Tag Archives: Acting

Oscar and Me. And Oscar.

As a young woman, I dreamed of being an actress.  So today/tonight, it is only fitting that I tell you this story.

You know how they say that life is what happens when you’re making other plans.  It’s true.  I’m living proof.

I had everything it takes to be a fine, award winning actress.  I was talented, pretty, had good comedic timing, and a voice that could be heard in the cheap seats.

What I didn’t have was guts.  Good guts.  My GI tract erupted in high school leaving my future in the hands of jobs that offered health insurance instead of fame and glory.  Damn.

Oh, and I lacked the guts to go for it anyway.  Once I made a wrong exit and  my acting career died in a broom closet, that is.

But even after leaving my dream in tatters with the mops and brooms, I continued to pipe-dream.  That’s different than the real thing, and you don’t have to remember lines, or stage directions or what to do with props.  It’s actually much easier.  You get to keep your privacy, too, which is nice.

Most of my friends are aware of this fantasy of mine, and of my need to, from time to time, stand on a table (instead of a stage) and tell a story.  It often involves alcoholic beverages.  The table standing, not necessarily the story.

Right now I’m going to tell you about the night I received my Oscars.  [Feel free to stop here if you’ve heard this one.]

It was an incredibly special night for me.  An honor really.  Well, actually, two honors.  Two Oscars.  Two Awards.  But I only got to make one speech.

It was 1983, and some really fun people worked in my office that summer, one of whom, Jon, was from the area.  Carol, Mike, Jon and I all went to Jon’s house one night.  You see, 1983 was still in the Bronze Age, and Jon’s parents were on the cutting age of technology, because they had a VCR.  And Risky Business had just come out on video.

In the middle of the movie, we took a beer/bathroom break.  And guess what I spotted, casually stuck on the bookshelf in the TV room of Rob’s house.

Oscar 

And Oscar

It turned out that Jon’s father was a filmmaker.  Documentary films.  My pals presented me with two Oscars for Documentary Filmmaking.  Sadly, not one of us had a camera.  Probably just as well, because not many stars accept wearing blue jeans.

Receiving Oscar, and his twin, Oscar, was a special honor to me, since I had neither made, nor been in any documentary films, nor even fetched donuts and coffee for the real filmmakers.  Regardless,  I got to hold Oscar and Oscar, and I got to make a speech accepting my Academy Awards.  So I am in an unusual club of people who have never actually acted or contributed in any way, shape or form to a movie, who has been presented an Academy Award.

Yes, I’m that good.

[Yeah, it’s a repeat.  But one can never have too many Academy Award stories.  Amirite?]

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The Hit Single

The other day when I rudely posted a link to one of my old blog posts in a comment on Art’s blog, Pouring My Art Out, I started chatting with my blogging buddy Trend, of TrentLewin.com about that piece.  I told him that in an exercise for my memoir writing class, I had to write the same story from two different points of view.  Trend and I figured it would be fun for me to post both pieces.

So tonight, I am re-posting the story of how all my youthful dreams came crashing down on me in a broom closet. Tomorrow night, I will tell the same story, from someone else’s side.

This exercise was really helpful in the class, by the way.  It helped me look at the same story I’d told for years, but with new eyes. And it was a lot of fun to imagine the other side.  Without further ado, here it is:

Door Number Two!

The thing about dreams is that the crushing, the squelching, the termination of them is so much better in retrospect than when it actually happens.

At 17, I just knew I was going to be an actress.  A stage actress (because, don’t cha know, film work is not true acting. ) And I made that choice even before I realized that the camera brings out the psycho in me.

Now, I was very serious about this dream.  Of course I took my high school’s acting classes.  And, all snark aside, they were really good.  The Players were renown throughout the area for the professional quality of its high school actors.  And the accolades were well deserved.

Me?  Was I the star?  Was I the ingénue lead in all the productions during my high school years?  Was there a reason for my hubris?  Did my classmates look at me, remember my face and say to each other “someday we will remember when the very highly talented Miss Elyse went sledding outside our Algebra class (with that other fab actress, Ray) when she was supposed to be writing her math problems on the blackboard – because now,” sigh, “she’s a STAR.”   Oops, no, I mean they’d think “because now she is a highly successful stage ACTress.”

Uh, no they didn’t.  I was invariably an extra in those acclaimed productions.  At best I got a line or two. But I had heart.  And in the theatRE, that’s all you need, right?

There are no small parts, only small actors.”

Well, I was NOT a small actor.  I just got small parts.  And I was short and thin.  So I was small.  Shit.

But I DID get an audition. Yup!  I had an audition in April of 1974, the spring of my senior year, for the Central School of Speech and Drama, an acting school in London.

Google Image because I don't have any pictures of my own.

Google Image because I don’t have any pictures of my own.

Now, I lived ONE hour outside of New York, so training in NYC might have been a wee bit easier to manage.  But hey, this was a dream, remember?  And I wanted London:  The Globe, The West End, Masterpiece TheatRE (even if it was done on film, it didn’t seem like it). I was ready to take the first step in my path.

My audition was held in a building at Yale University, which in itself was pretty intimidating.

I performed my comedy bit first, a monologue from a comedy so obscure that I have blotted it totally from my brain. I sang “Adelaide’s Lament” under the guidance of my friend Sue, who actually played Adelaide in our school’s production of Guys and Dolls.

I delivered my Juliet speech – hey, what do you want, Lady Macbeth?  I was 17!!!  I chose one that is rarely performed, the one where Juliet is about to take the sleeping potion and is seeing her cousin Tybalt’s ghost:

O, look! methinks I see my cousin’s ghost

Seeking out Romeo,

That did spit his body Upon a rapier’s point:

Stay, Tybalt, stay! (I loved that line)

Romeo, I come! this do I drink to thee.

I drank the potion and collapsed on the floor in the best Juliet evah.

I was a much better Juliet than Marsha Brady. Much.  Of course, there are no Google Images of me.

I was a much better Juliet than Marsha Brady. Much. Of course, there are no Google Images of me.

I thanked the three faculty judges, repeated my name, made sure they had my completed application and my picture (although how could they forget me?)  I turned and walked to the door to leave.

Only there were two doors.

I opened the one on the right, walked through it and closed the door behind me.

It was a broom closet.

What do I do now, I wondered.

There was no script.  No stage directions.  No help of any kind.  I considered staying in the closet, but knew that eventually I had to exit stage left.

After a minute that lasted forever, I re-opened the closet door and slunk out, saying a line I haven’t heard in too many successful plays:

“That’s the broom closet.”

I opened the other door and left the room, closing my dream back in the room with the judges.

I know that if I’d just gone out singing and dancing, well, this chapter would be the opening scene of my life story. Maybe it still is.  Cause it hasn’t been at all bad.

`

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