April 2005  | This Issue

Claudine Jones

Days of Our Thighs

to have had an extra inch and a half
on one's leg-to-torso  
I would now be an arthritic ex-ballerina
O throbbing inflamed bit
on the insides of my big toes  
our family doctor gave a look 
pronounced it the result of wearing shoes
that were too small—told me I should stop wearing them—
as  though I could bourrée out on stage
in birkenstocks  

would I have permanent sores
would that evidence of abuse have now faded

 *   *   *

I took the spring off from college when I got married; UC Berkeley was on the quarter system in those days & I had been studying year round—until I met my guy.  After the honeymoon, he was off toiling away at the Army base & for a few short weeks, I hung out in our studio apartment, too intimidated to try cooking, too poor to go shopping for household accoutrements.  The fruits of my decorating inspirations: a half finished macramé lampshade, an aborted fabric -covered valance of corrugated cardboard and a fantastical attempt at constructing a hanging curtain out of sunflower seeds. They languished in the bottom of boxes for years after. 

Some time in between spurts of laboring over my creations I chanced upon a soap opera.  We had a black & white television with a ten inch screen sporting rabbit ears & I could get Days of our Lives on NBC.  That first episode had little Mike Horton sitting in his high chair with his mommy Laura Horton wistfully watching him & thinking to herself (in voice-over, of course): 'I hope the baby looks more like my husband Mickey & not like his real  father—Mickey's brother Bill'.  Uh-oh. I don't know why, I just got hooked.

That would have been around April of 1970.  Through all my personal travails I've only had one 'show'.  All by myself with a toddler in my first house (a rental) when Gary got his first job after graduation from Cal—Sam & I watched the Watergate hearings together, but it was the pre-empted episode of DOOL that I missed when Laura finally revealed to her father-in-law Tom Horton that she really loved his son Bill & not Mickey, that made me cry with frustration.  I had delivered Ben (my third son) and Maggie Horton was in the throes of alcoholism and had lost custody of her daughter: I watched from my hospital bed, but afterwards, in my post-natal exhaustion I could hear the groaning of those minor chords signaling Maggie's distress & even though I had a beautiful new son, that music became the leitmotif of my conflict over losing the imagined daughter I had hoped I was carrying.   

Just a half hour minus commercials, but boy could they cram a lot into that slot.  The excruciating close-ups & spurting tears! In the pre-vcr days, I figured out a way of hooking up a timer to the TV so that I could record just the audio portion.  Shoot, I could get the visuals just by listening.  As it happens, one afternoon in 1980 I was lying flat on my back resting my bone tired feet after spending all day teaching.  The kids were watching Sesame Street in the back room & I was blissfully listening to my Friday cliff-hanger when two strangers came to the house to inform me that Gary had been 'killed in a car accident .'  I watched DOOL when I was home sweating out the first months being a widow.    

The boys and I relocated & the first things we got were a microwave & a vcr.

When we went off to France for an entire summer, I made our house sitter promise to tape my show each week & change the tapes on Mondays.  He decided on his own to try to reprogram the machine to tape a movie & then in a panic called me long distance in France to confess & to get instructions how to get it back to my show.  (The guy was a complete putz, but that's another story.)

Everybody knows I watch DOOL, it's the family joke. My kids made me swear to stop & I did for a while.  I fantasized about having a fatal disease & not living long enough to find out who had kidnapped Hope & would Jack and Jennifer ever make love.  I got totally burned out and stopped for a year. Then Stefano DiMera became the primary villain and we had to see him get his comeuppance.   When I went to the Conservatory to get my degree in Voice, it was either play the piano every day or watch my show.  The piano won, but wouldn't you know, every once in a while, somebody somewhere would say the magic words: Bo & Hope or Roman & Marlena and I would get a quickie fix from a fellow addict.

This month DOOL aired its 10,000 episode & that baby's grandma Alice, still being played by Frances Reid, gave a little speech to that effect.  She's in her nineties & has essentially spent her career on this show, going from a middle aged housewife with grown children to a matriarchal widow with great-great grandchildren. Don't ask about the improbability of the time line:  I feel like I've lived three lives myself.   

