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Claudine Jones

Pointing South

I've thought a lot in the past year about the advice randomly given to me by my late voice teacher, the lovely Lil. She was not one to hold back: she mothered us as well as coached us in the arts. She always said: Never argue with a director! Just smile, nod your head, and then do your own thing. But you better be right & know your stuff. I don't know what I was thinking when I would store up a grievance & bring it to her like a kitty bringing in a dead mouse. She already knew before I opened my mouth to make the drop that we should just bury it. 


Doing back to back shows means you are rehearsing while you are performing; crosstalk between the shows ought not to occur, of course. It's never happened to me. With simple techniques like cementing the accent, summoning the special walk, you segregate the characters. This is oh-so-handily achieved with co-operation on all fronts; partners who fix you a bite when you are tired, fellow cast-mates who do not cleverly speak to you in B parlance while you are focusing before curtain in A, & so forth.

Also, directors can help. 

Or not.

Some feel it their mission to destroy you slowly, bit-by-bit, in full view of others.

I remember the moment it began. We were in the lobby of the theater—available & easy to rearrange the sparse furniture, & toasty warm. Plus you can't get cheaper than free. Not too large. And very convenient to her, our director, in a wheelchair recuperating from a particularly nasty spider bite that caused her entire leg to swell to twice its size. This had caused her to miss the auditions; I was cast via video-tape of my call-back & only just met her at that first rehearsal. Here's the weird part though: she knew that I was performing in a heavy-duty musical at the same time, in the same theater; clearly she must have felt it was doable. Or she couldn't find anybody else on short notice.

Back to the lobby.  Now I have to say, full-disclosure-wise, that I have been known to be a complete pain in the ass; like Hoffman in Tootsie, I want my motivation & lacking that, I will totally make sure that the director knows I'm going to collaborate the crap out of whatever blocking s/he gives me. How else can I look myself in the mirror next morning? When this part was handed over to me, I gave it some due fucking diligence.  The cast, all genders & ages, usually are all like to want to start getting this thing on its feet, same as me. We're not dummies; everybody's got the scene, books in hand. 

A page in, it's clear to me that there's going to be a problem: walk briskly DSL & sit on that line, turn your head quickly & stare at J. When the little hairs on the back of your neck stand up, it's a signal,!...something is not right.  Each actor in turn thinks: that...whatever that is you just gave me to do...doesn't work for me. We could take a second, a minute, five minutes, or move on & revisit.

Or give up.

We could...(here's the moment) fling down the damn gauntlet, say in the vast silences filling the lobby...could I ask...uh...I'm not quite getting how I'm going to work this, ultimately...when I say “X”, I'm not sure what you're aiming for...?

It's called 'comic timing', dear...

At this long remove, years after the tears, the walk-outs from others, her stolid presence in that lobby opening night, where she sat in protest, neither watching the production, nor acknowledging us afterward.  I look back on that sad lady & see someone who was dead furious at not being onstage, in my costume, doing my role, getting to say my lines.

Getting to sashay DSL.

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Actor/Singer/Dancer Claudine Jones has worked steadily in Bay Area joints for a number of decades.
She writes a monthly column and is
a Senior Writer for Scene4.
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©2016 Claudine Jones
©2016 Publication Scene4 Magazine




January 2016

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