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.
-from The Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School
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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Brava! Fun poem and videos, Renée. You definitely captured those opening night jitters in your poem but I didn’t detect any in your performance. Encore!
DeLIGHTful! The poem and video, but also the way you flopped… onto the sofa in the scene! This was fun! I hope we get to see a Coward scene too – wish I could come for that. What a gorgeous place to play!
Wow–your “bad Italian” sounds pretty impressive to me! Thanks for giving us this glimpse into your dramatic life. And, as always, I love your poem!!
Hi, Renee. I love your poem. Some kids feel this way every time they have to stand up in front of class — broad appeal! Do you know about children’s poet Betsy Franco’s book “21 Monologues for Teen Actors”? Might be fun to check out.
Lovely, lovely! Brava bella!
I know it is not easy for you to get US books – but I hope you read Betsy Bird’s GIANT DANCE PARTY which is (a little bit) about stage fright!
Oh my word, Renee! You have the most amazing life. You’ve got bucket loads of everything creative anyone could wish for. A little JK student needed to pee before getting on the bus the other day and her dad wouldn’t let her pee in the grass. I forgot to ask what happened but she was on the bus for 20 minutes. Geez!
What fun to see you recite your poem backstage and on stage!
You definitely the thrill of the moment.
I seem to have lost the word “capture” in my comment above.
I have the anthology and love your poem Renee. We have a wonderful drama dept. at our school, so I can now share your video with them! And, your Italian sounds good to me, who only speaks a little French. What fun to be ‘on’ again, & now to direct Blithe Spirit-lovely. Thanks much for all! That theater is beautiful!
I can so completely relate to your poem and thoughts about the theatre…I haven’t been in anything since college, and miss it! And other than the caked-on lipstick, I, too, remember all those other great smells, sights, and feelings. There really is no other mustiness quite like the mustiness of an old theatre.
Brava!! *thunderous applause*
You call that bad Italian?!
Wonderful wonderful — love the poem video and seeing you in action on the stage. Too much talent for just one person? 🙂
Brava! Renee! So glad you shared your poem and your theatre experience with us! I was in one play in Middle School playing a gangster named Baby Face Boyd. I never sweated so much in my life. I ‘ve always performed – singing and playing piano, but acting scared me to death. Much luck with your directing! Sounds exciting! I love Blithe Spirit!
Love that poem and poster and video, Renee! You look like you’re having a blast on stage–and wow, how you manage it in Italian!
Renee, the more I find out about you the more I see similarities between us! I too grew up with theater— it was the center of my universe from 2nd grade through my mid 20s. My college degree was in theater and my preference was also directing… though I gravitated more toward experimental/avant garde stuff. Anyway, enough about me. I’m so glad you’re rekindling the flame and, it seems, enjoying yourself immensely. Both of your videos make that abundantly clear! And that’s one beautiful theater to be directing in… enjoy every moment!
You are just amazingly multi-talented! I’ve never been in a play before. I have terrible stage fright and don’t like it when people are looking at me. :} I think I’d prefer the behind-the-scenes activity of directing better too.
Love the opening night poem!
You have so many gifts to share with people. It’s lovely you are having a good time with theater. I used to be involved in musical theater 40 yrs ago. I loved it, so I appreciated your poem of all the smells, sounds. Directing fits you well — and I know you must be very good at it!
Oh, I hated it to end, Renee! Brava! More, more, more (be sure to tape some of Blithe Spirit for us…?)
BRAVA, BRAVA! You are amazing! And your accent sounds pretty darn good to me! I love the poem, love the videos, love your acting, and oh what a theatre you get to direct in. To quote Julie: “More, more, more!”
Wow! Sure looked like more than a bit part to me! I couldn’t understand a thing that you said, but it seemed like your energy carried the scene. Here’s a challenge — post your next video with subtitles. Thanks for the fun dose of international culture!
Theatre also happens to be one of our passions at home. My daughter has been attending theatre classes ever since she was five! That’s six years now! I will ask my daughter to read your “Opening Night” – I have a feeling she’d love it. Thank you for sharing the video clip as well- allows us a sneak peek into your world! 🙂 Beautiful! Bellisima! 🙂 hahaha.
So really, Renee, when I was in Lucca and environs this summer with my family, we should have popped down to see you…too bad I hadn’t figured out that you LIVE IN ITALY. I reread your “Opening Night” poem in PFAMS on Thursday when I was getting my post ready…the video works well!
Great job! Our school preforms an operetta each year, with the 5th & 6th graders. The 5th graders are the chorus and the 6th graders act, or are in the chorus, whether or not they get the part. I just auditioned for a part in the operetta. It’s called “The Best Little Theater in Town” – I want to be the villain – James P. Pennypacker! MWAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!
What a fun peek into your world, Renee! When I was performing, we always joked about “stage kidneys” — thanks for including the parenthesis “(Gotta pee!)” Brava!
So fun to get to see your poem in action…in BOTH videos! What a gorgeous theater — lucky you!!
What a great post. You’re brave and talented to perform in Italian – you sound and look great. The poem is perfect too. I used to do school plays but nothing beyond that, but always love going to the theater.
Just dropping in from the Kid Lit Blog Hop – love the poem!
You’ve captured the nerves and excitement of being on stage
Dropping by from Kid Lit Blog Hop
Oh man Renee! You have such a FANTASTICALLY COOL life! WOWEE!!! What a great poem and the videos are super! How fun. Love the Italian too. This life you lead truly suits you. I used to love performing. Back in another lifetime. BRAVA! BRAVA! *waves peace sign*
Hopping by from the kid lit blog hop I wasn’t expecting such wonderful entertainment :o)
What a lovely peek into your world Renee and I love your poem. I have to admit that I would be quite anxious to be thrust into the role of a theatre actor. I did a bit of theatre when I was in high school, but that’s about it. That theatre is so beautiful by the way.
Thank you for linking into the Kid Lit Blog Hop. Lovely to see you there. 🙂
My goodness what a beautiful theatre. Wow. LOVED the video, touches of Fillini. That’s apropos since you live in Italy. Proud of you.