Listen To Your Mother — Again!

I used to audition a lot. That was back when I was in my early 30’s. I had a little cable TV show and a commercial agent who sent me on a ton of casting calls. I landed a few callbacks and a few international spots, but my acting career never really took off.

Maybe I lacked confidence or maybe I was slightly more quirky than super model-y. It didn’t matter, I told myself. I’m a writer first and I’ve got meaningful work. Besides that, in my mid-30s, I hit my stride when I discovered my life’s purpose: to be a mother to Hayden, Charlotte and Catherine.

badge-2013So last year, when my Aunt Ellen, (the poet Ellen Wade Beals) recommended that I audition for the Listen To Your Mother show, I figured maybe now I’ve got a shot. I’m wiser and more confident. I’ve got a lot of funny essays about parenting. I can do this.

At the audition last year, I read a really good piece of writing — a story about dropping Hayden off at Camp Dudley. My essay was so funny and touching. (See what I mean: I have more confidence.)

When I read the Camp Dudley essay to the several women who were holding the auditions, I detected one (Holly, maybe?) had a tear in her eye.

“I nailed it,” I thought. “I’ve got it! I might still be a successful performer as well as mother, blogger, wife, sister, teacher, worker, etc. Wow! It’s great to be alive!”

But I didn’t get it last year — despite the excrutiating beauty of that little gem of writing. So this year, when I got an email alert about the 2013 auditions for Listen To Your Mother, I brought in a piece of writing, slightly above average, about a tricky little bit of mothering and taking out the garbage with my son.

I was the last to audition. There were dozens of people who’d gone through the audition door ahead of me that Sunday afternoon.

Through the door, I could tell that the guy in the room just before me was really really good. I sat outside, getting nervous. The room was full of laughter as he left.

I recognized the women behind the table from last year, including Holly. But I felt no ill will towards them, just my inevitable lack of success.

I felt insecure. I think I made small talk, something like, “Wow! That guy who was just in here sounded really funny! I don’t know if you remember me. I auditioned last year and I heard the show was really good!”

Me and Kim Forde listening to rehearsal the other night (photo by fellow cast member Elizabeth Robinson).
Me and Kim Forde listening to rehearsal the other night (photo by fellow cast member Elizabeth Robinson).

I read my piece, stumbling in a few places. I did not feel confident as I walked out the door. After all, the year before, when I had felt confident? Nada.

So I was surprised, no, I was ecstatic, when, like a week later, I got a call from Amy that I was invited to be in the cast.

I don’t know if my piece is any good, but the show is really really good. And that guy who went in ahead of me, Jamie Fernandez, he’s in the show too and he is really really funny. The brief stories about mothering and mothers are funny, sad, scary, true, and lovely.

But don’t listen to me. I am not a good judge of my own writing. This Sunday, Mother’s Day, come to Symphony Space. Tell me what you think. We’ll have a drink at the Thalia.

NYC tickets support this cause: Family to Family

And thanks Elizabeth for getting this list of links together!

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Starred in a Short Comedy Film

I am back in movie-making biz, baby.

After a 15-year hiatus, which coincided with the birth of my three children, I have begun acting, writing, and directing short comedy films again. So fun.

There are so many more wonderful women comedians and directors out there now for me to emulate. Not like when I left the biz, way-back when. The world has moved on since the days of Mary Beth & Friends, my cable show on Manhattan Neighborhood Network in the early 1990s. There’s now Tina Fey, Kristen Wiig, Nancy Franklin, Amy Poehler, and Kathryn Bigelow. Right, I know Zero Dark Thirty wasn’t a comedy but I just want to mention my name in the same category as Bigelow’s).

On December 1, my name was pulled out of a hat. I won the “Wanna Be a Star?” contest at the Iron Mule short comedy film festival. The next thing I know, I’m getting eyelash extensions. ‘Cause I’m hoping that my eyelashes will distract viewers from my crow’s feet (smile lines!). I’m wondering if the camera still loves me. Vanity!

The name of the movie was shouted from the audience, the Alan Ladd Syndrome. And so last month, I starred in a funny short film written and directed by Victor Vornado. (not available for viewing yet.)

The premise is that the less popular the actor Alan Ladd was, the shorter he grew. When I threatened to break up with my boyfriend, played by the hilarious Michael Martin, he claimed to have this syndrome too!

I had so much fun performing in this little film that I announced to my husband Chris, a broadway veteran, I’m going to call my old commercial agent to see if I can start auditioning for commercials again.

“Well,” he said slowly. “You reach a certain age…” And he paused, presumably, sparing my feelings.

“Really?” I said, defensively. “Because I see people like me in commercials all the time — dog food, Viagra, anti-depressants?!” Yes, that’s what I said and that, indeed, did make me feel depressed — in need of some dog food, Viagra, anti-depressant.

“Maybe?” Mr. Broadway said, noncommittally.

Screening room (courtesy of 92nd Street Y Tribeca)
Screening room (courtesy of 92nd Street Y Tribeca)

Then the movie aired January 2. The Iron Mule Short Comedy Film Festival shows the first Saturday of every month at 8 pm.

Jay Stern, co-host with Victor,

interviewed me in front of, like 80 or so audience members.

I felt proud and cocky ’cause, hey, I had just starred in a movie. Besides, my eyelashes looked awesome.

I mentioned that their festival needed more women filmmakers. (And, if you know me, I think every institution needs more women, especially the White House cabinet.)

“Even though you probably have binders full of women.” Yes, I said that. Witty, no?

Jay asked me, in front of everybody, if I’d write and direct the next one. And so, of course, I said yes.

And, as usual after committing to a job, I had to overcome a few little hurtles — namely, a morass of self-doubt, inertia, procrastination.

Did I manage to get the film made? I’ll tell you tomorrow.

Read what’s coming up on the Iron Mule blog: Iron Mule NYC

1MM4GC

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Notice that behind the brilliant activist, blogger, and actress (and our friend) Christine Siracusa is musician Dan Zanes, one of my kids’ faves. Christine hosted and Zanes entertained at the million moms’ rally.

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Moms are awesome!
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Moms were using technology to get the word out. We will protect our kids.
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We believe in keeping our kids safe.
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Such cute kids joining in the rally with a million moms for gun control.

Sure it was was cold, but there was no shortage of body heat and adorable kids wearing adorable hats.

Today to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day and Inauguration Day, I joined hundreds (thousands?) of moms at City Hall Park to support the policies to keep our kids safe from gun violence.
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at least one million moms for gun control.
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Tweet it, sistah! #1mm4gc

Read the words of founder Shannon Watts.

learn more and join the movement at One million moms for gun control.

from the culture mom

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The Heiress

Washington Square is a character in The Heiress.
Washington Square is a character in The Heiress.

In New York, it’s always about the real estate. The dude from Downton Abbey still coveted a spot on Washington Park North.

Even in 1880, when Henry James wrote Washington Square, the story upon which The Heiress is based, the gentleman caller loved Catherine Sloper for her Greenwich Village real estate, 16 Washington Square.

I love the story of The Heiress and oh, all right, I love all girl/women empowerment stories! I took a seminar about Henry James in college. In one of his prefaces, James wrote that it was far better for an artist to never marry so that the artist could focus on his or her art, sublimating sexual urges for creative ones.

I wrote about this in another blog post: Work pays better than marriage.

James never married and was incredibly prolific — coincidence? ….He thought marriage was deadly to artists, particularly writers.

I love the fierce independence, social awkwardness and artistic drive of Catherine Sloper, our hero.

The acting in this production of The Heiress was awesome. When I saw it Tuesday night, I kept thinking, ‘Man, that Jessica Chastain can act! She looks nothing like the CIA agent she played in Zero Dark Thirty,’ which I had just seen the day before. (Zero Dark Thirty was wonderful, too, in terms of fricken’ amazing women who can do so much with tenacity and surveillance, much more effective war-time tools than torture!)

‘Chastain’s a great actress,’ I thought. ‘Great actors can make themselves look so completely different.’ After the show, my husband informed me that the understudy, Mairin Lee, had gone on for Chastain that night. Wow! I’ve got to read the playbill before the show apparently! I did not know that.

