Short Notices

 


"WE'RE OFF TO SEE THE WIZARD"

 

     If you can accept the premise that a semi-senile man would write his swan song on a paper place mat, stuff it into a bottle, then toss it out to sea—just before his cruise ship, bound for Jamaica, springs a leak and wends its glub-glub way to Davy's Jones's Locker, then No Name Theater's off, off-Broadway one act may be the ticket that serves to entertain your landlubber's 'gullibility.' Yet it works! Because the script by newcomer Sterling Tinsley shimmers with inventiveness. Because Maida Libkin's staging, if fantastic, is inspired. Because the clever set and eye-bewitching scrims enchant so thoroughly, thanks to Larry Kassin's wizardry. Because TRON did lights and sound. And last, but rest assured not least, because this one man show's sole star—Graham Doubletree—sparkles to the point of bioluminescence.

     You would think a role demanding eighty year old presence from an actor twenty-six might prove daunting (note the character, at this play's commencement, 'creaks' with ripe old age), but Doubletree pulls it off with such aplomb (under Al Brimm's stunning make-up) that his slow rejuvenation (as he sheds each layer of latex) is remarkable; nay, miraculous. In a word, the man's superb! As is the play itself.

 

Through December 5th at the No Name.

 

Edith lingers (letting memory shut out torments that have haunted several nights; her sleep, consistently, has been rent with grim foreboding). Graham's first triumph (she must dwell on pleasant topics) reaped reviews that were outstanding. Her desire to go and see his work had never been so strong. But New York City was a long way off. The bus was so expensive. And the time involved, the lack of tickets, choosing where to stay, what clothes to take and how to act among the theatre world's elite... Not that Edith would presume to claim an honored place by Graham. Hers was a lunar role, at best. He shined; she basked in his refulgence. From afar, alas; she had not gone. Instead, she sulked... then wept; a sense of loss, a spate of doubt about her trusting others' counsel had demoralized, hence subverted her frail determination... way back then.

And now? Resigned to life as a satellite in her self-inflicted orbit... true, the Doubletrees had discharged her, but the punishment had been earned, their trust betrayed, the contract broken by their 'well-intentioned' servant, she who gave their infant suck in violation of the clause that stipulated no bond with the child should rival his lawful mother's. Strict instructions, valid reasons, generous incentives, were all for naught because the baby, run out of formula, had signaled he was hungry, and breasts still flush with milk were aching to oblige, to be relieved, fulfilled, and redeemed by the toothless gums' glad suckling.

Graham's reviews; yes, they were glowing. He had staged a coup in coming home from England. In his first professional outing he was heralded, wined and dined, proclaimed "a natural" (irrespective 'years' of training overseas). The offers came. The offers went. An actor's fame, it seemed, was fickle. Lured to Hollywood by a film proposal—made but unreleased—the ring of gold returned to brass, acquiring tarnish in transition, as his glittering opportunities were extinguished. Times got hard. Or so Edith gathered from the news that Graham had backtracked to Peoria. Not a visit; a retreat, of sorts. The word was he had moved. What's more, moved in again with his parents—this confirmed by Edith personally after hearing, by way of a phone call, from her 'spy' across the street.

So she had risked it, manned an outpost down the block in a little park, from which she watched the mail and milk and UPS trucks make deliveries to a house she knew as well as any habitat on the planet, having dusted, polished, swept, and vacuumed every niche and nook, having etched a mental floor plan on her heart of every room—the one she occupied, once, converted (after the fact) into baby Graham's nursery. This, again, had been a tidbit wheedled from the maid across the street, whose reports, albeit sporadic, were gratuitously supplemented. Graham's celebrity, undiminished by the lapse in New York accolades, had loosened local tongues—the postman's in particular:

"Card from Doubletree; still in England";

or

"Return address reads Brooklyn, so he's moved again, it seems."

And then she saw him, dressed in casual clothing—running shoes and sweats—his fair hair bouncing as he jogged away, the vision all too fleeting, Edith leaning like a cast-in-shadow tendril toward the sun, its pull so powerful she lost balance, took a few pursuing steps, then recollected where she was, and who she was, and what she wasn't; a relation. She was no one. Her enthusiasm flagged. The rush of pure unbridled joy she felt on seeing her beloved spurred a pang of equal force that made her very entrails flinch.

