The Legend of Georgia McBride

I had intended to see Honest Pint Theatre Company’s production of The Legend of Georgia McBride on Friday, but a mixture of hailstorms, fear of driving at night in the rain, social anxiety, and quality HBO programming kept me home.

So I decided to catch the matinee two days later.

It was a bright and sunny Sunday afternoon, and my whole body was sore from 31 years of existence on planet earth. I laid around the house, watching Barry on HBO Go until about 12:30. Then I found myself scrambling to get ready to drive to downtown Raleigh for a show.

I’m glad I made it on time, because the show was almost sold-out! I paid for my ticket and took my seat. Since I attended on my own, I passed the time tapping my toes to the pre-show music while reading over a monologue from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead.

The stage was split into three parts. On stage right, was a small apartment with a cozy loveseat, tiny fridge and coffee pot. On stage left was a generous dressing room. I say generous because in my experience, a bar’s dressing room is a closet, dimly lit by fairy lights that provide just enough illumination to make the glitter-strewn floor sparkle. Down the centre of the stage was a runway lined with lightbulbs and backed with a curtain of sparkling silver streamers. Above this runway was a quaint hand-painted sign which read “Cleo’s” (which later in the play, became a fabulous rainbow light-show of a sign in a modern font).

Even more impressive than the set design was the acting.

As a trained actor, I sometimes find theatrical performances difficult to watch, as I disagree with choices made. However, this show was one of the most honest I’d seen in a long time. Actors listened to each other and responded accordingly in such a way that it almost felt like improv.

There was no interval, but toward the middle of the show, was a drag performance where the main characters performed about three numbers each. I never expected to spend my Sunday afternoon at a drag show. I am a frequenter of Friday and Saturday night drag shows, and have performed as a drag king a few times myself. So I know good drag when I see it. And I saw it during The Legend of Georgia McBride. I didn’t get a chance to look at the digital playbill (I don’t think I have a QR reader on my phone), but I still find myself wondering if they had hired actors or actual drag queens for this show. 

Furthermore, the subject matter moved me. I had never seen or read the play before. I knew it would feature drag, but I didn’t expect it to present it in the way that it did. No spoilers, but I was pleased to see representation on stage of healthy relationships, gender identities, and sexual orientations. I found myself near tears more than once as characters explored gender and sexuality.

Standing ovation well deserved.

One of the best experiences I’ve had at the theatre in a long time.

I can’t wait to see more from the Honest Pint Theatre Co. I hope I get the chance to play with them soon.

Typecasting

“Why did you pick a man’s monologue?”

John Gorrie, one of my teachers at BADA, asked me after I performed a monologue from King Lear.

I thought for a moment, but I’m no bard. I couldn’t put into words a good answer. My entire life of memories, wants, thoughts, and desires exploded into my brain all at once in that moment.  My heart knew exactly why I had chosen a man’s speech, but I just didn’t have the words or the time to create them.

Ever since I can remember, I’ve never liked the frills and the lace of “femininity”. I did girl scouts. Brownies, or whatever. You know what we did? Nothing. We ate candy in a half-lit church. I watched while the other girls chatted and giggled. My brother did boy scouts. Guess what they did. Cool shit. They went camping. They got to do archery. They learned survival and played in the woods. My mum was one of the leaders, so I got to tag along to boy scouts and watch.

I can remember countless times when my mum forced me into some kind of floofy dress for church or Christmas. It was usually Easter. She’d buy me a special white or pastel dress to wear to church. And now that I’m grown and understand that all things are finite (including money spent on dresses for little girls and time with parents), I wish I could have appreciated her gestures more.

But I just never enjoyed it. I wanted to wear pants and run around shirtless like the boys.

Just as often as I was forced into dresses, I was with my dad doing “boy” stuff. I picked up snakes, played in rivers, shot guns, and told dirty jokes. As a “tomboy”, I got to have fun, be loud, be brave, get mad, get even…

When I look at Edmund’s monologue, I see my own existence. Though I am a legitimate child of my parents, I’m as underestimated as Shakespeare’s character.

Thou, nature, art my goddess; to thy law
My services are bound. Wherefore should I
Stand in the plague of custom, and permit
The curiosity of nations to deprive me,
For that I am some twelve or fourteen moon-shines
Lag of a brother? Why bastard? wherefore base?
When my dimensions are as well compact,
My mind as generous, and my shape as true,
As honest madam’s issue? Why brand they us
With base? with baseness? bastardy? base, base?
Who, in the lusty stealth of nature, take
More composition and fierce quality
Than doth, within a dull, stale, tired bed,
Go to the creating a whole tribe of fops,
Got ‘tween asleep and wake? Well, then,
Legitimate Edgar, I must have your land:
Our father’s love is to the bastard Edmund
As to the legitimate: fine word,–legitimate!
Well, my legitimate, if this letter speed,
And my invention thrive, Edmund the base
Shall top the legitimate. I grow; I prosper:
Now, gods, stand up for bastards!

