Posted in Personals

Throwback Tuesday: Lou Rawls

Have you ever had a song become inextricably linked to a life event? Of course you have. Now, was that song’s subject matter completely unrelated to the event? That’s probably less common.

Here’s the story of how Lou Rawls’ “You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine” (1976) connected to one of my earliest life lessons.

As a child, I heard a wide array of opinions about race. Stereotypes, codes of conduct, historical roles…you name it! But one doctrine that was repeatedly drilled into me surrounded interracial marriages- it isn’t right to “mix the blood,” especially since “your kids won’t know what they are.” With no concrete examples for this idea, I took it at face value. But that changed when I was about nine years old.

Bizarrely, my nine-year-old self was to be the only bridesmaid in my aunt’s wedding. (Incidentally, I remember my dress very clearly: it was a spaghetti-strap gown with two shiny tan panels on the side, overlaying white fabric underneath.) As we prepared for the ceremony, I met Mariana, a close friend of my aunt’s; I thought she was very pretty and sweet, so I liked her a lot.

I hate to say it, but I was actually surprised when I realized that she was married to a black man. But…I didn’t know any better.

At the wedding reception, I went to my stepmother and expressed my confusion. To her credit, she debunked my preconceived notion in a way that made sense to a kid: “Mixed babies are often very beautiful. Look at Derek Jeter.” Satisfied with this explanation, I joined Mariana and her husband on the dance floor; the song playing at that moment was “You’ll Never Find Another Love Like Mine.”

Sixteen years later, whenever it comes on the radio, I’m instantly taken back to the dance floor that day. That day, when I took the first of many subsequent steps toward accepting people just as they are.

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Posted in Personals

Welcome to Seb’s.

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It has been one year, two months, and two weeks since I saw La La Land in full for the first time. It’s also been that long since I’ve seen it in full, period.

So much has happened in the wake, and yet this movie is still so hard to watch.

The greatest stories just have that effect on you, you know? Furthermore, we all have those moments where we say “I related to that character” or “that part of the movie reminded me of something that happened to me.” But even rarer are the stories that seem to appear at just the right time, and in which you not only see a part of yourself, but a part of your whole life playing out in front of you.

It’s pretty surreal.

One more little detail- when La La Land first booted up in the cinema, and the wonderful “Another Day of Sun” number began, I was convinced that the actors were playing actors on a film set. Giving a nod to old musical films, if you will, within the context of the plot that was about to unfold. But when the song ended and the cast just got back into their cars as if nothing happened…that’s when I realized that there was no tribute here. It WAS that kind of movie. I knew that I was in for a helluva ride.

Sometimes life doesn’t turn out the way you planned. Sometimes an art form crystallizes your feelings better than words alone.

Always and forever, the story goes on.

Posted in Theatre

Her cat, a bed, and a chair…

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The day had finally arrived: my paternal grandmother, Lucie- who I don’t see very often- was giving me my Christmas gift. Two tickets to the Marquis Theatre’s production of the Follies revival. It was to be only the second Sondheim show I’d see live onstage (the first was the revival of A Little Night Music).

The lights went down and I was immediately swept away. All these veteran Broadway actresses- from Jayne Houdyshell to Mary Beth Peil and even Elaine Paige- strutting their stuff in one of the greatest musicals of all time. My favorite number overall was Terri White’s showstopping “Who’s That Woman?”

And, of course, there were the two female leads: the legendary Bernadette Peters as Sally Durant Plummer and elegant, charismatic Jan Maxwell as Phyllis Rogers Stone. Jan Maxwell died this week at the age of 61. Now there seems to be some speculation as to whether the lights on Broadway will be dimmed for her. (For those who don’t know, the theatre community has long had a tradition of briefly dimming the marquees at all the Broadway houses to honor the death of an esteemed colleague.)

I’m writing this to pay tribute to Jan Maxwell, but also to assert my firm hope that they will dim the lights for her. I mean…I have a selfish reason for wanting this done…but I think few would argue with me if I said that Maxwell represents what being a thespian is all about.

Not only was she a great talent, but she made her entire career out of performing onstage. She did dabble in screen work, yet the theatre was always her home. She’s a model for what every artist aspires to become.

Powers-that-be, please consider honoring this true lady of the stage in the best possible way. If you can justify doing it for Joan Rivers, surely you’ll easily make a case for Jan Maxwell. Rest in peace, Beautiful Girl.