And yet she cherished every glimpse of him. That summer there were several:

once at Kroger,

once outside a restaurant,

once en route to church,

as Edith altered the routines of where she shopped and ate and worshipped to afford her possibilities of encountering Graham 'by chance'—a most imprudent ploy, admittedly; there were those who knew her face. However, no one knew her secret; just the Doubletrees and their doctor. Was it likely they would make a fuss after so many years had passed? Perhaps. Unless they had forgotten; people often censor memories. Would they sue her, if discovered, for such a passive, trifling breach? And what of Graham; had he been told, was he aware of his odd genesis?

Edith glances at the calendar and its caption. She feels cold. A winter wind is mauling shutters with its north-northwestern might, compressing window panes as if to test their tensile strength, assaulting like a temperamental burglar armed and bent on breaking in—reviving chills in Edith's bath-robed bones... reviving recollections.

Once, he very nearly perished. In a car crash; oh, the specters! Nights before and nights thereafter she had tossed and turned with terror. Call it feminine intuition, prescience, anything but coincidence; she had known about Graham's mishap when it happened, known before, as if their tissues, his and hers, maintained some preternatural link. And then she visited him. In her sleep, that is; she had not set foot in the hospital. the experience had been as vivid, nonetheless (albeit surreal), his battered features beaming up at her through broken bones and sutures, like some long-lost wounded puppy. Had she kissed him? No. Only smiled... disguising tears that poured the moment he retreated into torpor, tears that dampened sheets and pillows through the weeks of Graham's recovery. Glad, yet wretched with frustration, she felt helpless. He was hurt. Yet there was nothing she could do to heal his shattered jaw, save pray... because her rights had been surrendered; she was nobody.

Glum, ashamed, utter uselessness brought Edith to the brink of self-destruction. Had her priest been less consoling, or her penance less severe (he had prescribed a month of rosaries to protect her from herself) she might have sent her soul to Hell before it served its earthly term; and thus intensified the torments therein awaiting her?

Damn these fears! True, her Graham was in a hostile place, a land of strife and pestilence, but his reoccurring visits through her nightly flights of fancy (be they plagued with signs of sun and heat and stroke and fang and claw) were nothing serious, merely phantoms, a barrage of harmless vagaries.

Edith shivers, shifts her eyes again to reappraise the landscape, oh, so similar to her irrepressible dreamscape, tree and all. Its trunk and branches seem to shimmer in a light bereft of warmth. In fact, the barren site's tranquility, heretofore so reassuring, seems disturbed (the way a storm can spring from nowhere, warn the air to hold its breath, and wait upon the flash of anticipated lightning).

The photograph looms, looks strangely vitalized, as its hard-edged frame expands. Grown wider, taller, borders suddenly stretch to movie-screen dimensions, and the two-dimensional surface takes on depth of field, alight.

 

We see a hunting party, armed with spears, advancing on its quarry—the acacia now a distant, silent witness to the scene. A dik-dik picks its timid way through leafy scrub and thorn-clad bush, alert yet vulnerable, unaware of those whose aim must wait with patience for the target to discover it has browsed within harm's range, before it lifts its graceful neck to test for traces of a scent that spells disaster-come-too-close. She bolts!

 

Too late; her flank is grazed, her torso pierced. Her legs, unable to support her, fold in tandem. First the front pair buckles, drops to a kneeling posture. Then, as mortal weakness spreads, the trembling hind parts, too, collapse. Deflated lungs embrace a wooden shaft so heavy in proportion that it calls to mind the mismatch of a harpooned baby seal, a tiny morsel by a giant javelin skewered...

 

... now run clean through—the dainty antelope dies its photogenic death impaled. On film. On cue (a plaintive lullaby the accompaniment for its slaughterer's deft post-mortem). Skinned and gutted on the spot, its slippery viscera fill a satchel, while its limbs are hacked off piecemeal, all for transport back to camp, to Ebeya's village...

 

... wherein Barnaby, with his newfound mates, triumphantly returns, machismo bolstered by the bloodshed, male camaraderie reinforced, the joint endeavor blurring differences bred of culture, creed, and hue.

 

The group is welcomed by the tribe with much ado, all sides appreciative—and though Barnaby's effort missed the mark, he is heralded nonetheless, as if the thrust was his that furnished household pots with sanguine sustenance; a respite from cassava is the freshly butchered meat...

 

... regarded lustily by a bevy of cooks, one especially; Beatrice beams, her gentle song uninterrupted (it is she who sings the lullaby) while her palms and fingers knead a mound of manioc dough, piled high and giving way with stiff resistance to her insubstantial weight. Impressions formed are folded under, buried; motions made are rhythmic, as if each laborious push and pull meant to simulate a caress...

