A Late Love Letter to Peter O’Toole

When I was in high school, most of my favorite movies were old movies: Casablanca, On the Waterfront, The Philadelphia Story, that kind of thing. As kind of a pre-hipster who hated to like anything that people my age liked (thanks, Santa Cruz), and movies like From Justin to Kelly and Gigli coming out during that time, you can see why I favored the classics.

Two of my favorites that I still have on VHS to this day were How to Steal a Million and Lawrence of Arabia. Though very different in tone, they both tell great stories with a charm and subtlety that you don’t often see in films coming out today.

Despite my convictions, I was still kind of a weirdo for liking them at the time. I remember trying to make a group of high school friends watch Lawrence at my parents house. It didn’t take long before they got bored and wanted to do something else, causing me to be offended, take it extremely personally, and wonder if they were really the type of people I wanted as friends if they couldn’t handle watching a masterpiece of film, even if it was almost four hours long.

During such an influential time, when my passion for acting was continuing to grow and develop, Peter O’Toole and his contemporaries were my icons and I got my inspiration and drive from watching them.

While doing a report on Audrey Hepburn for my U.S. history class (you know, like you do) and looking up her birth and death dates. At that moment, I realized that out of all of my favorite actors in those movies, Peter O’Toole was the only one still living.

Given this new information, I thought a lot about writing him a letter. If he was still around, I should take advantage of it and let him know how amazing I thought he was. I would tell him that I’ve seen many of his films and admire them very much, how they had been very special and influential to me as a young actor, praise him for his acting abilities, and thank him for being so inspiring to me.

Sadly, I promptly came up with a list of reasons why I shouldn’t write this letter. I convinced myself that it would probably be too hard to find an address, and that if I did find one that it would go to some kind of secretary/gatekeeper who would probably throw it away, and, most importantly, that it would be too dorky. I figured he’s probably surrounded by people who think he’s amazing, so even if I could make it work, one little letter from me isn’t going to mean anything.

For years after, the idea of writing a letter to Peter O’Toole kept popping back into my head. Knowing that he was getting older, I thought maybe I should say something before he’s gone, but I still kept telling myself that it would be lame and that he probably wouldn’t even read it.

When I woke up and saw the news this morning that he had passed away, I cried. Not just for the fact that we’ve lost a great contributor to American storytelling, but that I never sent that letter. I’m still not sure if he would have ever personally read it or not, but now I’ll never know.

From here forward, I will challenge myself to share my admiration for someone whenever I can, because people who do great work deserve to hear about it, even if it’s via their secretary and even if they’ve head it a million times. Who knows what happens after we die, but if there’s some chance that he’s hearing this, I hope he will know how much he meant to a young girl in a small town who wanted to be an actor.

My Peter O'Toole VHS Movies

 

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WRNG is Coming!

It’s hard to believe that over a year after completing filming, the first few episodes of WRNG in Studio City are about to premiere online! The webseries is about a news team who lose their funding and decide that the only way to survive is to make up the news. I play Janeen, who works at the station and quickly climbs the ladder to newscaster.

We’ve got a bunch of episodes coming out in the next couple of weeks starting TOMORROW! It’s super silly, and has a lot of similarities in sensibility to Community.

Watch the super cute trailer HERE.

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Yep. This.

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SAG/AFTRA-Eligible / LA Producers League Vote

Two very exciting things happened for me this week! Porter Kelly must be psychic, because after posting on Facebook that she had a feeling that good things would happen this week, I got some kind of good news every day following. Mysterious…!

The first was a letter I received from SAG-AFTRA letting me know that I am now SAG-eligible! I know that the step to between eligible status and actually joining will be a big one, but it feels great to be moving in the right direction!

Another exciting moment was the ‘yes’ vote to establish by-laws for the theatre producing community of Los Angeles! I was in attendance for the vote Monday night at the Colony Theatre in Burbank, alongside many excellent and well-known LA theatre producers, to support the early stages of the LA Producers League. I attended with the talented and bright Mary Kimball and we were the only non-producers there! How cool are we! :) There is more information about the developments here on the LA Stage Alliance website. I think this is the start of some wonderful, positive movements for the theatre community and it was great to be there to support it. I hope to get involved from the ground up and learn more about producing theatre in LA.

