay me down for a week after we close, but don’t let me get sick during the run.” I woke up Sunday morning practically immobilized. I felt like I was getting sick several times, and I told my angels again, “Not ’til the show closes!” I was amazed that I didn’t get sick. (I get everything that comes around. I’m sick in bed for days at least twice a year.) We had a girl with walking pneumonia in the cast, two girls with bronchitis that led to sinus infection, and the old woman at my work had laryngitis. I never got sick! ‘Til I said I would.

I don’t care. I closed that baby, and it was awesome!

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“Her name is LaRue… Hedy LaRue.”favorite dress

That’s A Wrap!

I’m ready for the show to close. It was at its best, in my opinion, about a week and a half ago. Some of our liberties and characterizations have begun to affect the timing of the show and our chemistry was officially off last night. That being said, let me again sing the praises of my experience at CenterPoint Legacy Theatre and publicly express gratitude for my amazing reintroduction to theatre. It was everything I wanted from coming back.

I love this company! It is without question the nicest facility I’ve ever performed in. For heaven’s sake, we have a Green Room! I’ve never been in a show with a full crew of techs running around managing our choas linked to each other by headset. They applaud us and cheer every night as we exit! My director, Maurie, took a chance on a girl who didn’t fit the bill (body) of Hedy LaRue, but had “something so immediate and likeable [she] knew she had to have [me].” That is humbling, indeed, and she was wonderful to work with. It was always a fun, uplifting, inspiring experience to rehearse with her.

I guess I still have the dissatisfied perfectionist in me because Maurie reminded me several times to trust myself. “You have great instincts onstage,” she said more than once. (I was unaware that I continue to be so hard on myself, because I truly enjoyed the experience of developing this character and “growing” a show, and was never short with my co-workers or sick with my own incompetence.)

Above all, my cast has been such a joyful, beautiful bunch o’ good folk. I was blessed to spend a summer with them. It was a different experience than those I’ve had before. I’ve only done summer stock, where we live, eat, breathe (kill, puke, suffocate) each other. I didn’t expect to become so emotionally invested in people I simply spent time with for a few hours after work each night. I love them.

Our family started to really gel after the show went into production. The ladies dressing room was a place of laughter, support, a little wickedness, and a lot of love. We saw each other through some amazing things: a brand new best-friendship between our 2 darling high school girls, 2 new love affairs (including mine), freaking out in relationships (just mine), the loss of a grandchild, and an adoption approval!

When the daughter of a castmember suffered a miscarriage, another woman in the cast came in on Monday and hugged her after a weekend apart, as we all did, but when she said, “Please tell your daughter she’s been in my prayers,” I actually felt her praying and began to cry. It’s common in this community to hear people say to one another, “I’m praying for you.” I think all expressions of concern and prayerfulness are unifying, healing, holy, really, but never have I “seen” someone kneeling in her home pleading with the Lord to comfort this young mother and all of her family.

The men took longer to bond with but, then, we didn’t get naked together every other night. Of course, the usual backstage pranks and hijinks did their work and cemented the whole lot of us into one. And now I’m ready to be rid of them. ūüôā

How I have loved this experience. A true blessing.

Three things have changed since I last performed 2 decades ago: Stage make-up looks a LOT better on twenty year-old skin! Back then, we sat in the dressing room and chatted with each other, not with absentees via text. And social media didn’t exist to draw the crowds. In a month, there have been only two shows in which I knew no one in the audience. I feel so supported and humbled, and so very grateful.

Oh, and one more thing: My mom came. mom and meAnd my sissy, but there’s nothing new about that. Meet the only person who’s come to every show I’ve done. That’s just the kind of girl she is, to everyone. mel and me

I only got one sister. The best one.

My First Review!

I only got one [shared] sentence, but that sentence liked me. Hooray!

http://utahtheatrebloggers.com/16535/centerpoints-how-to-succeed-in-business-is-satire-done-right

Other reviews were weird. The Standard Examiner reported that I got out of theatre at 23, which I did, and that it was a choice I regretted, which I didn’t. I left the stage because I was a flailing young woman from a chaotic upbringing, who needed to reign in her personal drama before she could usefully apply and enjoy her theatricality. It’s a choice I’m proud of, and the break accomplished precisely what I intended. (Incidentally, I announced to the press that I turned 40 this year, haha! I love FORTY!!!)

The other review was more plot synopsis, by a writer who failed to proofread or check her facts, and hates the show. (Sexism in the workplace in the 60s was galling, and I still cringe at a few albeit satirical lines.) While she saw my portrayal as a mere caricature, she seemed to think I brought some comedic thrust to the production.

Ugh!

Rats! Curses!

It’s hard to feel like “Success is showing up” when you show up with quivering voice, forgetting your breath, ruining your phrasology and musicality. It was… not good.

First, the age-old problem of hands. What the hell do I do with my hands? Amateur! You never clasp your hands. If you can’t engage in a natural way, they hang at your side!

Next, eye contact… I could NOT look at them. So I tried the over-their-heads trick, but then I thought, “No, you’ve already broken the fourth wall. Too late to sing to an invisible audience now. PERFORM! Look at them and sell it!”