 

... provided Barnaby's glance is cast her way; ordinarily, dough means drudgery. His attention, though, prompts full display of mammary glands at work. A sight his eyes have not grown used to, opportunities notwithstanding—since his mission, due to Chief Ebeya's plot, has been delayed, hence Captain Crowe and company 'suffer' an extended hospitality, viewed by most as inconvenient, undesirable, and coerced...

 

... except by him whose father's wealthy purse is nowhere near exhausted, him whose motives for embarking on this venture have transformed and placed at odds the ones his filial duties dictate...

 

... should this more than passing passion for a female not subside. Bea's ersatz marriage is an obstacle Barnaby vows to overcome in light of certain telling details:

... this a sorry tale related via signs and figures drawn on dampened earth beyond the compound by its casualty. Unobserved? The couple's meeting fans the flame of ardor utterly taboo, in this first of many trysts that finds their lust unleashed...

 

... at large again, in Barnaby's quarters—he, like all his martial complement, has been given private shelter for however long their stay. A week already has elapsed without allusion to the round-up that was due to start whenever Chief Ebeya deemed it safe; though safe from what was lost (deliberately) in translation.

 

Barnaby

(Greetings, Beatrice!)

 

Beatrice

(Mister Bar'by, greetings also.)

 

Barnaby, Bantu now exhausted, must resort to nods and grins. He beckons Beatrice, with a gesture, to advance beyond the threshold. She complies, amused and flattered by the fact that he has stood. Indeed, he still stands while his barefoot guest alights on a sisal cushion.

 

Wooden shavings, shed from Barnaby's whittling, crinkle underfoot, provoking Bea's inquisitive glance. He holds his work out; she inspects it. Awed, her index finger follows every contour he has shaped, the figurine a faithful copy of her own well-formed anatomy—in the rough, but so detailed the likeness flatters.

 

Abruptly rising, Bea assumes the very pose that Barnaby fashioned, making plain, by her steadfastness, that she wants him to resume. With bashful vigor, he obliges. Knife in hand, he feasts his eyes, applies the blade to comely features he is eager to refine, perchance to fix his model's on-site grace immutably...

 

... so close, and yet so very distant from the women back in Charleston who attire themselves in raiment he considers insincere, their false-face finery and accoutrements like a lace wall stiff with starch, defenses daunting in their role of keeping would-be grooms at bay. Colognes and skin creams, oils and unguents, wigs and manicures, jeweled accessories seem contrived beside the likes of one so nude and unadorned. A flap of hide between stark naked thighs is Bea's sole stitch of modesty—though her scalp, done up in corn rows, does suggest a certain flare.

 

Compared to Southern belles, though, Bea (while stoking Barnaby's wayward cravings) is akin to flesh and blood beside a clique of prissy toys, a living, breathing, sweating, palpitating, scent-exuding female juxtaposed to dolls in music boxes, pale, effete, and rigid, set in motion via clockworks.

 

Whereas Bea, even standing still, embodies rhythms that recall a pulse as primal as her context, luring him whose roots lie elsewhere to forsake his native soil and plant his seed in her whose lips accept his kiss with pliant wonder. Unfamiliar with the custom, Bea surrenders to its charm. She then responds in a manner equally odd to him who clearly marvels at the ease with which her upturned buttocks twist to be engaged.

 

Her loincloth yields with a tug, as tongue meets tongue in flicks of wet invasion; Barnaby's trousers, once his feet kick free of boots and stockings, drop. Their mouths adhere to one another like a pair of mating leeches—while maneuvers down below prepare to consummate a passion that has very little prospect of surviving social pressures should this ill-considered coupling seek to tie a knot that lasts...

 

... beyond the moment...

 

"Cut. Okay; again. Let's set up for the tight shots. Vel, see make-up. Graham, the kiss was fine. We'll slow-fade from the carving. Let your penknife maybe linger for a beat or two. We'll angle so the focus shifts from the figurine's lips to Vel's. So try to keep your shoulder level with her chin when you lean forward. We'll shoot straight-on at her profile. I want nothing in the frame except your faces, starting with hers, then, very slowly—think of planets; think of crossing paths with Venus in the heart of outer space—yours fills the background, passing left to right while turning on its axis till your mouths are in position to..."

 

 

VJ: And so on. What a wake! You want to see the death of romance? Watch a love scene being blocked.

