Scene4 Magazine: Claudine Jones |
Claudine Jones
Ribbons Down Back

December 2013

In one of those hits of synchronicity that occur with general unpredictability, I had a conversation with my daughter-in-law last week that meshed wonderfully with a previous night’s chat after a show. Might be that I brought it on having a submerged need…but first a little backstory.

Have you ever (obviously I have or I wouldn’t bring it up) followed another actor or been followed by one, for years, with a relentless sort of merciless wariness? An unfriendly friendliness that requires smiles & hugs & Facebook contact, & is utter rubbish, founded not at all on anything unsavory or base, but entirely on the wrong energy

This younger woman, for some 15 years give or take, has been resolutely stealing my parts. For years. I show up, she comes in late. Game over.  She can’t read notes, so she memorizes the music from a recording, thus being able to sing at the audition holding the music aside like a handkerchief.  That’s cheating in my book. Although, it’s true, some operettas are just like that; everybody could or should know them if they’re going to bother performing that kind of stuff. 

We do the samerole in different productions: she gets a best actress award; I get her showing up at my cast party, ostensibly because she knows some of the crowd, but really just to get my goat & cause me to blurtso, didn’t you just love Act II, sc.5? Always gets ‘em howling.’  Or I see a notice for—I won’t even mention the name of it or I will scream—and of course the director is raving about his miracle cast & once again, she is doing my part—what is this? At least the 3rd time. I didn’t even go up for it, but that doesn’t matter. She’s working on the same territory & staking out stuff that we both can do, & hoarding it—And while, it is true, I have done a particular play three times myself; I really was pretty much the only choice each time. And she was doing something else. And it was a great part.

In all fairness, I do not know, nor have I checked it out with her, the extent to which she might feel that roles I got were hers. The thing is so clearly stacked in her favor, this seems very unlikely.  I may be sounding like Sigourney Weaver complaining about Meryl Streep getting all the leads at Yale; I don’t want it to sound like overt gob-smacking jealousy. No. What I want in all sincerity to know is: why?

Here we arrive at the issue of Energy. I like to think of myself as having an Energy Calibration Device at my disposal.  The director wants More; I simply move the dial up.  I do *not* consider myself infinitely flexible; I have had occasion to feel as though ‘More’ is ‘Too Much’ & have demurred. Hell, one time a sadistic music director told us at the callback that all we had to do was pretend we were hailing a cab: (deep breath) HEY! HEY! I forget what note, but probably somewhere around the top of the staff—d or e, maybe—and vocally, that was just death. I wouldn’t do it. I just wouldn’t. Maybe Brunhilda was needed, I don’t know. Don’t care. Just wasn’t about to kill myself over a misguided voice coach’s suggestion. Did not get that   part *shudder*. Another guy wanted Anger, so I gave him what I thought was a more interesting choice: Quiet Anger. Nah. He wanted ANGER.  I’m not going to go into what it means to just pell-mell trash your voice; just sayin’: I’m. Not. Doin’. It.  Not without some serious considerations of…o, say…uh, motivation, character, and so on.  Trust, and so forth.

And then we go back to Miss Thang: in the Energy Arena, she has it in spades. Of this, no doubt. Oodles. Loud. Bumptious. Tigger. Here she comes, look out! This can be Awesome. This can be frickin’ Great! The first time. And the second. Maybe the next and the next. But then…uh-oh. Wait. Isn’t this? No. Can’t be. Really? Yep. Pretty much. Yeah. She’s doing it every time. She apparently has no Calibrator.

So last week when we saw B, who is a friend/colleague of hers, in a cute little part, sweet play, we saw him afterwards & said complementary things about his performance, which were true, & he was happy because of that & also, he’s working on the next show.  Couldn’t leave it there, of course, even though in many instances it has been proven to be a much better choice to keep one’s trap shut, I had to ask so, who’s playing your leading lady? It was Her. The rest of the conversation was a blur & we hugged goodnight.

Now we get to my conversation the next day with my grandson’s mom, Liz: trouble at work, recalcitrant & incompetent underling; I’m listening & I hear her say that her facegives her away.  That sends a chill down my spine since the previous night I had done backflips to avoid showing any reaction to hearing that Ms Nemesis was playing opposite B & that meant if I wanted to see him, I had to see her. How on earth can I wish for a face that perches there blandly on the front of my head lying its way through the corridors? Is that my choice? I give up what I have lived for doing these long decades in favor of being a cipher? (Note: this is not equivalent to playing a cipher.) Liz gets it because she has done some theater & knows the value of having a face that can be read. Liz says she can’t play poker, which isn’t an issue for me ‘cause I don’t play cards; yet it is clear to her that we are both fucked because not only is she going back to work & probably going to get this woman fired, but I am finally coming out about Her & I really don’t want to hurt anybody’s feelings, especially B’s.But what does it mean, now that it’s out…

It means B knew all along. He’s always known.

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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. She’s also a Senior Writer and columnist for Scene4.
For more of her commentary and articles, check the Archives

©2013 Claudine Jones
©2013 Publication Scene4 Magazine


Scene4 Magazine - Arts and Media


December 2013

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