Not Ready For Primetime

March 28, 2011

I don’t think I would characterize this show as a personal performance highlight.  It’s a good show – I’m just not sure I’m that great in it.  And I’m really not looking for anyone to stroke my ego, just being honest.

I’m not quite sure what’s wrong with me.  Am I really that tired?  Am I the kind of performer that requires more than four weeks’ rehearsal?  Do I just really need more training?  Whatever the excuse, I keep messing up.  The small screw-ups in staging, I can forgive myself – people probably don’t notice those very much.  But singing the wrong notes…repeatedly?  Forgetting lyrics??  What the hell?  It’s humiliating.  Even worse, I’m missing notes and lyrics on songs I’ve sung in previous shows.  What is wrong with me?

I wish I could enjoy this more.  But I’m too busy whacking myself on the forehead.  And wondering why on Earth a professional theater would ever consider hiring me. 

How’s that for a depressed post?  Nonetheless, here are some pictures of my sunny yellow, non-transparent  dress (maybe that will cheer me up)…

Swirly

March 7, 2011

I’m a bit of a swirl of emotions these days.  Tearing up at a snuggly love-fest with Juice one second, growling at Herbie from the couch the next second.  I think it can all be traced back to some conflicting emotions about the big events occurring in my life right now…

The flash mob for Jude.  I am overcome by the outpouring of support from so many people.  Sixty people have taken time out of their lives to come learn a crazy dance, and be crazy with me, all to celebrate the life of our friend, who some of them didn’t even know.  Wonderful!  But – on the other hand, 180 people RSVP’d and said they’d be joining us.  So where the hell are they??  I know our dance will be incredible, and 60 people is quite a lot.  But I am more and more befuddled by the growing realization that these days, saying you’re going to do something doesn’t actually mean you’re going to do it.  And what’s more, failing to follow through seems completely socially acceptable.  When did that happen? I suppose it’s all a lesson in human nature.  And, perhaps, a schooling in the good and evil of that fickle lover, Facebook. 

I know I need to focus on the (very) positive side of all this.  Yes, there were some people I thought I could count on that haven’t come through.  But there have been other people, some of whom I’ve only known for about three weeks, who have been so – I mean, I didn’t even know people could be so dependable and generous!   I need to focus on those people.   And maybe some of those 180 will still show up for our last rehearsal before the flash mob on Jude’s birthday this Friday.  I hope they do – it’s not too late!  I’d love to see another surge of support – I know most of these people’s lives were directly affected by Jude and so many of them genuinely care about her – so maybe they will come and help us celebrate her life.  I hope so.  But either way, we are going to have a rather amazing experience on Friday.

The other day after our flash mob rehearsal, Rosalind and I were in AJ’s buying sandwiches and discussing all things flashy, when we suddenly realized that our flash mob song, “Let’s Go Crazy,” was playing in the store.  You just don’t hear that song played very often anymore. 

Hi Jude.

More Merlot

February 22, 2011

After one more mighty battle with her tummy, it seems Moo has finally convinced the evil germs to go away for good.  And so far, Juice has kept all of his peas and rice down as well.  All is quiet…

Except that actually all is chaos and confusion.

First – tragedy has struck Judy’s family again and it’s just impossible to comprehend.  How can one family bear so much pain?  Haven’t they earned some peace for a while?  And are we really supposed to go ahead and dance in honor of Jude’s memory when this new tragedy is so fresh?  Not that the tragedy of losing Judy ever seems like it didn’t just happen yesterday…

Anyway.

My first rehearsal for my Spring show is on Wednesday night (Did I mention I’m the Assistant Choreographer?  Assistant Choreographer to the Choreographer of “Mary Poppins?”  What?).  That kicks off rehearsals six days a week.  Costume fittings are right off the bat, and my stomach is not nearly as flat as I’d hoped.