 

{I mean, the INSULT of it: cameras rolling, sexist techies ogling, arc lamps blinding, grease paint melting, mouthwash failing, pits gone rank. A pretty picture it is not; two actors groping, HOURS on end, until the prospect of another take is out-and-out HARASSMENT. I've done smooches on the stage, and there were times I rather liked them, but to kiss a man on Celluloid, seen from half a dozen angles, with an ARSENAL of lights and booms and lenses in your face, is not the thrill we make it out to be. If sex on screen looks sexy, you can bet your butt it wasn't to the actors while they worked.}

 

CAUSE CÉLÈBRE: In the movie, Bea and Barnaby almost flaunt their assignations, yet we never get the feeling they're in jeopardy.

 

VJ: They're in HEAT. Ebeya's hoping he can palm her off; he's long since tired of raping her. Whereas Crowe is such a cynic he's content to watch and wait. We took a chance with making Bea and "Bar'by's" one-on-ones erotic. But they share no common language, so it's hard to have them chat. He's hot and bothered by her tits; his baby-blues have her enchanted. Not till later, when the raid's been run and Crowe gives his summation, does our leading man accept the blame for "mayhem he hath wrought." By then it's too late; deed's been done, their fates are sealed—and other platitudes. In the wake of what it takes to rustle Papa Lathrop's slave force—a recruitment so barbaric even Crowe betrays disgust—our hero sees the horrors his Home Sweet Home life fosters.

 

{And lusting after Bea only makes matters worse...}

 

"I disagree, Vel. Barnaby's heart is touched."

"I'd cite a different organ."

"He and Beatrice are the one non-racist element in the film; its ray of hope."

"'Love conquers all'? That's very sweet, Graham; write a sequel. But the fact remains that Bea, in THIS reel, simply wants an out. She's got a mind, not just a body. Both are stifled by her status. She's a piece of damaged goods who wants to burn all bills of sale, except she can't. She's stuck with being owned by men. I DOUBT she loves one."

Graham was always trying to argue Bea and Barnaby back to Eden. "Fallen innocents," he would call them, who should rate a "second chance," who followed Lucifer to the Gates of Hell naively, lambs to slaughter. Ha! The unromantic TRUTH is that they got what they deserved. I mean, the White boy's prime objective was to fill his father's stable with the humans he and his mistook for livestock; that came first. It's only later that the son confronts a novel situation; Blacks in contextnamely Africadon't conduct themselves like slaves. Instead, they act the same as folks back home, a mix of good and evil. Furthermore 'Bar'by's' 'revelation' dawns BEFORE the bloody raid...

"Does 'Adam' call them off, I ask you, Graham, dismantle Satan's legions? No. He leads the mob himself. At least he thinks he does."

"Correct. Except he doesn't understand what that entails, until it happens."

 

We see Barnaby, armed with rifle as opposed to hunting lance, approach a clearing. Thirty wicker huts are clustered in a circle, every entrance facing inward—hence away from outside threats—Ebeya's warriors on the verge of an all-out charge.

 

A quick review of the invading force brings faces into focus, features altered by a thick veneer of self-disguising paint—as if personas thus transfigured can maneuver with impunity, disassociating selves from demons.

 

Bang! A shot is fired. A whoop and cry accompanies fife and drum (the film score adding vehemence), keeping time to Chief Ebeya's tactics: swarm, wreak havoc, raze, by way of gathering babes-in-arms, before retreat. The masked assault is just a ploy. The true intention is to kidnap, snatch from parents squalling offspring, to be ransomed, swapped for shackles—freedom lost for mercy gained.

 

Adults surrender to the vile demands of those now flaunting hostages, those prepared to dash the life from every hapless child upraised—the squirming infants and their frightened siblings flailing tiny limbs above the heads of their abductors. Horrorstruck mothers, fathers beg, solicit mercy from their captors, who stand by for further orders, as the Captain and his company lock on lengths of hobbling chain.

 

The prisoners, limbs secured and pacified, stand in somber, stunned suspense (as strains of pillage-set-to-music strike a final chord then fade). An eerie silence settles, lingers, calls attention to the import of a fist that slowly lowers... gives the sign to recommence.

 

We see a massacre—over protests of a White man gone berserk, his antics useless in aborting the wholesale slaughter. Cries unheard, a lack of sound compounds the grisly pathos. Blood, in spurts and spasms, dowses spearheads seen by eyes that have no bodies to command, as fettered parents have to stand and watch their children be impaled, each lance point hoisted, blunt end planted, victims stuck like pin-fixed specimens, the display macabre and bestial...

