Curtain up! Light the lights!
You got nothing to hit but the heights!
–from the musical Gypsy
In April of this year, I made my Italian theater debut in a French comedy called Le Squat (The Squatters). Luckily, I played a Lithuanian immigrant who speaks very bad Italian, so I didn’t have to be self-conscious about my accent. Also luckily, it was not a huge part, so I managed to memorize my lines without too much trouble. I had already been in an operetta in December 2012, but I was just part of the chorus, which is much less pressure. And it was marvelous to share an easy camaraderie with a fun and funny cast, which doesn’t always happen. This one clicked, and as they say in Italy, “Si sta bene insieme” (we’re good together).
Funny thing about theater. Although I directed shows up until 2001, when I lit out for Italy, this show marked my first time on stage in a speaking role in about twenty years — yet it felt just like going home.
Oh, theater, how I had missed you! I missed the
smell of musty costumes
sound of heels on a hollow stage
feel of hot amber lights on my face
taste of caked-on lipstick
sight of silhouettes in velvet seats
And I even missed the nerves, that few minutes right before the curtain rises when you realize: “Holy cow! I have to step into that light!” Then there’s the little flutter, the slight moment of panic, the flashbacks to the actor’s nightmare, the thoughts of fleeing, then the final calm when you remember that you know what to do. And that’s what “Opening Night” is all about.
can’t find a pin.
down my chin.
Who took my wig?
Is that my prop?
(What if we’re
a giant flop?)
and noodle legs.
of hurtled eggs.
What if I
forget my lines?
(Stop it now!
You’re fine. You’re FINE!)
in the wings.
Cue bell rings.
I step on stage–
lights shine on me.
While I enjoyed my time onstage, it helped me remember why I switched from acting to directing all those years ago — I’m just too antsy to be an actor, to do the same thing over and over. Or too much of a control freak. Yes, that’s it. So I’ve now switched back to my happy place and will be directing the next show, Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit.
And just look at this jewel of a theater I get to work in! It’s the Teatro dei Concordi in the medieval town of Campiglia Marittima. It’s a poem in itself.
Its lovely lobby and bar…
…and a detail of the interior decoration.
And here is one of my scenes from Le Squat.
I should have put subtitles. In this scene, Natasha enters wearing the clothes and fur of the owner of the apartment. She talks about why she left Lithuania and moved to Paris, how life is difficult in communist countries, how she was tricked into and won the Miss Stalouchograd beauty contest ten years ago, and how much she cried because the three pairs of shoes she won were too big. Then she gets mad for being made fun of for her bad Italian. Then she sings the Kalinka.
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