Posted in Film and Television

Take Me to Heaven: My Lifelong Ministry of SISTER ACT

I’m not dead! In fact, dear readers, I am feeling great. On Sunday, I gave my own presentation at the 2018 BroadwayCon: being an Aspie in the theatre world. (It was like a restructuring of my 54 Below show.) To my surprise, the panel was a great success- my audience was engaged in the topic and had a really good time. It felt amazing to use my passion and my craft to help people smile and learn. The dream is back!

But, I digress. Today’s post is an ode to a movie that, as a Catholic schoolgirl, has threaded itself in and out of my life. And no matter how many times I watch it, it never fails to be funny and uplifting. I’m talking about Sister Act, folks.

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This 1992 musical comedy, starring Whoopi Goldberg, Maggie Smith, Harvey Keitel, Kathy Najimy, and Mary Wickes, follows Reno lounge singer Deloris Van Cartier (Goldberg). After witnessing a murder by her gangster boyfriend (Keitel), she is put into Witness Protection and takes refuge in a convent. Deloris butts heads with the Mother Superior (Smith) when she takes over the nuns’ choir and teaches them rockin’ new arrangements of praise to the Lord.

The film has seemed to pop up at the most random moments in my life. In high school, my glee club’s “signature performance” was a medley from Sister Act, complete with stylized hand movements. The nuns at our on-campus convent loved it. In college, I went on a class trip to see the Broadway musical adaptation; I don’t think I’ll ever forget the giant Virgin Mary in the finale, sparkling and spinning like a disco ball.

As a Catholic- or, a member of an organization that gets a lot of grief- I particularly appreciate the movie as a beacon of what my faith is really about. It isn’t about fire and brimstone…but joyful noise and being good to others, no matter who they are.

I read a fascinating (and somewhat sad) article that the original screenwriter of Sister Act envisioned the lead role for Bette Midler, and he went through so much development hell with the studio that he eventually withdrew from the project. To this day, he doesn’t consider the finished piece to be his work and has not watched it.

Posted in Writing

“Elton John”

by Amanda DeLalla

I told you once as we lied in bed
A memory that doesn’t leave my head
The fish was seared; there were lights on the tree
And for one night a year
I felt like I had a family
Sharing a laugh with my cousin Helene
Wine flowing free on a snowy scene
The music plays and the candles burn
Then in a week, the loneliness returns
The trouble with me is that I feel too much
Or do not feel enough
Or simply out of touch
Whatever I felt then, don’t worry, it’s gone
I’ve only got Christmastime
And Elton John
Fast forward to the summer and suddenly
You steal my heart, you’re loving me
And your song plays on a crocodile rock
I expected forever
I was in for a shock
To my soul you held the key
And now you wanna be a memory
Never mind, you’re already gone
Leaving me with Christmases
And Elton John
Why can’t things ever stay so simple?
People die, they despair, they have grown
Life won’t promise to be that simple
So I’ll wait and I’ll dream alone
Friday night, he holds me close

Candy canes and a silver bell and it snows
I can smile at him despite what we shared
The time is now; I’ve left it all there
Something’s in the air, could I ever move on?
Taking my Christmases
And Elton John

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Posted in Personals

Goodbye, Miss Kathleen: Reflection on a Teacher

“Goodbye Miss Kathleen,

From the young girl in the 22nd row

Who sees you as something more than what we know,

More than just our sophomore hero.”

Knowing the subject of this post in high school taught me some important lessons…and not just the ones I got from her classroom.

Kathleen Nolan taught a few religious studies courses at St. Joseph Hill Academy high school. She was a soft-spoken woman, probably in her sixties, with short mouse-brown hair and spectacles. She was rarely seen not wearing a sweater-and-long-skirt ensemble. This God-fearing educator was also fighting for social justice…as well as a long battle with cancer.

It was she who first told me to “keep things in perspective.” She was also one of the select people who found amusement (rather than annoyance) in my histrionics. At the innocent age of 15, I admired Ms. Nolan’s strength and tact, and yet her existence also confused me greatly. I couldn’t wrap my head around why such a gentle person had to suffer in such a manner. I remember crying over her more than once. Her cancer ultimately went into remission, but she still retired the following year.

Through my fleeting experience here, I learned that bad things would happen to good people. But I also figured out that if we spread charity and decency…and maintain optimism…happiness is still a very tangible goal.

I’ve sadly come to accept that I will never see Ms. Nolan again, at least not in this lifetime. I guess it’s often impossible for teachers to know whether or not they made a difference in their students’ lives. I think everyone fails to recognize just how many people drift in and out of his or her life; that doesn’t diminish their significance, though.