Why am I less? I am just as smart and fit as any man. But for some reason, I’m not included. Only because society says I’m less than men. But nature? Nature, she’s the one who made me. People mock me. They call me ugly, bitchy, rude… But my nature is natural, and my nature is fierce. That fierceness, their cruelty, and the need for acceptance breed spite-fuelled ambition.

That fierce (vaulting?) ambition has led me to the stage. Since middle school, I wanted to be on Jackie Chan’s stunt team. I started martial arts classes. I choreographed fights at school. A friend and I recreated a fight from Rush Hour one summer. Then I found out that girls don’t get to fight in the movies like Jackie Chan, Chris Tucker, and Brad Allen. So I tried my hand at acting instead. I sucked, but I’m determined. Determined to prove to myself and everyone else that I’m more than anyone expected.

I’m so thankful for theatre. In the theatre, I get to do those things I’ve always wanted. I’ve fought with hands, guns, and swords. No ladders or umbrellas yet, but I’m not giving up hope. Thanks to theatre, I’ve become melancholy noble, the trickster, the quarrelsome best friend… I’ve done things in theatre that shouldn’t be possible. I’ve done men’s things…

I guess, Mr. Gorrie, I chose a man’s monologue, because I fecking can. Because I want to. Because it speaks to me.

Because I’m masculine.

Maybe one day I’ll get to play the romantic lead.

Until then, I’m more than happy playing men.

Macbeth is the New Black

I should have written this 5 years ago. But honestly, I never expected my journey to take this turn. I never expected to find myself on the bumpy mountain pass that is Bardolotry. Better late than never, like a terribly missed cue. 

I was a studying teaching English to speakers of other languages at Maryville College when I saw an audition announcement. I had long given up my dream of acting or being any kind of artist. But this audition was for an all-girl’s prison version of Macbeth called Macbeth is the New Black. Macbeth had long been my favourite play, and I still remembered Hecate’s speech to her underling witches. I was in a history of the English language course, and had been learning about Early Modern English, so I thought it might be fun to whip out an old monologue. I had no confidence and no hope, so I had nothing to lose. I just wanted to do the monologue.

“Have I not reason, beldams as you are?
Saucy and overbold,”

I began, staring at each of the auditioners in turn.

“How did you dare 
To trade and traffic with Macbeth
In riddles and affairs of death,
And I, the mistress of your charms,
The close contriver of all harms
Was never called to bear my part
Or show the glory of our art?

I couldn’t tell you what happened after that.

My sister, Raine, who I had not known at the time, often tells me the story of our callback. As she played Lady Macbeth and I, Macbeth. She claims we had incredible chemistry and would have made a good pair.

But I don’t think I could tell you anything about callbacks.

However, Jayne Morgan, the director, must have seen something hard and delinquent in me. Not really hard to do, I guess, if I’m honest. I’ve been told a dozen and a half times that I intimidate people and exude a dense “$^@< off” aura. Really though, I think I was just in the right place at the right time. Jayne needed a big cast, and I could perform some semblance of criminal. Maybe she just wanted somebody with ink? Maybe that military bearing I learned had paid off? Maybe the confidence one gains by living abroad, training for war, growing tumours, breaking one’s spine, and blowing away all one’s &^@<$ in a pit of anxiety and depression does an actor some good?

Witch, Murderer, Caithness, and Rosa. 

I can’t even explain to you how it felt to see my name on a cast list.

Satisfying? 

And suddenly I was in rehearsals for my first Shakespeare play, and all the confidence I had found in the audition was gone.

I questioned every choice I made. I questioned every aspect of my body. Does my backstory really make sense? Am I showing my characters’ depths? Does that matter because I’m playing a character playing three characters? Could I really pass for under 18 (I think I was 24 at the time)? Had I been nice enough to my castmates? They were all so young, and I have always been a bit of a snake. That’s probably why Hecate’s speech has stuck with me all these years.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve alienated others due to my difficulty in understanding basic human communication. So I often ask for clarification. I need to know what’s expected of me in gruesome detail.  And for some reason, I’ve never been able to beat around the bush when it comes to asking for that level of detail. I would say that I’m blunt or to the point. Others would say I’m a bitch and a dyke. Those people are only about three-quarters right. And for this reason, I began to suspect that the cast and crew hated me and actively wanted me to perish so they could tap dance on my grave.

