Tuesday, February 19, 2008

What I wore to my identity crisis

My identity crisis* took place at a performance of a new musical called "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson." It's an emo-rock, slightly absurdist look at our seventh President. It was presented by Center Theatre Group, the premier theatre company in Los Angeles. So: big-time show, but also hip and edgy.

(* "crisis" is definitely not the right word, I was more "brooding," but go with me here)

I wore my dark-washed jeans, a long sleeved black top, my high-heeled black boots, my silver necklace made by my late friend Annette, and my rose alpaca wrap. I carried my handbag made of black sticks (sounds weird, but it gets compliments from strangers all the time).

I think I handled the situation well, armed in clothes that made me feel more relevant than my daily wardrobe of mom-mess-ready t-shirt and jeans. Clothes really can help you cope.

So a few weeks ago, I had to decide whether to renew my subscription to Backstage (the trade magazine full of audition announcements). It's really expensive, and the last show I did was in 2004 right around the time I became pregnant with child #3 (surprise!). That show was tough on the family, because I was gone every night for the months of rehearsal and then the months of performances. I now have another outlet for performing (my bands), which involves a much less intense rehearsal and performance schedule. However, I have been performing in theatrical productions my entire life, and although I made a conscious decision at a young age not to pursue it as a career, I did intend to keep it as a hobby, and giving up Backstage meant facing the music and admitting that I am not acting right now. But Hubby and I both said, I can always re-subscribe or pick one up at the newsstand to get updated or get back into it. So I decided, let's not renew it. Hubby's "are you sure? are you sure?" was very sweet and helped me feel okay about this temporary break in my onstage life. I felt okay about it.

Then, I got an email from an old friend of mine, Anjali, who I haven't seen since high school since she is now a professional actress living in New York. She was here in LA appearing in "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson," and had just remembered that I live somewhere around LA; after emails back-and-forth it was decided that Hubby and I should come see the show. I knew that this was going to result in much introspection for me.

You see, Anjali was a year younger than me and saw my life as an actress outside of school, and wanted some of that for herself. So we did a show together, and I drove her there, and we did shows together in school too, and we were quite a pair. I think I was kind of a mentor or role model for her. I adored her, as did everyone: she is delightful and open and loyal and fun.

As I said before, I already knew that I didn't want to try for a career as an actress. I had lots of friends who were older than me and giving it a try, and to me, it looked miserable. The rejection, the uncertainty, the many talented people who go overlooked. I think there are many people who see that stuff and say, "so what? I don't care. I have to act!" but I am not one of those people. So I went off to my beloved university, where I could study science and still perform on stage on the side. Meanwhile, there was never any doubt that Anjali was one of those people for whom the drawbacks of acting are nothing compared with her desire to do this for a living. Whether or not I had been there acting with her, this was something that she would have ended up doing, there's no question. After she finished high school, she went to a great school in the Chicago area to major in theater, and kept at it, and then moved to NYC, and Broadway casts and Tony nominations, and lo and behold it's been years since we've seen each other.

So she's in a big-time, exciting new show, and it's here in LA, and it's the same week that I faced the music and temporarily suspended (but it's hard to get back in at my age) my Backstage subscription, otherwise known as my connection to the industry.

With my supportive and understanding Hubby, I went to see her show. It was interesting. It was certainly new and different. I felt that there were things that really worked and things that didn't so much. It was like the quiet kid in the corner of high school history class, with his black hair and Doc Martens and writing scratched all over his skin, is underneath it all a musical genius and a history buff and wrote a show about the life of Andrew Jackson, and how he is obsessed with blood and violence and destroying the Indians, and then grows up to overthrow the New England aristocratic ruling class and found the Democratic Party. Quite a trippy, intense experience to take in. While you're brooding about an identity crisis.

It was wonderful to see her, and I don't know about her, but I felt like it had only been a few months since I last saw her.

But as I predicted, I've been brooding about my choices, and what if I had chosen to go down a different path, yada yada, for a couple of days. It cannot be helped. When I decided on the path I did walk, I knew that I would have days like this down the road. But I have the life I want and the husband I need in order to work through it and fight to at least keep it as a hobby. I know that if I had it all to do over, I would make the same decision again. I love my life as a normal person, with a home and a family. And I know that Anjali would make the same decision that she made, too, a life of uncertainty, and flying around the country and shipping her belongings for a few months here and a few months there, so that she can be other people for a living. And there is no one who is more proud of her than I am! You go, Anj! I love you!

Here we are in the first show she did outside of school, when I took her along with me. This is West Side Story. Please notice that my 16-year-old self in 1989 felt that big bangs were too important to re-style for the show. Even if they aren't period-appropriate. Sheesh, that is embarrassing.

Here we are in a school production my senior year, when I played her ditzy maid.

I really look tall in these pictures. Here's one from another school show, so you can see that I am barely average height. Anjali is a tiny little pixie. This is our dear friend Jodie. I am very happy to see that I my hair was in the right era for the show.

Here we are on Saturday, at a bar after her show. The (absence of) lighting in the bar made the flash do horrible things to my face, so it doesn't really look like me, but isn't Anj cute?

This is what I look like in a normal photo:

Scenes from "Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson" (Anjali played Rachel, his wife) (I think these are publicity photos):
The show portrays Andrew and Rachel Jackson as cutters.

Here's a picture I found from the reception after opening night. Here she is with the actors who played Andrew Jackson (left) and Martin Van Buren (right), genius performances both, and who was in the audience but Jim! (John Krasinski)

Here are some clips of the show, if you want to see what I mean:

There are two clips of interviews with creators and cast at YouTube.

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