THE BRONX IS UP AND THE BATTERY DOWN
NEW YORK NEW YORK
IT'S A WONDERFUL TOWN!!!!!!
OK, so I am a complete cornball, cheezy, say what you will. But the truth is I love the theater. I love musicals, I am enraptured by good dramatic plays, I just love theater. It all started the summer of 1956 when I was just 5 years old, in my blue frilly dress, with my matching blue glasses with those little points at the ends (you have to be a baby boomer to get this picture) and my blond pig-tails, belting out whatever song it was, we were singing that year in camp at the Mountain Crest Swim Club in West Orange, NJ. I had no voice then, as I have none today, but then it didn't stop me from singing. A few years later, now at sleep-away camp in Milford, PA (Camp Indian Trails for the initiated,) I was walking around saying, God bles"smee" because I landed the part of Smee, the right hand man to Captain Hook, in Peter Pan. I, my friends, was on my theatrical way. I still couldn't sing, and certainly couldn't dance, but what did it matter, I loved being on the stage.
My next big stage appearance was in October of 1964, when on a Friday night at Temple B'nai Zion in Bloomfield, NJ, I stood on a stool, in order to be seen above the pulpit, which was on the "bimah", which is very like a stage; well, at least for me it was. I sang out my haftorah and orated my speech and could hear the roar of the crowds, if only in my minds ear, since you're not really allowed to clap and applaud inside the synagogues' sanctuary, but I knew that they would if they could. I was a 13 year old hit! And then three years later, in 1967, came the pièce de ré·sis·tance. I auditioned for the part of Helen Keller in our All School's Production of The Miracle Worker, and by god, I got it!!! Because I was playing the role of a young girl who was deaf, blind and mute, I had but one word to say in the entire play (wa-wa, in the last scene) but, I had to memorize every word of every part in order to do the physical acting that was required and so that I would know just where on the stage to be and with whom . It was a challenge that I, along with my fellow actors, met and, in my humble opinion, possibly exceeded. The play was very well received by the school community and the community at large. It gave me a feeling of self-confidence and pride that has never quite been duplicated since. It was by far one of a handful of defining times of my life.
I can't remember exactly when, but a few summers after that wonderful year, I decided I wanted to pursue my interest in acting by going to an extended workshop at The American Academy of Dramatic Arts in NYC. I had to audition to get into the program and I remember doing the soliloquy from The King and I, where Anna comically expresses her anger towards the King...."YES, Your Majesty, NO, Your Majesty, How Low can you Go, Your Majesty..." I remember being very excited at the prospect of learning at this "prestigious" school. I felt hopeful that, though I was going into the Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology at Syracuse University, the fact that this department was in the School of Speech and Drama, was to me an omen of sorts. I figured that even if I didn't change my major to Theater, at least I would be in the right place to be involved in it. This, however was not to be. My teacher at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts pretty much told me that I had no talent and shredded my confidence overnight. I did go to SU and my major, Speech Pathology, was in the School of Speech and Dramatic Arts, but that was as close as I was ever to be again in the world of theater. I was never in any of the scholl's productions and I was never again on the stage. As it turrned out, however, my progeny was recently on one of THE most famous stages in NYC . My daughter just received her Master's Degree in Teaching through Pace University and she received her diploma on the grand stage of RADIO CITY MUSIC HALL, accompanied by the grand Wurlitzer piano. So, even if I couldn't get there with my talent, at least she got there with hers. There must be some poetic justice in that?
So, did I mention how much I love the theater? As I watched the Tony Award Ceremony last night, I must admit to being ever so green with envy watching these great actors receiving so many accolades for their talent and work. I must admit to not having seen any one of the nominations this year. Last year when I watched, I think I had seen all but one or two . Having been unemployed, by choice, for over a year, I was less inclined to shell out the $90-100 bucks (yes, for those who don't live in the New York Metropolitan area, that is what a ticket can and often does cost today, sometimes more.) However, now that I am once again gainfully employed, I have put on my Must See List: Jersey Boys, The Color Purple, The Drowsy Chaperone, Faith Healer and maybe The Lieutenant of Inishmore and The History Boys. The play I am most sorry I missed was the Rabbit Hole.
You know, it has occured to me that I am never so present, so "in the moment" as I am when I am watching good theater. It draws me in and keeps everything else out. So, if you are out there looking for a "partner in theatrical crime" or if you plan to be in The City for a weekend and want a fellow thespian lover to accompany you to the theater, you know who to call.