Week 4: Slow and Steady and Dorothy Parker

Another weekend of rehearsals, but sporadic for me. It feels a little like shooting a movie; short bursts and a bit out of sequence, as well as disconnected from previous work. It’s a function of how we’re working on the show. The current schedule is Thursdays through Mondays for the creative team heads. However, as we work through the play the acting company works on a call system, which means perhaps 2 out of the 4 days for most, or even a fraction of a day out of 4. I’m used to daily intensives in the course of a week, so what I’m feeling is a loss of momentum; the gains of one day have dissipated by the following weekend. Now this is probably only transitory. Of course, the Clayton’s Rehearsals continue; I couldn’t get a particular song out of my head last night. Once we get to runs, the momentum will be back and progress accelerated. At least, that’s the theory.

I had a first fitting for one of my costumes yesterday morning. It’s in a colour my mother used to call midnight blue. It’s silk, demure but elegant, and reminded me totally of the sort of dresses my gran used to wear when I was a tiny. Should be perfect, and I believe it’s an original. There are also some wonderful vintage 30s hats in wardrobe. Amazing how the silhouette, fabric and fall of pieces is so reminiscent of a particular era. I swear the hat the designer tried on me would have been totally at home perched on someone like Dorothy Parker as she held court at the round table at the Algonquin Hotel in NYC.

Dorothy Parker

I’ve just finished a biography, Dorothy Parker: What Fresh Hell Is This? by Marion Meade. I was fascinated to learn that this diminutive satirist and later woman of American letters was a fervent anti-fascist. Born in 1893, she fought long and hard from the 1920s onwards against totalitarian regimes and for civil rights. She suffered for her politics later during the McCarthy-ite era from the late 1940s when to hold liberal or slightly left of centre ideologies was to risk branding as a communist, and for many screen artists to end up on the Hollywood black-list.

Parker is today best remembered for her bitter-sweet short stories and scathing theatre criticism … she once noted in a Broadway play review that Katharine Hepburn “runs the gamut of emotions from A to B.” Parker is however perhaps best remembered for great one-liners like, “Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses” and “If all the girls who attended the Yale prom were laid end to end, I wouldn’t be a bit surprised.” I like to remember her as one who worked hard to bring the world’s attention to the Jewish “problem” in Germany. It was in the back of my head this morning as I rehearsed a scene that dealt with just that.


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