 

... worse than bestial; only human beings dispatch their own with such fanatic fury, sever unripe fruit from branches, thereby uproot family trees... for transplant elsewhere—who knows where (?)—beyond... some far-flung foreign plot...

 

toward which seceding souls now trudge, their pitiless forced-march underway.

 

Expressions numb and listless, prisoners function out of habit, but betray no animation save for flinching from the prods. A few depart with great reluctance—this despite the awful carnage; home is home, the weight of mourning for its loss already tugs, retards the pace of people sensing that their lives are irretrievable once removed, perforce, to serve the needs of whom? What tribe? What breed?

 

Its ghostlike emissaries float among the crush of native enemies—tribesmen, foreign in their battle guise—but none so strange as these whose skin displays such deathlike pallor. He who rules them seems most sinister—though his cohort, cursed with eyes that steal their color from the welkin, is an aberration worse...

 

... who tries to fell the gruesome lances, thereby liberate lifeless small fry from the tips of pikes erect... Ebeya's minions looking on, afraid to apprehend a White man irrespective his defiance of their livid Chief's behest, allowing Crowe, at last, to intercede, constrain his rabid colleague, and to take him into custody; rampage quelled, the crisis ebbs.

 

In shock, a disillusioned Barnaby falls in step with his custodians—the carnage of their 'victory' left behind them. 

 

 

VJ: As for Bea, she goes from ownership by a Black man to enslavement by a White—or would have, misperceiving Barnaby as her Savior. Dumb, dumber, DUMBEST! The Third World always makes the same mistake; it thinks the First World CURES things. When the truth is, all the First World does is cause more Third World ills. I mean, the man had come to throw her kind in chains, for Christ's sake, torture them. Then deliver them to a system where their labors weren't their own, where all they'd learned, believed, and conceived of equaled "backward," "heathen," "primitive," by some greedy sons-of-bitches wanting cotton picked for cheap.

 

{Which Graham conceded, in a way, and yet he hammered home his point...}

 

"But she's in love, Vel."

"She's in LUST. "

"In love with Barnaby—flesh not symbol. Sure, he represents anathema; all he stands for is despicable. But the man himself is pure of heart. He really wants to change. And here's where you and I part company; Bea and Barnaby are redemptive. If they weren't, the movie's message would be too forlorn for words. Instead, it functions like a phoenix. Why? In spite of all the ashes, all the deaths and dismal circumstances, the hatreds and betrayals, our film's uplifting. Or it will be, once the scenes have all been shot and Scotty fits them into one optimistic whole."

 

 

VJ: It's SO ironic; Graham was right about the final cut and how it was received. I mean, you kill a slew of infants, sell their parents into slavery, watch the culprit "fall in love" then sink into ultimate despair, and yet, by movie's end, the mood is up when it OUGHT to be a downer. You would think the people IN a film would be the first to understand it. Ha! With "C.O.C." the bulk of us were groping in the dark.

 

{For instance, take that scene where Bea and Barnaby powwow with Ebeyawho's been strutting like some cock-of-the-walk since pulling off the raid. He's got his enemies in a holding pen, awaiting deportation, and he's staged this tête-a-tête to renegotiate price per head...}

 

We pan from Barnaby, mien despondent in the wake of his emergence from the blood-bath he and his not only watched but largely caused, to Chief Ebeya looking regal in his vain inglorious smugness, then to Beatrice looking worried, insecure, and caught off guard.

 

Chief Ebeya

(... I want his gun plus shot and powder; all the pellets he can spare. They call it "rounds," I think. I want ten rounds for each and every slave. You are to tell him.)

 

Beatrice

(I? My tongue is unfamiliar with his language, sir.)

 

Chief Ebeya

(Your tongue is only 'too' familiar. Tell him. Make him see.)

 

A halting pantomime now commences, Bea interpolating warnings—with her eyes—while, with her hands, she makes Ebeya's wishes known. Her fingers flex to show positions on a shoulder-hoisted rifle. She takes aim along its phantom barrel, squeezing off a round, and then bestows it, emblematically, on her husband. He accepts—as if this "gift" is tribute due to one well-deserving.

 

"Dreadful. Cut!"

 

 

VJ: We filmed that forward, backward, sideways, NOTHING satisfied Herr Director.

