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But then there was a star danc'd

Thirteen years ago today, Much Ado About Nothing opened in a small black-box theatre in Columbus, Ohio. Yours truly, complete with flittery fidgets and Minnie Mouse voice, was playing Beatrice.

I'm still not entirely sure how that happened, but I'm eternally grateful that it did.

I hate choosing favorites in practically anything, but when people ask me my favorite role I've ever played, I don't hesitate a fraction of a second before answering "Beatrice." Even more true is that it is the one role I would most want to play again. Not just because of the character herself, but because I was given this amazing opportunity when I was 25 and clueless, and I would pay dearly to have it again with what I know now. (I hasten to add that this only means I was clueless at 25, having semi-recently dropped this nugget into a conversation with an astonishingly clueful 23-year-old colleague and then realized it was possibly on the tactless side.) I think that at least once a week, and it becomes especially acute when I encounter the play in any form, as I did last week with amilyn and her brilliant little girl (who, as we had hoped, loved the movie and was tremendous fun to watch).

1995 was the year everything seemed possible. Rosebriar, the Shakespeare company I had stumbled into the previous season, and its gifted, giving idealist of an artistic director (who was also my Benedick), looked at me and saw great things. And for a few seasons, we had great things happening, we really did. John's inspiration and belief in me gave me more than I can begin to describe.

Hard on Beatrice's heels, I played Lucy Hale, John Wilke's Booth's fiancée, in a role written for me by the playwright/actor who played Antonio in Much Ado and shocked me speechless one night by comparing my performance favorably to Emma Thompson's. (I love you, Doug, but, um, no way.) That was the year I found Shakespeare & Company and my grownup voice, spent ten weekends dancing four Maypole shows a day in thirty pounds of peasant garb at Ohio Ren, carried a woefully underrehearsed The Skin of Our Teeth (not at Rosebriar) by the skin of my teeth on Sabina's stiletto heels, and played ersatz BDSM with Hamlet with my very Catholic 85-year-old grandfather in the front row three feet away.

But starting it all off, there was Much Ado. There's so much I remember so vividly about that show. I look at the quote list and remember what prompted every silly joke on it. Changing at panicky superhuman speed when I realized 45 seconds before my cue that I'd gotten a scene ahead of myself and was wearing the wrong costume. The infamous Noisy Blue Dress whipping around my ankles as I stomped away the width of the stage at the Friar's suggestion that hey, worst case scenario, we'll just stick Hero in a convent! Dissolving into helpless laughter the night John shoved the candy box under my nose with his fake moustache in it. Sucking down a quart of Gatorade after the emotional blitzkrieg of IV-I and silently thanking Shakespeare's departed spirit for leaving me a break just long enough to collect myself for the happy ending.

The IV-I that ends like this. (With apologies for the video quality. And the 25-and-cluelessness.)

When I flail about what I want, what I'm reaching for, what I miss because I know what it felt like when I had it? This is what I'm thinking about. This was supposed to be the great beginning. I'm still determined that it will be. When all is said and done and the last lights go out, if that experience ends up being the high point of my life as an actor? It was a pretty darn good one, and I will be ever thankful for that.

But it won't.

For whatever reason, certainly not for any reason as concrete as this one, I've been feeling lately like anything is possible in 2008, in a way I maybe haven't since I was that clueless 25-year-old. So when you see me driving and reaching and muttering that it's not enough, you know why. I know what I'm trying to capture. It's going to be mine.

Pass the Gatorade.

Comments

( 16 comments — Leave a comment )
maiac
Feb. 23rd, 2008 06:54 pm (UTC)
I would dearly love to see you play Beatrice, start to finish.

Of all the women in Shakespeare, I would want to be Beatrice. Even more than Portia.

Edited at 2008-02-23 09:55 pm (UTC)
wiliqueen
Feb. 23rd, 2008 09:32 pm (UTC)
I love her so very, very much.

One benefit of the genetic lottery by which I'm pretty sure I've never actually played anyone my real age (this was probably the closest) is that it could still happen again. :-) Ya never know.
(no subject) - hopefuldancer83 - Feb. 23rd, 2008 07:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
wiliqueen
Feb. 23rd, 2008 09:36 pm (UTC)
We definitely should! And Shrew was way more fun that it probably had any right to be, considering how insane things were.

Think you could adopt me as a younger sister again? :-)

Do I have to tie you up again? ;-)

Email me (valerie at wiliqueen dot com) so we can exchange phone numbers. I've been getting into the city more often lately, so visiting should be easy. Then again, there are a LOT of people I never seem to visit. But I probably haven't seen you in the longest.
kevenn
Feb. 23rd, 2008 08:55 pm (UTC)
Thanx for writing that. It was a lovely experience to read about. :)
wiliqueen
Feb. 23rd, 2008 09:36 pm (UTC)
Thanks. {{{ hugs }}}
therealjae
Feb. 23rd, 2008 09:35 pm (UTC)
Lovely. I hope you get it.

-J
wiliqueen
Feb. 23rd, 2008 09:37 pm (UTC)
Thank you!
amilyn
Feb. 23rd, 2008 11:48 pm (UTC)
*hugs*

It was indeed a wonderful time and I have wonderful memories of it myself. This was great to read--lots of nostalgia there for me too.

I hope to see more of the same--and better!--for you also. I hope that feeling you've got is a harbinger of the great stuff to come.
wiliqueen
Feb. 24th, 2008 12:48 am (UTC)
Thanks! {{{ hugs back }}}

I had to make a non-rewritable DVD to get my computer to read it so I could pull off the clip. You want?
amilyn
Feb. 25th, 2008 11:24 am (UTC)
I certainly wouldn't object. *grin*
seldearslj
Feb. 24th, 2008 01:07 am (UTC)
*passes the gatorade*

You go for it!
wiliqueen
Feb. 24th, 2008 01:16 pm (UTC)
Thanks!
yeopard
Feb. 26th, 2008 07:07 pm (UTC)
I remember that performance. Me, The Horsie and The Bunny came down from MI to watch it. Wasn't that when you were working for the Ballet company? I thought you got us comp tix to see a ballet performance, too that weekend.
wiliqueen
Feb. 26th, 2008 08:06 pm (UTC)
It was definitely when I was working at B'Met, and I dimly recall taking you guys to...er...something. Possibly the mixed rep with Belling the Slayer? (Weird contemporary piece with a guy wearing antlers representing death, surrounded by chicks with flowy dresses and hair, joined at the end by the lead chick who starts out on her deathbed?) February was usually the mixed rep timeframe, I remember that. Or was that the year of Dangerous Liaisons?
yeopard
Mar. 2nd, 2008 02:50 am (UTC)
I think it was an assortment of smaller pieces, although I don't remember seeing anyone with antlers!
( 16 comments — Leave a comment )

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