Monday, August 31, 2015

My Little Love Letter to 'Hot in Cleveland'

A few years ago, we realized that cable tv was costing us way too much money each month, especially considering that we mostly watched shows streaming on our computers. We became "cord cutters" and bid adieu to cable altogether, bought a Roku box, and now watch all of our shows via the internet (though still on our television screens). It works really well for us.

Early in the summer, we discovered a gem of a show on Hulu called "Hot in Cleveland". The simple yet brilliant premise (as quoted from Google):
  1. When their plane has trouble while on a flight to Paris, three glamorous LA women find themselves in a completely new and unexpected place. Feeling the need for a girls-only, once-in-a-lifetime trip, Melanie cashes in her airline miles to finance a trip to the city of light for herself and her two best friends, Joy and Victoria, all "of a certain age" and feeling less than desirable. They never make it to Paris, though -- when the stricken plane lands in Cleveland, the women suddenly find they're popular with the men there. Realizing that while they may be lukewarm in LA, they're hot in Cleveland, the women decide to relocate. They immediately fall in love with their rental house. It takes a little longer, however, for them to warm up to the house's longtime caretaker (Betty White).
We watched the last episode of their six season run last night, and I'm feeling a little bit glum this morning, having said goodbye to four incredible characters played by four fabulously talented actresses.

"Melanie" played by the still-too-cute-for-words Valerie Bertinelli:

She talks too much and has her flaws, but she is the glue that holds the foursome together. She is a faithful-to-the-end friend...the kind all of us need on a bad (or great) day.

"Victoria" played by the one and only Wendy Mallick:

She's ambitious to a fault, loves to make dramatic announcements, can't see past the end of her nose, but she's fabulous and hilarious, and you can't help but love her.

"Joy" played by the incomparable Jane Leeves:

She's sweet and kind, but so unlucky in love. Though her name is Joy, she struggles to find it in her life. She's the underdog with the longest legs, and I found myself rooting for her from the get go.

"Elka" played by comic genius Betty White:

After seeing her play sweet, bubble headed "Rose" on Golden Girls for so many years, it was a delight to watch her as the straight-shooting, no-nonsense, foul-mouthed, booze-swilling Elka. Betty White's timing, at 93 years old, is still absolutely impeccable. What a treasure she is!

Together, the four women have an undeniable chemistry. All four of the actresses have acknowledged in interviews how very special this experience has been for them--the kind of acting opportunity that is incredibly rare. Betty White said that they plan to meet up for lunch once a week to write a book together--freely admitting that the book will never be written, but it's a lovely excuse for them to see each other once a week to talk about the book!

The show ended with all four women sitting on their porch swing, where they often sat during the run of the show. It does my heart good to know that their real life friendship goes on, as well. I'll miss laughing at/with these fabulous characters. It was true escapist TV viewing for me, and for my nightly summer laughs, I'm grateful. Thank you, ladies, for making me love you!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

The Old Age of Youth

Victor Hugo once wrote, "40 is the old age of youth".

I am now several months into being 40, and I'm starting to get what Hugo meant. A shift is happening, and I never notice it more than when I'm auditioning for a play.

Being an actor means you must be relentlessly honest with yourself about what roles you are truly capable of playing. I may have red hair, and I can belt "The sun'll come out tomorrow..." with the best of them, but that ship has sailed and no matter how much I might like to play the Little Orphan, it ain't happening. (The good news is that Miss Hannigan isn't so far out reach, though!)

Of course, even my 4-year old son could tell you that I'm too old to play Annie. But what about the more subtile aspects of casting? Shortly before moving to Texas in 2009, I did a show in Los Angeles by Charles Busch called Our Leading Lady. I was thrilled to play the part of Clementine, but unsettled that I was right for a character described by the playwright as "an aging ingenue". Ouch! It was humbling when another actor in the show saw me in costume and exclaimed quite sincerely, "You're perfect as Clemmie! You truly look the part of an aging ingenue!"

"Geez!" I wanted to retort, "You don't have to be so enthusiastic about it!"

Last week, a theatre that I really want to work with was casting A Midsummer Night's Dream. I contacted the director to see if I could audition. He is an absolutely lovely person who told me quite frankly (which I appreciated) that he really only saw me as Titania/Hippolyta, but that part had already been cast. He said that he was auditioning for Helena, though, and that if I STRONGLY felt that I could change his mind, I was welcome to audition.

Heck yeah, I could change his mind (or so I thought)! Helena has been a dream role for me, and while the age window might be closing on that character for me, it was still slightly ajar, and I was determined to squeeze through it! I once played Helena in a college workshop production, but always hoped to play her in a fully produced version. Helena is a young lover in Midsummer, and in my heart, I just knew I could still "bring it" as Helena. But then I went to the audition and saw an adorable 20-something waiting to audition for the same role. She was young and adorable and the perfect physical type for the role (very tall and slender). As I took in her 20-something presence, I realized I'm not that anymore.

