Monday, May 3, 2010
Bye Bye Georgy Girl
Her career had it's ups and downs, often taking a backseat to her more bombastic (and amazing) sister, but in 1998 she turned in another Oscar nominated performance in "Gods And Monsters", and suddenly she was hot again. Her good fortune for that was my loss.
About six months before she did that movie, I met Ms. Redgrave. I was talking to a friend of my one day, an actress who had worked with Redgrave on a TV series, and she told me that Lynn was teaching Shakespeare acting classes. Now, I'm not an actor (on stage or in film anyway) but, as was typical of many people my age, I got through High School more on charm, manipulation, and jerking the system, than I did on studying. Truth is, I didn't learn a damn thing and have the diploma to prove it. The result is that Shakespeare has always spooked me. The meter, rhythm, and language was foreign. I didn't get it. So when Cathy further explained that the classes were every Monday, they were open to anyone and they were FREE, I decided to go with her one Monday in hopes of finally de-mystifying the Bard for myself.
Had Lynn been less lovely, less humble, and less perfect than she was, she would have probably explained that giving the classes was her way of giving back to an industry and tradition that she had inherited through bloodlines and that had become her life's work. She never would have said anything like that, but it was entirely clear, nonetheless.
The class was held in a beautiful auditorium on the campus of the Motion Picture County Home (Old Actors Home). Weekly, she hosted some 50-60 people, from young struggling actors, to residents of the Home who were wheeled in in wheelchairs, to other curious types like myself. The 2 1/2 hour class was conducted as follow: The first 20(ish) minutes she would give us a lecture on the topics at hand; acting and Shakespeare. For the next almost two hours she had two wicker baskets, one for boys and one for girls, and if you wanted to put up a scene, you filled out a card with you name and the scene and put it into the basket. She would call up a student(s) to do their scene, after which, with her keen eye, and encyclopedic knowledge, she would give you an almost line-for-line critique of you scene. She would say things like, "Oh, when you did so-and-so, it was just so wonderful," or "On such-and-such line, I'm wondering, how would it be if you tried this--". Always supportive, never mean, not like some teachers that friends have told me about!
For the last 15(ish) minutes she would do a scene for us! Unbelievable! Playing every character, she would ricochet her body around the stage emoting dialog as an ageing king, a mythological wood sprite, a 15 year old virgin maiden. This would be done so rapidly as to make the dialog flow naturally and without pause. Each character, fully embodied; all characters in a perfectly performed scene!
After my first class, we were introduced by our mutual friend Cathy, and Lynn was wonderful to me. I, sputteringly, told her that I was not an actor and the actual reason that I was there and that I hoped she didn't mind. She assured me that I most certainly was welcomed and that, if fact, she tought it was quite courageous of me to face down my fears of not understanding the material. She also said that, actor or not, she'd bet that she would get me to put up a scene some day. "Sorry to inform you love, but we'll make an actor out of you yet!" I blushed. I was 39 years old and I blushed. The only down side was that attending required me to drive in LA rush hour from Hollywood to Woodland Hills, but really, not much of a hardship considering I was being Taugh Shakespeare, By A Redgrave, For Free!!!
After attending for about 5 months, she got the "Gods And Monsters" job, and as soon as that came out, it's like it shook Hollywood awake enough to remember that they'd forgotten her. She became the hot flavor again for quite awhile. Needless to say, there was never time to start the classes for her, and I never got to see her anymore.
But today I will take the opportunity to say, for all the performances I've seen and for the ones I haven't yet, and most of all for your insightful teaching and personal kindness, Thank You Lynn Redgrave.