Claudine Jones | Scene4 Magazin

Claudine Jones

You ever wondered if there's value in binge watching TV, or going to 5 hour plays, or even an all-day play—which I did one time, in three parts, with a break for lunch and dinner and a raffle where I won a bottle of vodka, a tiny one—here's the time to think hard.

I have been leaning on this current home-based phenomenon big time. First, I started out just sitting at the kitchen table all day in front of my tablet, like a zombie. One day I woke up and said fuck this shit and I cleaned up the kitchen top to bottom removed everything in order to get to the floor and scrub it down real good. And then when time came to put everything back it just didn't seem right to replicate it. This now meant my morning routine had been disrupted because the table was now over in the corner of the room and the workstation over there by the sink and you get the idea everything was upended. Like my life.

This coincided oddly with my oldest son getting word that his job application had gone through and he had in fact been offered a position, so off to Phoenix he went for a month. And that's a pretty limited time hence not going to be a wholesale move of a lot of his stuff. So he bought himself a new laptop to take with. Fast forward a month or so and he's home, back to his desktop, working locally with the same outfit and come to offer me that same new laptop, for my convenience and just to be nice.

Thus, here I am, months down the road, having remade the kitchen landscape, no longer crouched in front of a tablet but indeed wrestling with lighting in the corner. I mean it's a great space even now reconfigured but the damn lights are in the middle of the room. I didn't anticipate that. I do have a pot rack by the back door, right above the table now, but it is kind of cold to keep the curtains open for light so I hung an old chain plant-holder,  from the pot rack and now needs must find a suitable light to nestle in it.

You don't really need all that much light if you're sitting in front of a lovely laptop however you do need light if you're going to knit. And since I am knitting day and night whenever I get the chance, I do need light. Yes, I do.

Back to the point: when I watch something, I don't like to binge as such. I would prefer to skip around amongst shows in order not to OD and to enjoy that old feeling of anticipation when no amount of kicking and screaming would produce the next episode. The familiar petty annoyance we used to have when getting up was required to change the channel. And of course, when a series ends then it's over and one has to choose something else.

So, I'm not a binge watcher technically. What I am recommending for those who do indulge is to be careful. My choices, for some idiosyncratic reason or perhaps no reason at all, currently have an aura of death. I'm noticing a certain blackness because I am in a period of mourning. The characters the dialogue the plot. I mean sometimes they're murder mysteries so sure there's going to be murder. But man, what I'm saying is—I've said this before—if you look for death you will find it. And it sort of makes morbid sense for me. But it doesn't absolve everybody for their choices, nor does it take away from the general let's say direction that things take. Authors playwrights scriptwriters all these people take off on flights of fancy with sometimes not terribly good results or a level of cheesiness truly cringe worthy. But that's always been the case; there's good stuff and there's mediocre stuff. There's potboilers and there's bodice rippers.

So maybe this is the takeaway. What it means to be human, to have it in your DNA that you are attracted to storytelling and yet…well you're also mortal. And that means you see somebody for example like Medea up there getting pretty darn upset about her husband going rogue and marrying this chippy, so what does she do? She kills her kids. Yike. We're told this story because it's cautionary? Draws you up short, examines the fuckery around relationships. That's for sure.

When I did the Robinson Jeffers version of the play in high school, I was so in over my head. I was playing the Nurse who has a fuckload of exposition. She opens the play with a (to me) humongous monologue telling all about what's been going on with the long ship Argo and Jason and the Symplegades and all that stuff. I remember just before we opened, one of the last rehearsals, Mr G got all severe with us. He told us that our performances needed to be rooted in truth. I'm paraphrasing of course, but the idea was to imbue your character with a focus and concentration. No fooling around, you know?  Anyway, the story that he told us just before the rehearsal, involved a friend of his who had died suddenly. Maybe the effect on him had been to galvanize his performance even though his friend had perished. The show must go on, like that, you know.

In somewhat awkward silence we all went to places. I got myself in trouble though. I recall the precise moment. I needed to go directly from Mr G's anecdote or confession or whatever it was, to opening the play with my monologue. Classic dilemma because if you are the one who has the first lines at the top of the show, you kind of set the tone. Not always easy. And I was only 14. But here's the thing: I got 'bout halfway through my monologue, and my blocking directed me to turn upstage center toward what was eventually going to be the portal where Medea holds her dead children. Maybe it was because of what Mr G had said. Maybe it was the fact that I knew what was coming, but I was stricken. I barely made it through the rest of the monologue. I managed to channel that grief, and I believe from the standpoint of an audience, it would probably have been moving, certainly powerful.

From there unfortunately was a short leap to self-consciousness. I did some damn good work; I got really good reviews for that show. But I was never, ever able to replicate what I had done during that rehearsal. Even worse, after opening night Mr G caught me in the hallway and asked me if I had read the reviews. And I lied. I lied to his face. I didn't want him to be disappointed in me. Because it was pretty clear from the tone of his voice that what he wanted was for me not to have read the reviews. He did not want it to affect me. And of course it did. And he probably knew I was lying. I know it's silly. But I still have this tragic feeling that if I had not fallen prey to the stupid newspapers, I would have done a better job of storytelling.

Even now, I think I can tell.

I think I can goddamn tell when somebody has read their reviews.

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Claudine Jones | Scene4 Magazin

Claudine Jones has had a long, full career as an Actor/Singer/Dancer. She writes a monthly column
and is a Senior Writer for Scene4.
For more of her commentary and articles, check the Archives.

©2021 Claudine Jones
©2021 Publication Scene4 Magazine




June 2021

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