Scene4 Magazine: Claudine Jones |
Claudine Jones
Just Walking

July 2013

Back when my time was not my own & I collected my slave wages, it was easy to look at a theatre project & parse out exactly how much of my precious time somebody could ask for & receive before I said 'enough' & pulled the plug. I told a number of directors 'I'm sorry, I don't do chorus' & I believe I was respected for that decision—after all, they've got your resume & they ought to be able to see that you've earned your stripes. Plus (eep!) my voice teacher was forbidding me to consider it.

Sometimes they just want me to fill a gap in the cast.  They know perfectly well what they're doing.

And sometimes the call-back consists of two guys already cast, and five women for three roles. The guy I would be paired-up with is the single most overrated son-of-a-bitch ever to grace the stage. When I realize that in this show, I would actually be married to him for three months, I say 'no' in my most strenuously polite fashion. 

I know from Bobby Weinapple that what I'm doing is an honorable thing; Bobby would say if it don't pass the smell test, just walk away. I think as a teacher he's trying to instill the ability to tell when the work is less than truthful, and as an actor to demonstrate that in order for the work to be worthy, you have to draw a line somewhere or else you might as well be wearing a sandwich board outside a deli.

This is not to say that the line is not fucking blurry sometimes. What about playing well with others? Or let's say the commitment's been made but things are going south faster than an egg rolls off a countertop, well…shit happens. Get over it. 

Except—we're talking about spending the priceless minutes of your lifetime on crap. True, that is a decision made every silly day—when you watch reality tv, or click on more youtube cat videos, or fall prey to a Hammacher Schlemmer catalog.  Yet, it very well could be that this is in reaction to not being occupied in your favorite pastime: rehearsing a sweet role with some sassy thespians.  Unless you can conjure this from thin air, you got some serious down time, so you garden or cook or paint. You do not settle for doing shitty theater.

I've also comfortably accepted the Role of Grandma (aka Nammie) and am going to finish the run with no understudy, vacation or hiatus past a week when the Boy is in Hawaii or San Diego with mom & dad—I mean, when I'm offstage, I'm still Nam.  I've been given five plus years, which seems reasonable, and I am of course open to short-term revivals.

So here's my current quandary: when my voice teacher & I lost touch, I think the confluence of having accepted that oh-so-important Role and the fact that I was really too embarrassed to tell her I couldn't afford lessons any more, caused me to just stop singing.  At all.  Zip.

To make matters worse, if I rubbed his back or his feet the baby sighed & snuggled in his blanket, but if I crooned to him, he reached his baby hand across my mouth.  And when he could talk, he'd say 'Nammie! Don't sing dose words!'  Truth be told, I really didn't much have the urge anyway. It was troubling.

Well, we had our huge breakthrough when he fell in love with a song from The Fantastic Mr. Fox.  One day, he was doing more than the usual naptime murmuring to himself; he was clearly singing something: 'socka socka beeee! a socka socka beeee!' ad libitum. Once we figured out where he had gotten it, we found it on youtube & he loved to sit on my lap & we'd run through it as many times as either of us could stand.  Over the next two years, this gradually refined itself to become 'bogus bunsa bee, one fat one sokalee'.  At the end of the day, singing does not remain buried unless you're underground or have lost your pipes. Neither of those being the case, I took Jake's tacit permission to mean that I should bust loose.  All I had to do was put my arms around him & squeeze on 'Hor-ri-ble crooks! Dif-fer-ent looks!' My falsetto was magnificent.

Shortly after this development, I joined a choral group, meant to be a no-stress re-entry and ended up elbowing my way to the front of the line (not terribly difficult in a bunch of—sorry—schmendricks!) to do some solos: French, some Spanish, Italian, some Hebrew—yikes, last time I did that was a paid gig at a synagogue years ago—and then eventually, against my better judgment, I went off on an extended concert trip with these dear souls.  It was lovely & frightful.

How this all came about is part of the whole discussion: at some point your BS meter fails and during the reboot, time passes and you wake up and years have gone by. And you think WHY do good people do bad theater? Or is that just moot? It can't all be good, so a priori some of it has to be bad—mediocre, boring or unwatchable. And I have to sternly include the proviso that I am good.  I've never been less than good. I have been less good than I have previously been, which by my own benchmark means I've slipped, but please god never into the morass. 

Unfortunately, that trip helped redefine the term 'shitty theater' for me: technically, we were in a theater and qualitatively…I hate to say it, but we really were pretty darn lame, especially compared to the group with which we were sharing the stage.  They did their set after ours, which I'm afraid was a relief for the audience.

I stuck around to see if we could get ourselves out of this; being a relative newcomer to the whimsies of the director, I thought that maybe some 'adjustments' could be made.  There were some redeeming factors like our new accompanist; she seemed to be more willing than the last to do some triage.  If I was willing, which I was, I could delicately continue to be the go-to girl for interesting repertoire including solos, duets, trios—hell, throw in some quartets or octets, why not?  This worked to a certain extent; however the proof is still in the pudding. I am sad that our pudding, as of this month past, remains…um, eh…how shall I say? Gooey.

O, when people are nice, I think they frequently believe that this gives them a pass.  When you combine 'nice' with 'religious', the tender nature of this mixture stirred righteously with the desire to sell tickets &  then to give those proceeds to XYZ—all under the rubric of JOY—leads some to bounce about with glee  and others to want to barf. 

If I am honest—not hurtful, but true to myself— I am in the latter category.

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©2013 Claudine Jones
©2013 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. She's also a Senior Writer and columnist for Scene4.
For more of her commentary and articles, check the Archives


Scene4 Magazine - Arts and Media


July 2013

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