On Saturday morning, I held my first rehearsal for the flash mob with my Official Helpers.  We jazz-squared like crazy and I am so grateful for their kind hearts and enthusiasm.  Our first Big Huge rehearsal is on Saturday with everybody.  Everybody!  And it’s when I think about that rehearsal that I reach again for the wine bottle.

Sure, I can make up a dance, which I’m hoping falls somewhere in the middle of the Choreographic Spectrum, which looks a little like this:  

Chicken Dance <——————————> “Steam Heat”  

Sure, I can teach the dance to my Official Helpers and feed off their excitement.  Maybe I can even, somehow (oh please Saint Fosse give me strength), teach it to a big ass group of non-dancers (ahemKristi*).

But can I figure out how to overcome the insurmountable problem of how to play music in a park?  No I cannot.  It seems I am not good at logistics.  First, I planned rehearsals for 100+ people at a park with no bathrooms.  And I also figured I would just plug in my ipod and a friend’s amp into the…park’s…outlet?  Because parks have those, right?  Also, it never occurred to me that I might need a permit to have a gathering with so many people.  Oops.

So begins a mad scramble toward Saturday.

*Kristi:  That was not a comment about the size of your bottom.

Flash

February 17, 2011

I think one of my problems has always been that I love the inception of an idea, but dread the carrying out part.  Is this a universal people problem?

I love that moment when I first get a fabulous idea – for a book, or an article, or a whole new blog, or…other things.  But in that first blush of a new idea, I live out the entire experience in my head – I see the whole entire story from beginning to end.  And that’s the part that’s really fun!  So when it comes time to write it all down, well, that’s just hard work.

A few weeks ago, I was driving along with the kids, thinking about Judy and how we could somehow honor her on her birthday on March 11.  And then  – ZING!  I had an idea.  

A GREAT idea.

A really amazing, stupendous idea!

We should have a FLASH MOB – a sudden, spontaneous, joyful dance on Jude’s birthday.  We would celebrate her life.  We would dance our little hearts out to one of her true loves:  Prince.  She would love it.  She would LOVE it.  I could see it all in my mind, and I was so excited I started to cry, which is what I do when I get really excited or really, really happy.

I was so excited I immediately called Rosalind and left her a babbling message.  I was so excited, the idea didn’t disappear from my mind as a silly flight-of-fancy after a long hot shower the next morning.  I was so excited I got Rosalind excited.  And then we posted it on Facebook and made it public.

So far, there are 128 people taking part, and that’s not even including the non-Facebook folks, not to mention all the kids.

And now I have to actually DO it.  The hard work.  I have to, somehow, choreograph a dance for 150ish people.  I have never done anything like that before.  I can see it all in my head, but as for actually getting 150 people to do the same steps at the same time?

Wheeeeeze.

I have moments where I wish I could tuck this crazy idea away with all the other ideas I’ve ignored.  But every time I start to view this as an opportunity for spectacular failure, I think about Jude.  And I imagine her bup-bupping, and shrugging her shoulders, like of COURSE you can do this Mama.  Shaking her head – of course.

And I focus.

Under Construction

January 20, 2011

I was puttering about the house, cleaning a few dishes before it was time to leave to pick up Moo at preschool and head to the orthotist for Juice’s helmet (sorry:  “cranial band”).  And suddenly I burst into tears.

Because yes, his head does look fine, doesn’t it?

And maybe it wasn’t the right decision.

But mostly, because I missed Jude so damn much.

I needed to talk to Jude!  And not only because her son (now 4), had a cranial band when he was a baby.  But because I would call Jude, or probably email her, and she would reply, in a short paragraph, “Bup bup bup, bip bup bup bitty bup,” and it would be the perfect thing.  And the tension would slide off my shoulders, and I would feel confident in my decision again, and loved and supported by my friend.

Instead, I fiddled with my Pisces necklace and muttered, “bup bup bup,” to myself – which is not nearly as reassuring.

Dislike.