I auditioned and felt that I did a truly so-so job, which was frustrating, given the preparation I put into it. But I scooped up my bruised ego and we drove home. As I sat with my audition experience for the next 24 hours, I realized that there was more to the italicized sentence above. I'm not that anymore, and that's okay. Though I was still holding out hope that I'd be cast as Helena, I began to loosen my death grip on that hope. Even if I didn't get cast, I could still cross "Helena" off my bucket list. Even though, the college rendition of the show wasn't fully produced, I still fully memorized and fully acted the part--every line. Helena and I had our adventure when I was actually a great age to play her, and I loved every minute of it. Helena would very likely be in my rearview mirror, but there are other great parts to be played still ahead of me!

A couple days after my audition for Midsummer, I got a call from a theatre producer in Rochester, NY inquiring about my availability to come up for a week to fill in as Girl 1 in their extended run of Girls Only: The Secret Comedy of Women. My heart thrilled at the opportunity to act in this two-woman show once again!

As it turns out, I wasn't cast in Midsummer, which wasn't terribly surprising. But as another well-known ingenue once said, "Whenever God closes a door, He always opens a window." And what beautiful light is shining through--Rochester, I'll see you in February!

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Happy New Year!

It's been a loooooong time since I've blogged, but I've missed it, and one of my goals for 2015 is to dust off this blog and get writing again!

We have had a terrific holiday season with lots of visitors, both family and friends! And, of course, there was so special time spent with my mom and my sister and her family. My heart and soul feel refreshed by this time shared with loved ones and I'm actually really looking forward to what God has in store for the year ahead!

Brian's mom, sister, niece and nephew came in from the East Coast to spend Christmas. It was the first time Gramma, her two kids, and all five of her grandchildren were together in one place. So of course, that called for a photo session at
The Picture People!

My kids on Christmas Eve

We got to spend New Year's Eve with our dear friends, the Stones, who were here from Spain! Love them!

It was so great seeing our kids all playing together.
 Happy 2015, everyone!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Back On Stage!

I'm thrilled to be back on stage at Houston's Main Street Theater, performing in a very funny two-woman show called Girls Only: The Secret Comedy of Women. The show is such a joy to perform, and I'm having a blast. This morning, Keri Henson (the other actress in the show) and I appeared on Great Day Houston, where we were interviewed about the show and we performed part of a scene.

It was so much fun, and I feel so blessed to be living my dreams of being a professional actress! Thank You, God!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Ally and Larry: Sigh.

I really only have one beef about the Ally McBeal series: that they never resolved Ally and Larry's storyline. It left me feeling very disappointed at the end of the series finale. I kept waiting for Larry to walk through the door, but he never did.

I'm choosing to believe that they reconnected after she moved to New York, and they found their way back to each other again. Their love story seemed perfect, even with all of its imperfections and challenges. They were meant to be.


Elaine Vassal sings "What I Did for Love" on Ally McBeal

Little secret: If you want to win me over, just write an audition storyline into any television episode, and I will sit there and cry like a baby.

It's no secret that Ally's assistant Elaine LOVES the spotlight, and she relishes the opportunity to perform. In one of the final episodes of the series called "Reality Bites", Elaine travels to New York City to audition for A Chorus Line. She chooses "Tits and Ass" as her audition song, which is a no-brainer song choice for her, but she doesn't really go all out. Consequently, she doesn't get a callback. Devastated, she returns to Boston and confides in Nelle, who works pulls some strings for her and gets her a callback.

Determined to show the producers what she's made of, Elaine returns to New York and sings the much more complex (and more appropriate for her) song "What I Did for Love" and dances her heart out. Though she doesn't land the job, she SHINES, and she's absolutely alive!

Every actor on earth can relate to A Chorus Line in one way or another, because it is a show about actors auditioning for a show, and how desperately they wish, "I hope I get it!"

One of the things that the tv series Ally McBeal does so masterfully is to juxtapose the characters' outward behavior with what's really going on in their inner worlds. It's fascinating! Ally is a dreamer, and I am a dreamer, too. One of the reasons the show so resonated with me (and specifically this episode) is because it reminds the dreamer in me to never stop dreaming and never stop chasing my dreams!

I personally believe that God is often the one who gives us these dreams, and when we pursue them with passion, He meets us there and makes our dreams come to life!

I'm Your Mother...Ally McBeal's Tears of Relief and Joy

In a fifth season episode called "Homecoming", Ally decides to have a DNA test done to confirm that she is indeed Maddie's birthm0ther, because she is having nightmares that some other couple would surface one day claiming to be Maddie's actual b1rthparents, and that she would lose her forever.

