And busy in all the right ways, to steal a phrase from Mel Brooks. He used those words to describe Ann Randolph, genius, solo performer, physical comedian, teacher, inspiration, wind beneath many solo performer wings. Brooks hailed Randolph and her humor as “Inappropriate in all the right ways.”
And so she is!!! What a blessing! (And, in "Yes, and," fashion (the first rule of improv- embrace every offer and add something) Ann named her most recent show, which speaks to her creative journey, Inappropriate in All The Right Ways! If it plays anywhere near you, RUN, do not walk to get your tix!)
My introduction to Ann came when my development director, David Ford (another genius, teacher, inspiration, and wind beneath many solo performer's wings) said, “I always encourage my female students to look at Ann Randolph to define the limits of what a female performer can get away with on stage.”
Okay, then! Introverted me, outer limits???? So, of course, bought ticket to every show Ann was doing in proximity.
And OMG!!! Yes, and !?!?
Ann is wild, wacky, brilliant, untamed (think Gilda Radner, mixed with Phyllis Diller, Joan Rivers, Mary Tyler Moore, and exploded exponentially!)
And she is a model for artistic freedom and female courage! And I, as most performers who have worked with her, carry little bits of her zany courage with me.
But back to my insanely busy in all the right ways weeks. Kaiser National Stroke conference performance in Los Angeles, award at Schurig Center, tech rehearsal for opening at The Marsh, Berkeley, fly to Bend, OR, tech and perform for Stroke Awareness Oregon, open remount at Marsh Berkeley, then speak to Katherine Seto's SFSU graduating seniors Speech and Language Counseling Class and today, The Aneurysm and AVM Foundation Annual Awareness Walk.
Love the whirlwind! Each experience different in so many ways. Especially love the students, of course, and performing with someone else managing the publicity and outreach! For the latter, I only had to show up, work through technical rehearsal (sound, lights, blocking – the technical details that add to the alchemy in theater magic), and perform. YES!
The last bit of theater alchemy is the audience. 3 packed rooms, with audiences in the hundreds (300-450), YES!!! Then opening night at The Marsh. Maybe 2nd smallest audience ever! Say, what?!?
And quiet audience. NOT a single laugh. None. No audible sighs or gasps. I can see they are with me, leaning in, but I’m wondering, what is happening?
What do I do? Check my pacing? Amp it up because maybe I need to be bigger? Mute performance because maybe I’m too much? Connect more? More eye contact? Just roll with it? A bit of each?
Show ends. In audience is Irma Herrera, dear friend, fellow performer, whose show, Why Would I Mispronounce My Own Name had a recent, twice extended run at The Marsh. Irma has probably seen more performances of show than anyone other than my techs and director. With her is hubby, Mark.
“She’s changed her show,” Irma reports Mark said
“It’s always changing,” she reports replying.
Funny, but true, even though the script and stage movement (blocking) might not. 3 new lines have appeared in show, and 2 have probably dropped over time. But a show can feel radically different without a single line change. As a teen, working as a dresser for Public Theater’s Shakespeare in the Park, I saw the “same show” over 30 times, night after night, with the same actors, moving from venue to venue, and was constantly amazed at how different each one was.
How could that be? Imagine you have the same scripted conversation with a loved one every day for a month. No words allowed other than the script. You’d find all kinds of nuances in that same dialogue, and every day, what you would be communicating would change. And that’s without an audience! Imagine inserting children, in laws, colleagues into the environment!
Then, several more audience members greet me. Two were stroke survivors for whom the truths hit so close to home; they had to breathe deeply, look away, resist leaving the theater. Two were caretakers hurled back into the thick of it. Some were occupational and physical therapists reliving patient encounters. Quiet as they were, know from their feedback they were one of my most engaged audiences ever! And they got a show that spoke to them. Yes, it was different from a show in a packed, rollicking house, but still packed a punch.
Here’s to being in the moment… to letting it roll… to serendipity…faith… and to each and every audience. You bring the show to life.