*   *   *

We see live performers on the stage and afterward, we are mostly content to leave it at that. Sometimes, in fact, we flee before they have a chance to corner us or to see us dashing for our cars.  Sometimes it is they who hide so we will get tired of waiting & just depart; they really don't want to 'smile' & play nice.  Who blames them?  So rarely does it seem appropriate to me to break the spell, that it comes as a shock to me that this month I actually spoke to three actors post- performance.   

Berkeley Rep is obviously on a French kick of some sort—they did Fetes de la Nuit recently, which I deliberately missed.  (I get that way sometimes—the Trocks have done that to me with ballet when I lose my sense of humor. I just have too many memories of cheesy remarks about the French & sex & I'm touchy about my bicultural identity. So sue me.)  Anyway, I caught the opening of Geoff Hoyle's adaptation of Feydeau's For Better or Worse mostly because Sharon Lockwood is in it.  It was fun, not great, but some solid fun.  Didn't really have any intentions, but as it turned out, I was sitting next to the mother of the kid who comes on at the end of the show (Sharon's pregnant with him at the beginning.) So when I saw Gideon Lazarus, the kid, in the lobby afterwards, and he seemed approachable, I asked him straight out, how was it first time out in a real part. Unfortunately, Mom slipped in there and I thought 'there goes the interview', but mercifully she got distracted & we managed to have an actual, if short, discussion.  This double bass playing fifth-grader whose face which had been carefully managed up to that point, came vividly to life when he described a favorite bit of blocking and how so much of what was taking place on stage was like…dancing!  Let's hope he keeps that feeling.

At San Francisco's Magic Theatre, Richard Seyd has directed his second production of a new play by Wesley Moore, A Reckoning.  I like Richard's approach to directing, but even more intriguing was the casting of this father-daughter drama with a real-life father and daughter, Kevin Tighe and Jennifer Tighe.  Kevin has the comfortable look of an experienced character actor; I don't know him enough to tell whether that is a cultivated protection, but as I chatted with him and his real daughter after the Sunday matinee on opening weekend, I had a hard time resisting the urge to invite him for a drink. They both seemed more than happy to delve into the mysteries of getting the play on its feet. They were pretty exhausted, though—there had been some tech issues to deal with at the last moment causing the show to be reblocked in a few spots.  Kevin graciously alluded to the difficulties, but I have to say they were not really evident.  I asked them both how it was to work with Richard (my hidden agenda) and they clearly had enjoyed the process even though it was a short rehearsal period. Jennifer has worked with Richard before, but Kevin had not.  The play is an obvious fit for the triggering technique and he laughed about his short term memory being well served by the meticulous preparation that Richard uses.  The piece is not over-long; given this fine attention to every nuance, the rhythms and fragile connections and reconnections were apparent at every turn, the choreography of a master.

[DOOL's Deidre Hall 'Nurse Lewis' 1972 Emergency TV Series starring Kevin Tighe—how's that for Kevin Bacon!!]

©2005 Claudine Jones
©2005 Publication Scene4 Magazine

Like an orthopedic soprano, Actor/Singer/Dancer Claudine Jones has worked steadily in Bay Area joints for a number of decades. With her co-conspirator Jaz Bonhooley, she also has developed unique sound designs for local venues. As a filmmaker, she is doing the final cut of YOUR EAR IS IN YOUR NOSE, destined for release next year or whenever her long time technical task wizard Animator Sam Worf gets his head out of his latest render.

For more commentary and articles by
Claudine Jones, check the Archives.

Your Comments Are Appreciated -Click

All prior issues are secured in the Scene4 archives.
To access the Archives:

Scene4 Archives-Click

Have you read the Classifieds?

Scene4 Magazine Subscribe

Scene4 Email This Page To A Friend-Click

© 2000-2005 Scene4 - International Magazine of Performing Arts and Media - AVIAR-DKA Ltd. All rights reserved (including author and individual copyrights as indicated). All copyrights, trademarks and servicemarks are protected by the laws of the United States and International laws. Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited.