Jimmy and I are both members of The Actor's Studio. Yes, the "world-renowned" Actor's Studio, as they say. The place founded in the forties by acting teacher guru Lee Strasberg, the birthplace of "The Method", training ground to Marlon Brando, James Dean, Marilyn Monroe, Robert De Niro, Jane Fonda, Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman, Harvey Keitel, Paul Newman, Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino, Geraldine Page, Sidney Poitier, Mickey Rourke and Christopher Walken . The home of "Inside the Actor's Studio". Yes, we are...da, da, da, dum...method actors.
It's strange that I've never talked about this before, as the studio has had a fairly large impact on our lives. We both had to audition to get in, a rather grueling and competitive experience. Once a member, an actor can attend sessions and classes at either the New York branch (the original) or the Los Angeles studio, begun in the sixties. You have the opportunity to work on scenes during the Friday "sessions", moderated by the artistic directors. Currently, the New York artistic directors are Al Pacino and Ellen Burstyn (though I don't think Pacino moderates very often) and the West Coast directors are Mark Rydell and Martin Landau. You can take any of the weekly classes for free. Jimmy actually teaches a class there every Monday, which is prestigious, even if it doesn't make him any money. Membership is for life, and you don't have to pay a cent. Which is a pretty danged good deal.
That said...I've always had a love/hate relationship with the place. While it's filled with brilliant, artistic folk, the members that actually show up for the sessions tend to be the geriatric crowd. Which makes sense, as they're less busy and have the time to hang around and watch scene work. And unfortunately/fortunately the moderators always open up the critiques to the membership. Sometimes you will get extremely helpful, insightful and educational feedback. But sometimes you get some old codger who rambles on about what they did when they played the part in 1969. It can be hit or miss. You never know who's going to show up at a Friday session. Shelley Winters used to be there pretty often, and, depending on if she was on or off her meds, offered up bitter, scathing critiques. A couple of years ago, Jimmy went out to do a scene and realized that Pacino was moderating. Rather intimidating. For the most part though, people are fairly supportive and well-meaning.
I used to do quite a bit of scene work. It's an excellent way to work on characters that you choose to work on and stretch yourself by exploring roles that you wouldn't normally get cast in. Since Jude was born I've only worked once. I just don't have the time and energy to put that much effort into something solely for the artistic experience. Jimmy, however, has continued to work a couple of times a year. Since he's a teacher there, he has the added pressure or working for his students!
The Set Up -
Jimmy decided recently that he wanted to choose a scene to work on at the Studio in which he could really challenge himself. To find something that he considered difficult and frightening. His choice? "Kiss of the Spider Woman". And yes, he is working on the William Hurt part. And yes, that means...drag.
Jimmy is a truly brilliant actor. But unfortunately, he is not an attractive woman. Dressed up in his silk bathrobe and turban, he looks disturbingly like his Grandma Laura...
More Set Up -
For Christmas, Santa brought Jude a Razor Scooter. The child loves the thing, and constantly zooms around the house. In fact, he seldom walks any more, he scoots everywhere he goes. He keeps the thing in it's "parking space" next to the front door, and virtually any time he wants to go anywhere in the house, it's on scooter. It is, as you would imagine, driving me frakin' crazy.
The Moment -
It's Friday morning. Jimmy sits on the counter in the bathroom wearing a burgundy brocade turban on his head. Gretchen stands next to him, applying heavy foundation, blusher, dark eyeliner and mascara to his face.
Jude (who has a day off school for some sort of teachers' workday thingy) scoots into the bathroom and skids to a stop.
Hey Mom. When you finish putting on Dad's makeup, will you play the Wii with me?
(applying lip gloss to her husband)
Yeah honey, but first I have to paint Daddy's nails red.
Okay. I'll wait.
Jude hops back on his scooter and zooms away in a blur.