Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Fantastick Dreams of a 45-year-old

August, 2011:
I have been attempting a Perfection streak, lately. I know I'll never actually reach a status of perfection, whether actual or only imaginary, but the perfectionist tendencies that a therapist had pointed out in me, back in '88, are coming in handy.

Focused, I am trying to stay focused. Goal: to get hired as Christmas caroler this holiday season, a paid caroler. I miss performing, all of the time. Missing the endorphin high of being on stage got me back to voice lessons last year, and led me to an excellent musical theater workshop.

Thank God.

All of last year's investment has turned into useful, tangible tools for working toward this year's specific goal of caroling.

My scooter has been in the shop for over a month, now. Normally, that would upset me because it means having to sit in Los Angeles traffic in my car. Instead, I'm just grateful that I even have a second vehicle to get to work and back. I'm not upset because my weensy smartcar has become my personal plastic bubble for practicing my vocal exercises.

I do warm-up exercises for singing on the way to work. On the way home, I sing along with a favorite musical, either "Little Shop of Horrors," "The Fantasticks," or "Jesus Christ Superstar." I have been exercising when I get home (after a triple shot of espresso), either going to Pilates class or jogging in my Vibrams five finger running gloves.

I'm up to five miles, now! I can't believe it. It's been hard but I'm doing it! I'm doing it!

I'll eat dinner as late as 9:30 pm on some nights. Domestic Partner can't believe it, but I will practice my audition songs around 10:00 pm or after, if that's as early as I can get to it. I ask him, "When else can I fit it in along with everything else?"

I've been averaging about six hours of sleep a night on this current schedule. Normally, this would start to take its toll in less than a week. Maybe I've been okay because it's still summer. Maybe the longer days help.

Recently, a high school friend posted photos on facebook, pictures from my first musical ever, "The Fantasticks." I love that they are in black and white, emphasizing my own nostalgic era that seems to mirror past decades before the early 80's. I even love that my stage make up is both poorly and overly done, highlighting the naivete and inexperience of my 17-year-old self - perfect for playing the role of Matt. What a gift to see these images again, after twenty-eight years.

Damn. Am I that old? It makes me laugh a little and smile. I don't feel "that old."
The pictures are such a lovely and vivid reminder of my original goals, and of the days when I wanted to be like the dancers and singers on the television series "Fame."

Twenty-eight years . . . And here I am, again, wishing and wanting and working to be a performer. I never stopped. Even if I can't be a perfect performer, working toward that status will make me a better and stronger performer.

The problem with perfection is the inherent improbability of it all. I can't do everything. I keep thinking about how I am not able to fit any writing attempts into my schedule of vocalizing and exercising.

I am okay with that, for now. My practice of perfection also doubles as an effort to build up my stamina. If I can stay consistent and strong with singing practice and jogging and other areas of my life, I know I can have the stamina to make regular attempts with my writing as well, hopefully in the near future.

I am practicing Believing in Myself.

Stay tuned for Fall - and Winter! - 2011/2012.

(The photo above is from our high school musical, "The Fantasticks," in 1983. Sharon, my show choir classmate, played Luisa to my Matt.)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Why I Love 'The Point of No Return'

"I'll take it," Maggie says of the rundown apartment, barely more than a hovel, right on Santa Monica beach. She confirms this as soon as she sees the view from the second story window, of sea and sand and seagulls afloat in the air. The gentle introductory vocals of "Feeling Good" is cued.

Maggie had been trapped, first in the hell of drug addiction, and then in a secret government training facility. Her assassin training completed, she is finally free. Maggie, as played by Bridget Fonda, is quietly contemplative in the window seat of her newly rented digs while Nina Simone sings of freedom, one of my favorite scenes from 'The Point of No Return,' one of many.

I never saw the original French film that it was based on: 'La Femme Nikita.' I'm almost glad that I didn't as I had heard from a few people that it was better. I didn't want to stop loving the American version. Why did I become so attached to this movie about a female assassin?

The songs of Nina Simone definitely played a key factor. It was my first exposure to her music. I liked that Maggie describes it as "so savage, and so wild." I quickly learned to love the raw, almost masculine/gender-neutral quality of Miss Simone's singing voice, especially in the bittersweet melodies of "Wild is the Wind," and "Black is the Color of My True Love's Hair."

I also loved that the character of Maggie is a survivor. Even in seemingly hopeless situations, she continues to fight and search for an escape. Early in the movie, handcuffed and sentenced to death in court (a faux sentence) she struggles and attempts to find a way out. Later, while working as an assassin, her instinct for survival helps her to find a way out of more than one lethal situation.

Charm school was also part of Maggie's training, as provided by Anne Bancroft's character. Initially an unkempt and unruly drug addict, Fonda's character is given a makeover, not only in appearance but also in ladylike behavior.

"Always smile when you enter a room, dear." Anne Bancroft advises. "It relaxes others - and, it lifts the features of the face."

With a better hairdo and tasteful, tailored clothes, Bridget Fonda gets to kick ass and fight the bad guys with some pretty convincing martial arts moves. A petite and rather scrawny actress, I'm inspired by the physical strength Fonda's character demonstrates, as well as her mental and emotional strengths.

Maggie walks away from it all at the end of the movie, which is probably the biggest reason why I love it so much - she simply walks away from everything. Fonda's character, for all of her government paid work, does not truly have the heart of a killer, and she wants to leave. She's told that she can't, at first, because it's the price she has to pay for her freedom. She walks away anyway, after waiting for and finding her chance - yet again - to escape.

Maggie survives being assassinated herself. Battered and bruised, she disappears into the morning fog of Santa Monica beach. She is seen, but then she is allowed to continue walking away. I love the symbolism of it.

I miss being able to escape, being able to run away on contract as a dancer, either on a cruise ship or to Japan. Going away on contract meant I didn't have to live in or deal with reality. Or the illusion of it, at least, taking a break from the real world, was convincing enough.

I have very little to run away from nowadays. I can live with myself. But some days I yearn to walk away, even if only on an emotional level, and just disappear into the fog.