Written to the JaCKPie improv troupe:
The first thing I ever wanted to be was an actor. At the point where little boys were encouraged to embrace "fireman" as their dream career (maybe because of the wicked-cool hat), I decided that I wanted to be famous and on TV. I didn't really consider that there'd be work involved with acting. I just liked, when I was 4, the opportunity to get really, really emotional or really, really histrionic. I liked that you could try and do funny voices. I wanted to come running on THE PRICE IS RIGHT when Johnny Olson yelled "COME ON DOWN!," so I would yell "COME ON DOWN!" myself and run from room to room. (I'm old. When I first watched THE PRICE IS RIGHT, Bob Barker's hair had the tint of dark brown shoe polish.)
I liked the variety shows, where singers like Barbara Mandrell got to do scenes with her silly sisters and giant puppets or Donny Osmond would stop flirting with his sister long enough to sing me a song.
But, more than anything, I wanted to host THE MUPPET SHOW. I wanted to wear glasses like Scooter. (For some reason I didn't figure out until later, I really, really liked Scooter.) I wanted to meet Kermit the Frog and sing a song with him. I wanted Miss Piggy to come karate-chop me in a dressing room that had a star on the door. (I maybe convinced my mom, at the time, to put a star on my bedroom door. The memories are vague.)
Eventually, one day when we were riding in the car to my physical therapy, my mom probably thought it would be a good motivator to tell me that, to be an actor, I'd have to be able to walk as normally as possible, that there aren't regular roles for people who don't walk like regular people. The goal of telling me this was to encourage me to work harder at the therapy. But the advice had the adverse effect on me because I refused to accept that I was flawed.
One of my great flaws - in conjunction with my disability - is that I stubbornly resent that I have to work harder for things that come so naturally to other people. (When I was a kid, I didn't understand that everyone has to do this sometime.) I thought that the disability was neither my choice nor my doing, so I couldn't figure out why *I* had to be the one to deal with it. Even as an adult now, I occasionally exhibit this childish ego. My ego can't figure out why I'm just not given things straightaway from people because I'm clearly the most special person on Earth who deserves everyone's undivided attention. Work for things? Bah! (As I said, it's a huge flaw. Someone once asked me how I could have a huge ego and no self-esteem. This might explain it.)
Hearing from my mom that a disabled person couldn't be accepted as a regular actor led me to immediately reject my dream as impractical. (The only person on TV with cerebral palsy, at the time, was Blair's cousin Geri on THE FACTS OF LIFE, and I remember not understanding the way she spoke or how the two of us could have the same disability because her afflictions seemed so much worse than mine. I didn't want to be like her, but that's apparently all that people like me got to do.)
I hate my disability. I try to ignore it, even now. I don't like that I have to accept that there are some things I'll never be able to do without extreme amounts of work that would involve me having to accept - to know in my soul, rather than in my mind when faced with obstacles at different moments - that I'm damaged. In my soul, I still want to sing and dance with Kermit the Frog. (I even went to the Kermit display at the Center for Puppetry Arts a couple times this year and just stared at him, gleeful and daydreaming that I was finally getting to meet someone I'd wanted to meet my whole life.)
I was a child when I developed these opinions of myself, and they're deeply rooted. Much of my mind has changed. I even have something of a work ethic now, achieved begrudgingly. But some things are there forever.
I became interested in arts journalism as a kid through extensive study of my babysitter's TV GUIDE collection. Every Saturday when I had to visit my dad, I would read the Weekend insert of The Atlanta Journal and study the movie reviews. Seeds were planted in my head, combining old ambitions with new ones, that I could still be involved with a community of actors and artists, even if I wasn't one myself. I could stand on the sidelines, watch and make comments. I could ask questions and critique. It didn't matter if I was a cripple - as my father once called me while also trying to get me to take physical therapy seriously. (All it made me do was cry.) As an arts journalist or theater critic, I could fulfill different dreams that still looked a lot like the old ones.
So I went to college and did exactly that. I became a pretty good journalist and a good writer, and I spent time with the art and theater students as much as I could. Eventually, I started writing features for newspapers. Then, even later, I started to blog about entertainment stuff. But I perpetually wanted to belong more, not be on the sidelines. Even though I'm disabled, I want to perform. I wanted to contribute as an artist, and I still do.
I'm 31. And I'm finally getting to do things I've wanted to do since I was 4. I'm performing. I'm writing (and rewriting and rewriting) a script where an actress is surrounded by puppets. I'm finally using the tools and skills that I've acquired over a lifetime, and these achievements are so much more valuable to me now. And I'm getting these things because I'm working (and working and working) for them, not just expecting them to be handed to me.
And I'm accepting - as much as I begrudgingly have to accept it - that I have special needs. I need that step next to the JaCKPie stage, and I really, really appreciate that you guys put it there. Moreso, I appreciate the lessons that I'm learning about myself - ridiculous flaws and all - through this work that we're all doing together.
So, having achieved this, I want more. I want to act. I want to stage projects. I want to show off. And I still want to host THE MUPPET SHOW. And if someone could get me Scooter's phone number, I'd be eternally grateful.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
My friend Jenipher shocked me several months ago with the confession that she'd never seen THE GODFATHER and that her husband hadn't seen it either.
I didn't take this well. I told her that I was sorry that, by neglecting the film, her family had failed to bring her up right and that her husband wasn't a true man.
Eventually, she told me that she'd probably watch THE GODFATHER if it were more her taste, i.e. if it was about shoe shopping, a school dance or falling in love.
So I wrote her this description of THE GODFATHER, leaving out the parts about the Mafia, and she's finally decided to watch it:
All-American girl Kay Adams is in college and in love for the first time, and her GI boyfriend Michael - home from WWII - wants her to FINALLY meet his family. His sister Connie is getting married, and Michael's family is super-rich and powerful! Kay's excited that she's gonna have a well-dressed soldier on her arm, but then she realizes that Michael's brothers and extended family are all attractive, intelligent and maybe a little bit dangerous!
Michael's brother Sonny is married with kids, but Kay catches him flirting with all the bridesmaids! Michael's other brother Fredo seems like he'd be a charmer if he weren't so nervous. Meanwhile, Connie's groom sure seems to have a temper! And the Father of the Bride is running late to the wedding because he's in secret meetings all day ... including ones with the dreamy Johnny Fontaine, the singer and big-time movie star!!!
Will Kay catch Connie's bouquet? Will Johnny Fontaine perform a song at the wedding? Is Michael and Kay's special, special love meant to be? Or is Michael a little bit dangerous himself?
To find out, watch Diane Keaton fall in love in THE GODFATHER ... also starring Marlon Brando, James Caan, Al Pacino and Robert Duvall.
Posted by Riley at 1/15/2008 02:36:00 PM