Scene4 Magazine: Claudine Jones
Claudine Jones
Sick of It

Everybody knows the feeling—one minute you're fine, thinking about what to have for dinner, the next you have a slight scratch, slow throb somewhere in the background—and you're so in denial.  It's allergies, just tired, pop a pill, it'll go away.  But noooo,  it doesn't do that.  It digs in and does what it does.  At least you don't die from it.

Reminds me of community theater.  I love the opening of the movie version Revolutionary Road: she's onstage in a live nightmare, praying that the curtain will finally close. She wants to vomit. The book fills in so much more of the details of this travesty—how earnest the group feels, how much they want to give back to their town, how greatly they want to succeed and how utterly doomed they are from the inception to the implosion.  The audience is mixed, as always;  half stunned into silence and  half either on something that causes uninterrupted guffaws or simply stuck on 'happy'.   

I was stuck once in seventh grade choir on the back riser next to a bumptious soprano with pitch problems.  She should have been outside playing soccer or in room 112 working on a hem for a sewing class.  ANYWHERE but next to me.  I HATED the sound of her voice in my ear and couldn't do a damn thing about it.  My sainted mother said 'don't take it so seriously', but every rehearsal was the same torture.  Isn't torture supposed to be illegal?   

We have a code phrase around our place that covers the ubiquitous visitation of such torment: we just say 'Kensington Symphony'. You don't even have to ask.  For the uninitiated, it involved the inability of stringed instruments in close proximity to one another to agree on any particular note when the composer, in fact, has left written instructions to the effect that one & all are to sound as if in the same voice. Since I was in the middle of a very noisy opera at the time, I didn't get the full brunt until late in the run when I snuck in the back of the orchestra seats to check out the first scene and ran smack into the overture. True, it's exposed writing and Beethoven can be a true cocksucker (try singing the soprano part of the Missa Solemnis chorus), but c'mon guys. Just listen to each other for chrissakes.

It's not only music in the literal sense; the lyricism of the written word is begging to be whispered or thundered out into the dark. It leaps from the page expecting to be borne aloft, yet more often than not it caroms off the turrets, sent screaming to its death on the rocks far below.  Ye gads! Will no one take the slingshots from these well-meaning grubby little hands…

The Commanders: seized incomprehensibly by the dark need to direct and yet also play every role, provide every prop, paint every flat, light every surface and choose their favorite tunes for preshow. Callbacks aren't enough agony; they must needs tell us all how much Incredible Talent is sitting there in the squeaking seats, how much they would love, if they could, indeed to cast the show thrice, but alas perforce won't be able to since there ain't enough luv to go around!

The Opposite: vanity in the form of an actor who simply will not be advised where to stand, how to expostulate or, worse: pretends wholly to grasp every clue or hint, going even hand-in-hand with a kind guide pointing the way, and cheerfully arrives opening night at approximately the same campsite from which the adventure began with the first read-through.

But wait!  Wasn't this about torment?  Does not Adam Sandler torment on a regular basis? Or Jack Black for that matter, and they continue to this day. So perhaps it has nothing at all to do with up and down, in and out, around and around.  "It" has no address:  It's butt can have whatever damn tattoo it wants—"Hollywood", "Broadway", or "River City Community Theater, Celebrating 75 Years This Summer."

What's that early Frank Langella movie in which he's trying to break into the NY scene by doing a million summer stock operettas—ah! A quick search and voila: Those Lips, Those Eyes.  Largely forgettable, but check out his dressing room scene near the end; there's the chops.  So in one bit we have double whammy: we have the culmination of all the pressure that has been building in this frustrated actor AND we have someone who can deliver it. But I digress.

The point of this kind of art being to express oneself, or as a former teacher insists, to tell stories by the fire, how in the holy flames of hell can we either sit there in our seats and absorb it all like one giant slurpy of indistinguishable flavor, or conversely, throw ourselves like reincarnated lemmings into the universal audition/opening/castparty blender over & over in the berserk hope that one time out of a million the taste will have that exquisite balance we know exists?  We know because we're not vouchsafed the mercy of ignorance or cowardice.

I'm edging closer and closer to wholesale destruction of almost everything I've appeared in or worked on.  

Maybe it's the pills.   


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©2009 Claudine Jones
©2009 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.
For more of her commentary and articles, check the Archives


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August 2009

Scene4 Magazine - Arts and Media

August 2009

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