After agonizing over whether she should even be having the test done, the results arrive and we see her collapse on the floor in a puddle of tears upon reading the results. When Maddie finds Ally in tears, she asks why she is crying. Ally responds, "Because I'm your mother", and the two give each other big hugs.

I found myself crying giant tears watching the episode for a couple of reasons:

1.) I remember the day a judge in Ethiopia ruled in favor of our adoption of Jeremy and Zachary, and hearing her say the words, "They are yours." After 18 months of working through the adoption process, seeing photos of our boys and traveling across the world to legally adopt them, hearing those words brought tears of relief and joy to my eyes. They were ours and it was final! I remember thanking the judge through my tears, and she said, "It is my honor." One of the most amazing moments of my life!

2.) I would love to have a daughter. There was something so special about Ally's bond with Maddie, and I would love to be the mother of a girl one day. Maybe it's because I grew up in a family with just one sister and a wonderful mother. I can't really explain it. But I'd love to share a mother/daughter bond with a little girl one day, God willing.

There was a moment when Ally received the envelope in the mail, and I wasn't sure if she would open it or not. She was struggling with her motives. For her, it wasn't that the biological relationship was so important as it was that no one could ever take her daughter away from her. The DNA test results gave her that peace. For me (obviously) having a genetic relationship with my kids isn't what makes us mother and sons. That isn't why this episode spoke to me. It spoke to me because I know the relief and joy of hearing and knowing that Jeremy and Zachary were mine, and knowing finally that I was their mother.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Blue favorite Ally McBeal episode

Of all 111 episodes of Ally McBeal that I watched, I had three favorites, and one of them was my very favorite. It was called BLUE CHRISTMAS, and I think it will be an annual Christmastime viewing for me. I just loved it that much!

One night, Ally and Elaine are walking through downtown Boston, when they pass by a church with a Nativity scene. Suddenly, they stop in their tracks when they hear the cries of a real, live baby coming from the manger. They approach the baby, and Elaine picks him up and continues to care for him, while they notify authorities. For Elaine, it is love at first sight, and she bonds with the baby quickly. After confiding in Ally about her feelings for the baby and her desire to adopt him, Ally agrees to represent her in a court hearing to gain custody of the baby.

I won't give away the rest of the story because it is beautiful and so worth watching.

Of all of the Ally episodes I watched, this one seemed to have the most heart and the most humanness. And I think that Jane Krakowski was really able to shine as Elaine in this episode because her character was given a storyline that allowed her to show her multi-dimensionality.

I'm sure that it spoke to me (at least in part) because I remember holding my children for the first time and knowing that I loved them with a mother's love as soon as they were placed in my arms.

It also reminded me of this dear child who I held and loved and said goodbye to all in one day, but who I will never forget. We bonded in minutes, and he changed my heart forever.

I can definitely understand how instant bonds are formed, and this episode explores that phenomenon with grace and sensitivity.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Ally McBeal: A Kindred Spirit from TV Land

I remember living at the Parkside Evangeline residence in New York City as a young 20-something, glued to the television every week to watch Ally McBeal. Something about her spoke to my young self back then, probably the fact that we were both single, feminist, and hopeful that love would find us.

Now on the other side of marriage (the married side), I've rediscovered the series on HuluPlus, and I'm not sure I should admit it, but in just over a month, I've watched all 111 episodes. And I was just as captivated this time around! The issues that show explored seemed just as relevant today as they were 15 years ago, when the show first aired. I rooted for Ally every step of the way, and I felt the same disappointment that Larry never came back into her life (during the run of the show).

There is so much I adore about this show!
~The amazing cast and guest stars (Tracy Ullman! Robert Downey, Jr.! Kyra Sedgwick!)
~The theme songs
~The musical guests (Al Green! Barry White! Barry Manilow!)
~The way the show explores difficult issues without slamming you over the head with the "correct answer".
~The way the characters manage to communicate their emotions and thoughts to one another, as well as their ability to let bygones be "bygones".
~The quirkiness of it all!

Some of the characters stood out more than others, and some completely endeared themselves to me: Ally, Larry Paul (I'm a little bit in love with RDJ!), Elaine, and John Cage. They gave just beautiful performances.

Three episodes really stood out to me, and I think, each of them will be explored with its own blog post.

It's funny, after journeying with these characters through five years of their lives, I feel a little blue saying goodbye to them. Ally McBeal is far and away my favorite tv show, and I can see myself going back and watching certain episodes again.

While the series finale left me feeling without closure, the series as a whole did not disappoint. I don't know how else to say it, but that I saw myself reflected in the show and its characters: my passions, my dreams, my quirks, my hopes and my life experiences. And somehow it just felt good to know that I am not alone in all of those aspects of living.

And isn't that what the best stories do? They remind us that we aren't alone.