So…do as Ms. Nolan did…and be good to others.

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Posted in Personals

Do you love him, Loretta?

“Love don’t make things nice. It ruins everything. It breaks your heart.”

Dearest Anonymous…we had a good talk last night, I think. It always feels good when you get things out on the table, because then you can work on fixing them. Step by step.

Of course, in our case, that will take quite some time.

It’s easy to fall in love with love. It makes your brain run on all cylinders. It makes your heart race in the best way. You get this stupid grin on your face for no discernible reason. And you feel at peace with your world. In my humble opinion, love is the most important driving force of the human spirit. It’s what keeps us together as a species. When channeled, it can move mountains.

Unfortunately, no matter how powerful love is, sometimes it gets misdirected. When that happens, you get what Nicolas Cage describes in the above quote from one of my favorite movies. Or you get what’s transpired between you and me over the past year.

Neither of us may have regrets, but I will still maintain that leaving me was a mistake on your part. Maybe that’s at the core of why I seem to get pulled into your gravitational field over and over. Because I don’t believe I got a fair chance to prove that I could be what you needed.

Near the beginning of Moonstruck, Olympia Dukakis asks Cher if she loves her fiancee. When Cher replies “No,” Olympia says that this is a good thing: “When you love them, they drive you crazy because they know they can.” Well…I don’t think you are quite that sadistic! But, you will lie in the bed you made.

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For now, Anonymous, have a lovely summer, good luck with your new gig, and may we both find the happiness we deserve. See you on the flip side.

Posted in Personals

Daily Prompt: Candle (Flashback Friday)

It was like something out of a movie.

We were coworkers, you and I, at an enormous theatrical venue. I’d been there for a few months- you, a few years. Although I loved working there, it was only a part-time job, and I was always hunting for full-time work. Then, finally, at the end of June, the phone call came that I’d been hired. This was also around the time that you and I began to date.

A week before I was set to begin my new job, I received tickets to the New York Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall.

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You’d already seen it, so I took my friend Jacqueline. But we had made plans to get together after Jacqueline returned to Staten Island. The show was wonderful from start to finish; as the Rockettes danced around the electrifying lights of “Welcome to New York,” I teared up. Partly with pride at my city, partly with sadness that a new chapter of my life was starting. “What a way to close out my time at this job,” I thought. (Pictured is my favorite number in the Spectacular, “Singin’ in the Rain.”)

And interestingly enough, as Jacqueline boarded her bus, it began to drizzle again. I ran back to Radio City to find you. We hitched a ride on a taxi back to your apartment, holding hands on the way, the candlelight of our hearts flickering in the dark.

I was going to tell you some thrilling news here, my readers, but I think that deserves its own post. So for now, here is a teaser: it involves me, Sondheim, and a one-woman show. Blessings on you all…happy Friday!

Posted in Writing

“The Girl Who Never Left”

by Amanda DeLalla

The girl who never left…

At last, I understand.

She is no longer of this world.

But her specter remains on this land.

The girl who never left…

I didn’t want to open a scar,

But it’s a part of who you are.

I don’t even know her name.

But I know who, for her death, you blame.

The girl who never left…

And now I finally realize

You see too much of her when you look into my eyes.

For that, I so apologize.

I never truly believed it till now-

That ending your life only transfers the pain somehow.

But now proof stands before me, it is so real

And I just want to hold you until you heal.

I cry for you, I cry for me, I cry for us- bereft…

In the wake of that girl who never really left.

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If you, or someone you care about, has suicide on their mind: call 1800-273-8255 or otherwise seek help NOW!

Posted in Writing

“The Limbo”

by Amanda DeLalla

I’m stuck between two places,

My mind flies through times and spaces.

(Remembering days I spent with you.)

Sadness touches thoughts of you, boy,

Memories that once brought me Joy.

(Like you carrying me into your room.)

This is the limbo, I suppose,

Before you walk down the path you chose.

(Or gazing at the city, under the moon.)

Been crying myself to sleep at night,

And if you just came back, things would be right.

(That time you bought me tiramisu.)

Not even a week since you’ve been gone,

And I avoid Facebook for fear you’ll log on.

(We laughed together at Chekhov’s gloom.)

It’s just like Oscar Hammerstein said,

I may not wanna live but I’m scared of being dead.

(I’ll relive this all again by tomorrow afternoon.)

INSIDE OUT