In 1995, I saw this show with Cherry Jones and Michael Cumpsty (love them!). What I remember from that performance is how Jones sat alone at the end, completely satisfied and completely alone.

As we left the theater, I told my husband, ‘Even if Catherine had hooked up with the dude from Downtown Abbey and the marriage didn’t work out because he might’ve just loved her only for her apartment, she still might’ve gotten some awesome children out of the marriage. And that would be wonderful. That is wonderful.”

curtainI saw this show with a cool bunch of fashion, mommy and travel bloggers and before the show, we had pizza and schmoozed at John’s Pizza on 44th Street. Yummy. (Disclosure: I wasn’t paid to write this post, but was given the ticket and dinner.)

The real estate on Washington Park is not permanent. You only get to live there a little while on 48th street. (The show runs until February 10th.)

Even briefly, you can join Dan Stevens of Downton Abbey and Jessica Chastain (or her replacement) and live like Catherine Sloper.

Sure, you may be plain and witless, but you get a glorious, delicious home and hot guys itching to marry you.

Just remember James’s word to the wise: marriage may derail your creativity.

For more info, visit www.TheHeiressOnBroadway.com
The Heiress on Twitter: @TheHeiressBway and Facebook 

Thanks for the ticket, Mama Drama.

Related articles

Mom Trends Review of The Heiress

The culture mom’s review of The Heiress

Voting in New York City

by the people, for the people

Anti-government people, you must remember that government is by the people and for the people. So if you’re anti-government, you’re anti-people.

Democracy is a beautiful and messy thing. But it is our best mess, way better than a crappy monarchy. (I really can’t stand how infatuated the world is with the spoiled and inbred English monarchy. People, that’s why we revolted! In the U.S., no one is born superior or more royal. We are a country of equals.)

Waiting in line to vote.

Yesterday I stood in line for two hours and fifteen minutes to vote in a part of the country that pundits and politicians are quick to write off. I wasn’t alone. Millions voted. It was our right. And we made a difference.

What talking heads say on the perpetual news channels matters not one iota, compared to how simply and elegantly my single vote matters. Your vote matters. Every vote matters.

Tight quarters as we waited to vote in NYC, but the people in line with me were even-tempered.

Many voters in line with me were old and in wheelchairs. Many carried books. Some carried dogs or babies. One guy talked to another about Bikram yoga. I talked to the science teacher ahead of me about teaching middle school kids.

Another voter complimented our over-worked poll worker’s equanimity. Yes, there were some crabby people too, but they were a minority. And negative people, overall, lost to optimistic people last night.

In an age of increasing distrust and cynicism over big and traditional institutions, like banks, universities, political parties, religions, we have to return to trust and optimism in the value and ideals upon which this country is based, our simple, elegant, democratic truth: that all are created equal.

And as we treat one another equally and make a positive difference close to home, our small actions ripple to impact this vast country.

This election reminded me to love my neighbors, even the crabby ones, and to love my community and my country (and your country) − this messy and beautiful democracy.

the shining city upon a hill.

Remember Abraham Lincoln’s conclusion to the Gettysburg Address:

…that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

 

Fleet Week

I feel sorry for all the sailors dropping anchor in New York City’s harbor for Fleet Week this year. They’ve hardly had one sunny afternoon with all this rain.

But let’s face it, the sailors look for sunshine at the piano bars after dark in Manhattan during Fleet Week. That’s when the men and women in their crisp white uniforms laugh and smile and sing.

If you’re a New Yorker long enough, you know where to find the sailors. They flock to Marie’s Crisis and Don’t Tell Mama’s. As well they should. No more fun can be found on land nor sea than singing show tunes in New York’s cabaret scene after hours. I think my workplace chums are planning to go out and sing with the sailors tonite!

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New York Is Beautiful

It’s true that New York is beautiful. Every night, we have an incredibly sunset. This is my view of the West Side Highway.

The sunset was especially lovely.

But today’s bill at the gas pump was not so pretty. WTH! (This is the MOST I have ever paid for gas!)

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