So…I wrote the following post about a week ago. Didn’t publish it then, and I’m doing it now…I know, LAME! I got called onstage and didn’t get back to it. I told my husband I’d get it done before he got home from work today–actually, I told him that yesterday, then got hit with a wave of jet lag and slept most of the day away. This is sounding more and more lame as I write, so I’m stopping with the excuses! Thanks for reading!
It’s been a minute or 2 since my last post and I’m here to amend that! Since our last episode, I’ve gone on a few more auditions, started working on “Fame”, and met Elaine Stritch…this last event being absolutely transcendent! Definitely have to lead with that!
My husband and I had a posh date night last Wednesday (September 28)…he knows how much I live for her and she was performing a very intimate show at New York’s Cafe Carlyle. I have a dvd of “At Liberty” (her one woman show), and every now and again I HAVE to watch it…she is a master class and I learn something new every time.
She was started out brilliantly….she opened with a hopeful/sardonic take on “I Feel Pretty” which was amazing–just seeing her walk from the door by the bar to the stage in her iconic white shirt, black tights and black character shoes was almost enough for me! She performed her favorites from Steven Sondheim’s massive body of work (he was in the house as well) and she was just as powerful and heartbreaking and funny as I imagined she’d be.
What I didn’t imagine was that I’d see her struggling with remembering lyrics. She was up there, completely vulnerable, checking in time and time again with her supportive accompanist who was her lifeline each time she looked to him to get her back on track. He was wonderful, and managed to help her without sacrificing her dignity or causing her more embarrassment. At one point, after she’d had about 5 tries getting through “Everybody Says Don’t”, she just stopped everything and looked out to us. She said, “Look. I’m terrified up here. This is by far the toughest evening I’ve had in this run, and if you could just be with me…if I knew you were with me, I believe I could do this.” We erupted with applause and cries of “We love you, Elaine!” and you could actually see her take heart! She gathered herself and went on like the legend she is. She still stumbled, but she went on. It was really something. I’ll never forget it. I’d read a few reviews of her show prior to seeing it, and the reviewers mentioned that she was having a bit of a hard time remembering everything, so it was even more striking to me that she had the courage to get out there anyway. That before every performance in this tiny, very intimate setting, she knew that she’d be out there, utterly exposed, that she’d probably forget lyrics and have to deal with that in front of everyone, and she went out there anyway. Living The Actor’s Nightmare. Stone cold sober…she wouldn’t have done that earlier in her career when she hadn’t kicked the booze yet.
It was a personal, spectacular evening. None of that took away from the powerhouse that she is. I was so rapt throughout her entire performance, that I caught myself holding my breath more than a few times. Having to remind myself to breathe…that’s what Ms. Elaine Stritch does to me. When Tony and I were on the way out, she was sitting at a table with Stephen Sondheim near the door. I had to go over.
I waited my turn, then went over and knelt down next to her and looked her right in the eye and told her, “You kill me. You absolutely kill me. I have days where I have to hear you and I put on ‘At Liberty’…and I’m around the house washing dishes or sweeping with you in the background, and I never get anything done, because just hearing you is never enough for me! (At this point, she reached out and took my hand) I know you had a hard time tonight, but I hope you don’t torture yourself about any of it, because you can literally do no wrong. You can’t. You showed up, and that was more than enough. Thank you so much!” She asked me my name, and I told her. She looked so grateful for my words! After all these years, I could still see the beginner in her, that actor just starting out, almost overwhelmed by that need for approval and acceptance. It is REAL. She is REAL. All the mess and glory that being real is. That’s her genius. She still has that after all she’s done. Her insatiable need to connect, to be heard and understood and to hear and understand as well.