Once again doing my first love – ACTING. Over the past few weeks, as I began to realize that life as I had known it was over, I tried to get a grip because at night, I would panic. Aside from bills, problems, money, crises one-after-another, I realized that I am in France, not California or Georgia. By myself. I can’t work at all in France – not allowed. My age is such that it is time to retire. Yet, I have energy. My health is good. I look and feel younger than I am. I love living here. And then, I remembered my first love: ACTING. I am in SAG, the Television Academy, The Actors Studio. And, I could re-join Women in Film – International, if need be. Then, I remembered that I cannot work in France. Well, maybe American producers would hire local talent if shooting in France. I live close to Cannes. I will network, try to meet people. Look for an agent in Nice. Or Cannes. Or Paris. The thought of this gave me hope.
Acting has been part of my life forever. When I was four or five, my father taught me a “speech” that he wanted me to act out on cue. He would put me on a stump or platform or chair or desk – anything to elevate me – in the presence of friends, associates, business executives, farmers, relatives or whoever was around. And, this is what I was supposed to say while pounding my little fist into my left hand:
I (pound) know a man (pound) in the ranks (pound),
Who would not stay (pound) in the ranks (pound).
Why (pound)? I’ll (pound) tell you why (pound).
Simply (pound) because (pound) he had (pound) the ability (pound) to get (pound) things (pound) done (pound)!!
About that same time, Mother took me to “speech lessons” at Mrs. Hosch’s house on Prior Street. There, I had to learn a speech for the recital, titled “I’m Just a Raggedy, Raggedy Doll”, falling limp like a rag doll while reciting. Often, I would put on a “show” in my front yard on Cleveland Road, with Jenny and Jo Shillington who lived across the street. We would invite my sisters and our parents to come for the presentation.
Then, in kindergarten, I performed in Miss Alice’s recital for the parents. My part was that of a beautiful scarf dancer from an exotic country far, far away. I had one aqua scarf draped around my body and another one I was supposed to swish in all directions. I poured my heart into it – swishing my scarf with expertise while draped in aqua “silk”.
In grammar school, I got the part of the Statute of Liberty in the class pageant and got to hold a torch. That was wonderful. During high school, I tried out for everything everywhere. I got acting and singing roles in the plays at Brenau College, Riverside Military Academy, the First Baptist Church, the Junior Class Play, the Senior Class Play, and skits happening anywhere in town.
At the University of Wisconsin, I got the role of Diana Devereaux in “Of Thee I Sing”, performing for huge audiences with the Wisconsin Players as well as performing in Humerology for the Greeks, and running for Prom Queen. I performed my campaign skit all over the campus.
At the University of Georgia, I was a Drama major and played Juno in “Juno and the Paycock”, Ghislaine in “Waltz of the Toreadors”, and Mrs. Elvsted in “Hedda Gabler”.
When I moved back to Gainesville, I performed, produced, and directed – at Brenau College (Brenau Playmakers), Gainesville College (College Players), Appletree Summer Stock, Gainesville Junior Service League (Children’s Theatre), among others. I couldn’t get enough. For as long as I can remember, I loved pretending. Pretending to be someone else. Not animals or inanimate objects, but lovely young girls or women whom everyone loved. For a long time, it was Honey Bunch – a young girl in a series of books I loved. Everyone loved Honey Bunch. Then, it was Nurse Sue Barton or Nurse Cherry Ames. As long as I had my imagination to count on, I didn’t care what happened – I could escape into my mind. It was wonderful.
In 1968, I moved to Los Angeles and acted in film, television, theatre, commercials, print ads – for 38 years. I loved it.
Then, for some reason unbeknownst to me, I wanted a change. I have tried to explain it as a desire for power, a dislike of the youth-oriented industry, lack of jobs for older actresses, whatever. So, I went to – wait for it – Law School. No one thought I could do it – make the switch. I did. I went to law school, passed the California Bar, and practiced law – employment litigation and entertainment law – for 19 years. Did I miss acting? You bet. I missed it big-time! But, I loved practicing law, too.
When my husband and I retired to the South of France, I immediately started eyeing Cannes and the film festival there every year. Plus, I took note of various theatres in Nice, wondering if France has acting unions like SAG. One day, I googled acting agents in this area and wondered if they ever signed American actresses. I noticed French actresses seemed mature – not all young and sexy. I studied French commercials on television. I made note of people I know in the U.S. to ask, maybe message one day on Facebook.
Steve loved my being an actress. He encouraged me to get back into it. He would say – “the happiest I have ever seen you is when you were working as an actress.” He loved this picture.
He wanted me to do both (act and practice law) – in LA. I couldn’t. As an attorney, I gave it 100 percent focus. But, the part about my being happier when I was acting – that is true.
When Steve died, I talked to expat friends in Nice about getting involved in the film industry somehow. acting in France – in films. Then, week before last, two expat friends texted me about a “Casting Call” on Angloinfo.com. An American writer/producer/director Maxine Pugh, living in Cannes, needed a mature actress to play a French Countess in a short film currently titled “Damien’s Reawakening”, to enter into International film festivals. No pay. Expenses, only. Concerned about the French language and whether I remembered how to act or not, I contacted Ms. Pugh. The part needed English language with authentic French dialect, to act with French actors from Paris. After a lot of back and forth trying to get my English to have an “authentic” French-sounding accent and in competition with three other actresses, I got the part. I worked last Sunday – in Cannes. Producer Daniella Gonella works for the BBC in London. Small crew working camera, camera/lights, and sound from London and Portugal. It was fabulous. I took the train from Nice to Cannes. Walked to the set. Used my own wardrobe. Worked all day with excellent actors from Paris. Got more and more French as the day wore on. I was back in the saddle again. It felt great. Steve would be happy.
At this time in my life, there are several things that make me feel like things will be all right once time passes and the pain decreases – classical piano, a soulful saxophone, the smell of roses, and a creating a character I like (thank you, Miss Alice) – or don’t like. At the shoot, I wasn’t focusing on taking pictures, so the attached are not great – the train, the myriad of steps at the train station, the set and some of the crew, the actress Celine Durand from Paris (daughter Chloe), the actor Nicolas Audebaud (son-in-law Damien) from Paris, and me (the Countess) on the set and in makeup. I felt like things would be all right. As Steve would say, “maybe not today, and maybe not tomorrow, but soon”.