Archive for September, 2009

Are We Not Queens?

September 25, 2009

Funny that I’ve been meaning to write about Mary Stuart since July and I’m only getting around to it one month after the end of its limited run.  I so regret that my adored Aunt A. didn’t live to see this production.  She was a well known figure in the Philadelphia theater scene and she surely would have loved this play.  She cherished fine words and compelling drama.  She was a firm – though playful – feminist and a powerful figure in her own right.  I’ve been feeling the loss of the conversation I’ll never have with her about this play – it’s not every day that such filling food for thought comes along!

Recently, I’ve been missing her conversation in other ways as well.  She died soon after I started university; at the time, I had no plans other than to spend as much time as possible at the movies.  Ten years later, I’m trying to create arts programming for my local community.  I would love to have my aunt as a resource – to guide me through the strange process of starting a small business and to be a mentor with a stake in my success.  I did co-found a business this year, but it’s only a side project for the time being.  Somewhat more dramatically, I decided to apply for an interesting position at my real job… a position for which I was highly unqualified.  Strangely, the thing that gave me the courage to apply was an interview with Janet McTeer. 

I have too many things to say about the treasure trove of interviews offered up on the Charlie Rose website.  The joint interview with Janet McTeer and Harriet Walter about Mary Stuart is so unexpectedly erudite.  For once, these actresses seem to approach their research as historians would.  They don’t brag about all the research they’ve done and the experts they’ve become.  Instead, they’re fascinated by all that’s unknown about the queens Mary and Elizabeth.  They concede that there’s no consensus among historians – so much of what is understood about these women is informed speculation.  I’m amazed at how susceptible I can be.  I trust these actors completely simply because they avoid describing their preparations in absolutes.  But, as always, I digress.  I am just coming out of the most difficult years of my life  (so far).  I have been suffering a bad case of professional frustration and I’ve belatedly discovered that it’s entirely possible to make my own fun.  If I can’t find the job I want to do, then I should create it myself.  This isn’t as hard as I’d imagined it would be and it is certainly never boring!  I’ve been moving in this direction for over a year now, but the thing that made me appreciate all the possibilities in front of me was a late ’90s interview with McTeer after the opening of A Doll’s House on Broadway.  Her easy confidence is such a revelation.  She doesn’t worry about success or what will come next or even which words she should use in a television interview to make her sound smart.  She just talks excitedly about the things that interest her as an actor and a person.  I guess that’s really the key – a certain generosity towards others and a willingness to engage with them.  But two months later I’m still amazed at how 40 minutes with an interesting actor gave me the confidence to turn so many things in my life around.  Two months ago I wanted to be more like Janet.  This short time later I’m so happy to be me.  So thank you, Janet, for somehow – magically – showing me the way to be the woman I wanted to be.

The Beaches of Agnes

September 10, 2009

I’ve not seen many of Agnes’ films, but I think my brain is in love.  If Agnes Varda is anything like the woman we observe in THE BEACHES OF AGNES, then she is ever so much more than pure delight.  My head is ready to explode rainbows!  This film is something of an 80th birthday present to herself and it somehow feels unearned.  If she is leaving behind a celluloid memoir or an accounting of her life, then she should look something more like a shriveled old lady whose days have grown shorter.  Instead she is vital and vibrant (though ever tender towards the dementia that has struck so many of her childhood friends). 

Agnes’ is a beauty without warts.  She doesn’t wince at sad truths and painful episodes – she tells them evenly and without pride.  And the good times – of which there are many, many more – are ecstatic.  The whole film gives the impression of dreams really coming true.  Varda stages the images that have most powerfully captured her imagination throughout her life.  There is something so poetic and delicious about this acting out of dreams in the flesh.  To be a courtesean inside a whale or a house made out of film!  Her ambitions are nothing more than reveries.  I have more than 50 years to go, but I wonder what I will be at 80.  How will I play and what visions will I see?  What will I even have the capacity to communicate?  I love this film and the woman who made it.  I want to be this filmmaker and to live within the wonderful beaches of Agnes.  And now I’ve finally had just enough gulps of wine to approximate the swooning feeling this film gave me.  Bliss!