So there’s ME have this internal dialogue – not a character, not a professional – lacking any joie de vivre! I was completely removed, talking to myself, not to them.

You know what’s worse than singing a big song? Disappearing inside of it. “You Can Always Count On Me” is such an easy piece to love, but I was a frightened little girl, certainly no woman known by “lots of smirking motel clerks who call me Mrs. Smith.”

They did let me finish. It was hell, but the girl before me was cut off. I think they could see that I can sing; I was nervous. They gave me ample time and opportunity to relax into my performance. I didn’t! In the second verse, I made exactly the same mistakes with my breath as I did in the first. Only this time, rather than cheat the breath in, I just ran out and faltered weakly at the end of the phrase!

I’m disappointed. But resolved, I suppose. Voice lessons it is. I didn’t practice sufficiently. That’s all there is to it.

They liked my joke. ūüôā

Christmas Miracle

I turned off the radio as I drove to visit my two little ladies. I said aloud, “Well, angels, now’s a good time to talk. Help me get through to [Jane]. So far, my face has not seemed to comfort her at all. I don’t care that dementia has made her angry. I only care that she does not seem to receive any benefit from my being there… so I leave. Please bring her angels in with me today so maybe she’ll recognize something familiar. I don’t know. Just… help me find a way to bring her peace. And let them both let go easily when they’re ready.”

I sat down with [Joan] first. She’s blind and a little confused, but her personality’s in full force. She’s¬†quick, clever, kinda wicked, and pleased with her own jokes. I adore her. She hasn’t eaten for weeks but she’s still drinking, so she’s not quite active[ly dying]. But she’s slept through my last two visits. I miss her. I held her hand¬†for¬†15¬†minutes or so. It’s hard to stick around when her roommate blares the TV. I sent her my thanks and love, and left.¬†

Then the long walk down the hall. I felt the fear creeping back up in me. “How do I honor [Jane’s] feelings without mirroring them back?” I prayed. “How do I bring joy without invalidating her anger? Walk in with me.” Oh, thank goodness! She was asleep.

I turned on some¬†instrumental Christmas music and sat down, continuing to pray. I sat for about 20 minutes, longer than usual during naps,¬†just enjoying a feeling. At last I decided to go.¬†I quietly gathered my things, then turned back to say good-bye. And there she was. “Oh,¬†hello!” I said, introducing myself again. “Do you remember me?”

She¬†didn’t.

“I was just¬†going to¬†play some¬†music and sit with you. Would that be alright?”

It would.

So I started over.¬†Her garbled¬†noises began. I felt the fear creeping up. (“Stay with me.”)¬†Finally [Jane] enunciated clearly, “Heeeelllp! Help, heeellllllp,” over and over.

“How can I help?”

She indicated a string just out of her reach.

“Would you like the light on?”

She would. *click*
And she quickly changed her mind: “HEEELLLP! HELLLLP!”

“That’s pretty bright. Do you want it off?”

She did.

“We had a Christmas Eve blizzard all day yesterday, [Jane], and the sun came out today for the picture-perfect white Christmas! Did you know that?”

She didn’t.

“It’s gorgeous¬†out there¬†and it’s¬†all the light we need, don’t you think?”

Yes.

“It is so beautiful today.¬†Merry Christmas!”

She pointed to the closet.

“What a pretty sweater! Looks like Santa came¬†last night. You musta been good,” and I’ll be damned if she didn’t burst out laughing! So I did too. [Jane] indicated that she’d like to wear it, but I was scared to move her. That twisted body looks like it hurts.¬†(“Stay with me!”) I pushed her crash pad aside, sat on her bed, and gingerly tugged and lifted and wiggled and pulled until [Jane] at last wore her new Christmas sweater.

“We did it!” I sighed. “It even matches your nails. You look beautiful.”

And then the most amazing thing happened. Her eyebrows raised and she began to tell me in an excited, indecipherable whisper about this girl and that girl, pointing wildly at me.

“Me?” I asked.

“No, me!” she corrected.

“Of course! Tell me more.”

And she did. I kept praying that she wouldn’t feel patronized, knowing I couldn’t understand, when I had the thought, “For god’s sake, Christie, you’re an actress. Mean it!”

So I did. It was fun! This woman told me everything. She was so happy to tell me everything. I held and squoze and shook her hand and heard her everything. It was so wonderful to¬†touch her! I was overwhelmed at the immediacy of their answer/ attendance. I was crying and laughing. I was playing, for heaven’s sake, and I stayed for an hour!

I thanked [Jane] for a wonderful Christmas and left to see Les Miserable with my family, my best friend and her daughter. My bestie whispered as the show began, “I’ve been waiting for this for 20 years!” We¬†both fell in love with Les Miserable in high school: Me,¬†the theatre geek onstage; she,¬†the gifted flautist in the orchestra.

Les Miserable does not disappoint. See it! “To love another person is to see the face of God.” Some timing, huh? Sometimes you just have to believe in magic.

Thank you, angels. You seriously rock. Merry Xmas. Love, Xie