Sharing Mana‘o

“You’d have to be a psychotic, narcissistic, masochistic idiot to be an actor.”

— Terrence McNally, “It’s Only a Play”

That line, delivered in McNally’s play by aging diva Virginia Noyes, could have been written by my late husband. Even though we both worked in radio, Barry didn’t share my penchant for performing. In fact, it sort of irked him.

The first — and last — time I broached the subject of auditioning together for a community theater production, we ended up in a heated philosophical discussion. Before I got in the last word (“Fuhgettaboutit!”), Barry got in a few choice words: neurosis, psychosis, egomania. I thought he was joking at first, but he insisted that my passion for the stage “is a form of mental illness. You want to portray other people because you’re not happy with who you are. And you crave applause because you’re insecure.”

My father’s reaction to my involvement in high school theater was kinder and gentler. With a loving but puzzled gaze, he murmured, “I just don’t understand why you want to draw attention to yourself.”

I didn’t have a logical explanation for either of them. All I knew was that my mind, body and soul felt nourished and complete whenever I performed in a play or as a storyteller. And while the audience is integral to that feeling of fulfillment, I also enjoy auditioning and rehearsing with fellow actors. I love being part of the wildly diverse family that is Theatre.

In Carol Burnett’s heart-tugging speech at the 2019 Golden Globes, she described her teenage love affair with her family’s first television set: “What fascinated me was the way the stars on the screen could make people laugh or cry or sometimes both, and I wished and I hoped that maybe, just maybe, someday I could have the chance to do the same thing.” We all know how that turned out for her.

On a much smaller scale, my youthful dreams — inspired in great part by “The Carol Burnett Show” — have also been fulfilled. I am blessed to be able to perform as often as I do; to spend most of my time doing what I love and loving what I do.

My current love affair is taking place at the ProArts Playhouse in Kihei, where we are preparing to launch the McNally show quoted above. “It’s Only a Play” is a deliciously biting look at the all-too-human stereotypes of stage. The Broadway production was described as “a poison-pen mash note to New York theater” (Entertainment Weekly) and “hilariously, sidesplittingly funny” (New York Times). Knowledge of Broadway lore is helpful but not at all necessary to enjoy this play.

We may not be as famous as the 2014 big city cast, which included Matthew Broderick, Nathan Lane, Stockard Channing, and Rupert Grint, but I’m confident our cast will have you laughing out loud at these outrageous characters. John Galvan is the earnest playwright, David Belew is his best friend who transitioned from stage to the small screen but returned to New York for opening night of his buddy’s new play. Sharleen Lagatutta plays the beautiful, sweet, super rich producer, Logan Jacob Heller the eccentric, avant garde director. Young Elisha Cummins is a fresh-off-the-farm hopeful, and Vinnie Linares plays the critic everyone loves to hate. You already know who the aging diva is, I’m sure.

It’s “Only a Play” opens Friday and runs for three weekends; info and tickets are available at proartsmaui.com or by calling 463-6550.

Warning: This play contains very strong language and a few adult references. It’s the kind of humor I really enjoy but don’t get to perform very often. So I’m going crazy with this one. Not psychotic, though. I’m too stubborn to admit Barry might have been right.

* Kathy Collins is a storyteller, actress and freelance writer whose “Sharing Mana’o” column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is kcmaui913@gmail.com.

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