On the bright side, the orthotist said he might only need to wear it for a few weeks, instead of a few months like we thought.  So…yeah. 

Bup bup bup.

Fumbling Along

November 5, 2010

Just like it felt rude to eat cookies at Judy’s funeral reception, it feels rude to switch topics to a discussion of flitting about on stage, dancing and singing.  In fact, it feels rude to flit about on stage, period.  And yet I am able to enjoy myself – have fun, even – and then feel guilty about it later.  The fact that I am able to have fun at all says that I am doing fine, and therefore please redirect any prayers you may be saying for me toward Judy’s husband, and maybe to Rosalind, too, who was even closer to Jude than I.  But from the bottom of my heart, thank you so much for all your kind words.

So it feels rude to write about my daily adventures on stage, but then I remember that Jude faithfully read my blog, even though I think sometimes it was painful for her to read about all my family activities as things got more difficult and painful in her own life.  And I also remember that she sent me an email two months before she died, after I auditioned for “Bye Bye Birdie,” which simply said, “Congratulations!  I’m so very proud of you.  Love you.” 

So I’ll keep going.

The show opens in one week.  I felt so strange at the beginning of rehearsals – the regular paralyzing apprehension, of course, with worry about Jude, and worry that the director was unhappy with me piled on top.

Our director has turned out to be this remarkable combination  – nurturing, encouraging, challenging, and demanding at the same time.  She didn’t even blink when I told her what was happening with Jude, saying, “When you have to go, just go.”  She sent me out the door with a big hug the night she died, and didn’t mind when I was missing from rehearsal for a whole week.  She’s a pretty special lady, and a talented director.

In fact, I think we’ve got a pretty great show on our hands.  Great energy, great choreography, and even some Broadway-caliber performances.  Yes, I can be a mature adult and say it – the woman cast in the lead is AMAZING, and a seriously nice person on top it.  She’s perfect in the role.  And she has a very compelling story herself, which I just discovered.  But I shouldn’t share that without asking her first.

We’re heading into tech week, and I’ll definitely write more as the show tumbles toward opening night.

When I started this blog and announced my intention to get back on stage, I think Judy may have been the least-surprised person.  Even back in high school, Jude had unwavering faith in my talent.  It’s like she always knew I’d be back on stage and was just waiting for me to figure that out for myself.  She wasn’t well enough to ever see me back on stage.  The day after my audition for this show, I visited her in the hospital.  I told her about my audition, and she asked me to sing my audition songs for her.  She had other visitors besides me, and I demurred over and over, feeling embarrassed, and finally she gave up asking.  I just felt silly – I didn’t sing songs to Jude – we sang them together.  She had a beautiful voice.

I really should have just sung the damn songs. 

Much later, when I’d already said everything I needed to say to her, I sat next to her and held her hand and sang song after song.  I don’t really know if she heard me. 

I hope so.

Jude

November 4, 2010

It’s been almost a month since Judy died.

I called her Snow White on my blog, but her name was Judy, and she was stunningly beautiful, wise, witty, and fierce, and I called her Jude, and now she’s gone.

It still doesn’t seem real.  It just feels like it’s one of those periods where we’re both busy and not talking as often.  She can’t just be gone forever.  But she is.

Jude was my oldest friend.  That’s how she introduced me to the nurses every time I visited her at the hospital.  We met when we were 14, in Mr. Seaquist’s World Cultures class at Xavier College Prep.  I was always falling asleep, and Judy would nudge me awake.  And when she wasn’t nudging me awake, she was rolling her eyes at my doodles of “Mrs. Eduardo Forello” all over my notebook. 

22 years later, we were still friends.  We went camping, we had lunches, we sent many, many, many emails, and best of all we sang “Holding Out for a Hero” together at countless karaoke bars.  We were bridesmaids in each other’s weddings.  We decided to get boob jobs when we turned 40.  We drank cosmos together and oohed-and-aahed over Carrie Bradshaw’s wardrobe.  I was there when her parents died.  She had a baby boy; I had a baby girl.  I freaked out over breastfeeding, and she sent me the longest email I’ve ever received, detailing every ounce her son consumed in his first six months. 