Can you spot Mary and I in this picture? :)

From the LA Stage website, photo by Dani Oliver

From the LA Stage website, photo by Dani Oliver

Here’s to more good news!!!

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Absolute Core Truths of Theatre Personnel Management

Maureen:

Great. Real and to the point. Things to work towards when I become an artistic director someday. :)

Originally posted on Bitter Gertrude:

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My husband and I out in front of our theatre. Photo by Cheshire Isaacs.

This is something I wrote for Theatre Bay Area‘s Chatterbox blog in 2011. If you’re a Bay Area theatremaker or theatre company, you need to be a member of TBA!

You can see this post in its original setting here. I recommend going there to click around the blog. There are some really excellent articles there. Velina Brown‘s posts with advice for actors are particularly excellent.

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THE ABSOLUTE CORE TRUTHS OF THEATRE PERSONNEL MANAGEMENT

This season marked my 10th anniversary as artistic director of Impact Theatre, and my 15th with the company as a founding member. When I became Impact’s AD, I quickly became aware of the fact that there’s no AD boot camp. There’s no Handbook for New ADs. Some local people were very helpful—Patrick Dooley at Shotgun Players was…

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Mike Nichols

Wonderful Inside the Actors Studio interview with the incredible Mike Nichols. He is definitely an inspiration to me and someone who I would LOVE love love to work with someday.

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A Few Theatre Legends

Taken at the New Place Theatre in Los Angeles when I was doing a play reading there. Pretty cool! It’s great to have stuff like this up on the wall in a theatre so you can feel connected to the great wealth of theatre history that’s come before us.

Old School Theatre Legends

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Musings on Musical Theatre

After getting cast in a benefit concert called “Broadway Beginnings” to raise money for Camp Musart and arts education (a cause very near and dear t my heart!), I got right to work rehearsing my appointed song– “The Worst Pies in London,” from Sweeney Todd.

My instructions have been to interpret the song as close to the original broadway recording as possible. Now, I love Angela Landsbury (she is in my Baller Hall of Fame), but this direction is notable to me because it illustrates the difference between being an imitator and being an artist. Musical theatre often toes this line which has lead to me having more of a love/hate relationship with it rather than just the love relationship I had before.

Musical theatre was IT as far as the school theatre back in junior high/high school. The annual musicals were more important– they cost more money, they made more money, and when it came to casting the fact that I could sing well made up for the fact that I didn’t look like a model. They brought in more attendance and brought us more small town glory. For many people who later pursue acting, popular musical theatre is an important starting place, and is often very close to the heart.

For me, it was always a passion, but when I graduated from college and thrust myself into the real world, I realized that I would never be happy doing national tours or regional shows of well known musicals for the rest of my life. Certainly, living the musical live on stage, singing a song when you’re really feeling it… there’s nothing like that. BUT, there’s a certain expectation in musical theatre that you’re going to do it just like it’s been done before. If you’re going to play Sandy in Grease, if you’re going to play Adelaide in Guys and Dolls, if you’re going to play Eliza in My Fair Lady– the audience is going to expect to see that person act a certain way, to hear the songs sung a certain way, etc. People buy tickets and come to the show because they want to see something familiar and something that they know they already like. To make changes to the essence of that character would disturb the vibe of the show that brought them there in the first place.

For nostalgia’s sake, I get it. It can be great to let music take you back in time and to hear songs you know so well– classics are classics for a reason, and that’s certainly why most theatre companies do them with some regularity and why it’s not difficult to get people to see them.

However, as an artist and a creative person, I don’t feel that’s enough for me. As is written about in Seth Godin’s book, Linchpin, people who replicate art are not artists. The originator of the art is the artist. Harsh, maybe, but it goes back to the whole Plato’s The Republic and the chair thing  (what is the TRUE chair, the drawing of a chair is merely an imitation of an actual chair, etc, etc). The further away you get from the real source of creation, the less one can consider it art.

Now don’t get me wrong– I love classic musicals, many of them are extremely special to me and make me super emotional, and I’d love to keep doing them from time to time. I LOVE to support arts education, and am happy to be a part of a show that focuses on that.

I also hope that I can spend most of my acting career being a creator, sharing new stories with people, and collaborating on brand new projects where one can play outside the confines of the past.

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