I remember one such encounter vividly. The three witches were rehearsing Macbeth’s Act I, scene iii. My line was

A sailor’s wife had chestnuts in her lap,
And munched, and munched, and munched. “Give me,”
     quoth I.
“Aroint thee, witch!” the rump-fed runnion cries.
Her husband’s to Aleppo gone, master o’ th’ Tiger;
But in a sieve I’ll thither sail,
And like a rat without a tail,
I’ll do, I’ll do, and I’ll do.

The direction I was given was to try showing incredible sexuality on the “I’ll do, I’ll do, and I’ll do.” I tried it once, or I thought about it. But it just didn’t feel right. This was only partially because I’m not a sexual being at all and was highly uncomfortable attempting seduction.

The larger part of my confusion was due to the context of the play. In another scene, all the girls watch as the prison warden abuses and molests one of the other girls, the girl who plays Lady Macbeth. With this knowledge, my instinct was to do violence in retaliation against injustice.

I argued my case with Jayne, and she allowed me to make that choice and play with that emotion. It was a victory of sorts. It kept me in my safe little box. I didn’t have to seduce anyone. But it was also a win for my instinct. I had a hunch based on textual evidence, and I argued for it. But had I been too blunt? Had I offended my director? Does she hate me now, like everyone else?

I have always been so insecure.

Despite their hatred for me, I made incredible friends during the completely sold-out run of this show. The other girls and I stayed in our bunks (which were on stage, obscured only by chainlink fence), watching our peers act and the audience’s reactions. One of my cast mates often fell asleep and had to be nudged awake for her cue. One night, watching two girls kissing was just too much for a young couple. They walked across the stage in order to leave the theatre. How did we all stay in character that night? We didn’t. I’m certain I wasn’t the only one to subtly flip them the bird. Or maybe that was in character? OR maybe I was the character. I guess that’s another win that I’m only discovering five years later. An actor’s job is never done.

After our run of Macbeth is the New Black, I received a lot of good reviews. But I take every positivity with a large grain of salt. My favourite review though came from the app YikYak. Anybody remember that one? It allowed people to leave anonymous messages that could be grouped by location. Maryville College’s YikYak said something like “In Macbeth is the New Black, I liked the one with tattoos.” I don’t even remember what it said, but I was flattered. I should probably ask Raine for clarification. Hell, she probably posted it. She’s a gem, really.

More important than the pleasant reviews, Macbeth is the New Black made me fall in love again with language and history. I discovered the rabbit hole that is researching meanings and historical contexts, reading the Arden, and learning new old words. And once the play was over, my itch had been only partially scratched.

During some of our “on-stage down time”, Raine and I talked about language and history. Beldam, incarnadine, and he meaning of the name Fleance (which likely came from an Old English word fleon, which means to flee) were always up for discussion. She told me about Shakespeare on the Square which took place every summer in downtown Knoxville. She convinced me to audition for the plays (The Taming of the Shrew and Macbeth) the following summer.

But that’s a story for the next blog post.

Hunting for Fae

I’ve not been working on my stories lately.

Writer’s block is a description of what I’d been experiencing, but a better word might be depression.

I went out into Maryville College Woods and walked for a few hours, chasing the wind.

I found my way into an orchard of sorts. Bumblebees zipped around pollenating the early-blooming flowers.

And I came out with a story.

I’m not outlining, I’m just writing and seeing what happens.

So far, I’m at 4k words with an 8k word goal, and I’m feeling really great about it.

Bindrune

I’ve been playing with my own identity lately. I wanted a simple logo that I can stamp on pictures or stories.

Here’s a first draft of something I came up with when I combined Norse runes Sowilo, Mannaz, and Hagalaz.

There’s meaning behind each rune, which I could tell you. But I prefer to keep my own meanings and warnings to myself.

Last Year’s (2018) Shakespeare Poster

I’ve been looking through all my files on my laptop lately. Because sometimes my cleanup is folders within folders within folders all entitled “cleanup [date]”. It’s a bit of a mess. But in the spring cleaning, I’ve come across old Shakespeare pictures and documents. I’m inspired to do a quick write up on each of the productions I’ve been part of.

Therefore, upcoming blog posts will cover my experiences with

  • Macbeth is the New Black
  • Macbeth
  • The Taming of the Shrew
  • A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  • As You Like It
  • Cymbeline
  • King Henry IV Part I
  • Romeo and Juliet
  • The Merry Wives of Windsor
  • Training at the British American Drama Academy in Oxford, UK

Looks like I’ve got a lot of writing to do.