Our friendship wasn’t always easy.  Judy always said exactly what she was thinking, and she expressed herself so eloquently and succinctly.  As a person who always fumbles for the right words when I’m talking and worries about what others are thinking, I sometimes felt intimidated and awkward around Judy.  Also, I’ll admit it – when she got that first pair of Manolos, I felt jealous.  And as our friendship aged, sometimes it seemed like she’d built a wall around herself, and it got harder and harder for me to get inside.

I didn’t write about her very much on my blog, because she was supposed to get better.  It wasn’t my story to tell.  But now she’s gone, and I guess it is my story to tell.

In May of 2008, Jude and Rosalind and I got together to see the Sex and the City movie.  We hadn’t gotten together in a while because we all seemed to be going through a rough patch, but I hoped that a movie about friendship, combined with some contraband cosmos, would loosen us all up.  But Judy declined the cocktail, and declined once again at the restaurant after the movie. 

So I blurted,  “Hey – are you pregnant again?!”

She smiled and nodded, and Rosalind and I shrieked.

Then she told us she was having pain in her side and felt terrified that the pregnancy was ectopic.  She started to cry, and I saw that I had a chance to get beyond her wall.  So I grabbed her hand and held on to her, and told her that I was absolutely sure everything was fine, and I would be there for her, I would help if she would let me help, I wanted to be there for her, I wanted to be a good friend.  I felt closer to her in that moment, holding her hand so tightly, than I had all year.

Her pregnancy was fine.  She gave birth to twin babies that December – premature, and in the most dramatic way possible – but they’re now healthy toddlers.  But the pain in her side didn’t go away, and in August the doctors finally figured out that it was cancer – a huge, fucked-up, mystery cancer that destroyed my friend.

She had countless treatments and surgeries, and for a while, it really seemed like she was going to get better.  I wasn’t terribly worried – she even had a clean scan at one point.  But it kept coming back, with more and more complications.  About three months ago, she had another surgery, and with it came even more complications, and her lovely body, already ravaged from fighting cancer for two years, could not seem to recover.  For the first time, after she told me she didn’t know if she could do this any longer, and I gave her my fumbling speech, saying YES you can, I KNOW you can…I didn’t really know if she could.  And I wondered if, as a good friend, what I really should have said was, “It’s okay, Jude.”  I think that’s what I should have said.

She was tinier every time I saw her, even if only two days passed between visits.  And then, suddenly, she was at home with hospice care, and Rosalind told me to get there quickly.  So once again, I was holding her hand tightly.  For the rest of my life, I will never forget the feeling of her hand on my cheek.  Or the look on her face when I kept repeating, rather inexplicably, “You’re my friend, I love you, you’re my friend.”  And I will never forget how I sat next to her with Rosalind, and Jude pointed to herself, and me, and Rosalind, and made a big circle around the room with her finger.  I knew exactly what she meant.  She meant, “You’re my friends.  I love you.”

She died October 13th.  She leaves behind her husband, her 4-year-old son, her nearly-2-year-old twin daughters, her large family, and us, her friends.  And life has fallen apart, and makes no sense, but somehow, cruelly and blessedly, goes on.

I sometimes think the word “friend” is overused.  What is a friend?  Someone you gossip with, drink with, joke with… sure.  But Judy was a part of me.  And I was a part of her.  I have 22 years of memories with this woman.  She was so much more than a friend.  And even though maybe we didn’t always make sense to each other, we loved each other.  She was, and is, in my soul. 

I could tell you so much more about her, but the fact is I don’t love her because she was so loyal, or so smart, or so encouraging.  I love her just because she is my friend.  I love her just because I do.  And always will.