 

 

"This is not 'Charades' you're playing, Ms. Jerome. What's 'Big Chief' up to? Think! He's swapping you for a weapon. You don't know that, but you sense it. Make us feel the way that feels—without the mugging, if you please; you're here to act, not practice eye rolls. I see one more Steppin'-Fetchit imitation, you can split. I'll hire a local; you are expendable.

Places!

This time, get it right."

 

Chief Ebeya

(... Make him see.)

 

A halting pantomime now commences, Bea interpolating warnings—with her eyes—while, with her hands, she makes Ebeya's wishes known. Her fingers flex to show positions on a shoulder-hoisted rifle. She takes aim along its phantom barrel, squeezing off a round, and then bestows it, emblematically, on her husband. He accepts—as if this "gift" is tribute due to one well-deserving.

 

Understood, the gesture fails to win compliance from an inconsolable Barnaby who has seen the ruthless power this self-styled despot wants to wield. What's more, the Captain issued orders to relinquish no one's firearm—to Ebeya or his henchmen—under cat-o-nine-tails threat. Young Lathrop takes the token back—once more employing simple gestures...

 

... to Ebeya's consternation, badly masked behind a smile that leaks contempt as well as loathing for this man who would deny him, who consorts with Bea, his wife, indeed conspires to fashion horns that crown the mighty Chief a cuckold in the view of his 'inferiors'—be they well aware their ruler knows his property has been spoilt.

 

Why not, then, trade the damaged goods for something guaranteed more useful? Seizing Bea about the wrist, Ebeya yanks her arm toward Barnaby, while retrieving—still symbolically—that on which his mind is set. The deal is clinched as Bea feels one man's grip replaced by yet another's—the disgrace of this transaction visibly scorched on the chattel's cheeks.

 

Her yen for Barnaby notwithstanding, Bea looks mortified, cowed, dejected; this is not what she envisioned when the chance to flee first dawned. Her disappointment causes tears to well. She fights them back. She trembles—then recoils, her heart turned inside out, her soul itself degraded. She whose womb gives life stands swapped for a thing designed to take it?

 

"You were great!"

"I could have KILLED that son-of-a-bitch. I mean, how low; to run me down like that. IN PUBLIC; that's what galls me. Why not give me notes aside? It's inexcusable, what he did back there. Unethical. Sexist. Racist!"

We had finally quit the set and I was mad as HellEXPLOSIVE in a fit that Graham's consoling, bless his heart, could not defuse.

"His 'eye roll' crack; what kind of SLUR was that? Sans script, OF COURSE we're mugging. If he'd give us something tangible, we could maybe do our work. But no; 'just improvise,' Hitler tells us. So we do our best, and then what? We get sabotaged, cut to ribbons, made to feel like worthless shit. I was HUMILIATED, Graham. How could he DO that to me? Why?"

I slammed my Airstream door with so much force the hinges sprang.

"'You are expendable?' Did you hear him say that? Then the asshole MOCKED me. Not like you do, out of fun, but out of spite, to vent his spleen. I'll have him sued for breach of contract, the double-crossing CREEP!"

And then I broke down altogether—boohoo tears and poor-me sobs—from all the unfamiliar hardships: lousy food, substandard housing, bugs and dust and dung and heat, combined with DOUBTthe actor's nemesis, the Achilles Heel of thespians; I felt lowlier than the least significant gnat.

"Because you used it."

"Huh? Used what? No more non sequiturs, Graham; make sense."

"You felt demoralized; just like Bea does when her heart's put up for sale. You played the quintessential artist, Vel, took everyday experience and converted it to cinematic gospel. You were great!"

You have to know that Graham, though kind, was rather sparing with superlatives. He said, "Nice work," every now and then, but rarely offered raves. And though I needed reassurance pretty badly at that moment he would not have uttered "great" unless he meant it.

"Fur-ther-more, unless he comes to me on bended knee and BEGS for my forgiveness, he can carry out his threat and 'hire a local'; let him. SWINE! SUE-WEEEEE! YOU SELF-IMPORTANT PIGLET!"

I was yelling out the window. Graham's critique had somehow given my harangue its second windthough, truth be told, I felt much better. Much, MUCH better when he hugged me.

"Hey, calm down. Don't share the credit."

"Huh? What's THAT supposed to mean?

"It means that Scott was only baiting you. Come on, Vel, use your noggin. All he wanted was a look of wounded pride across Bea's face; that's what you gave him. To admit that you were hurt for real, detracts from your performance. You portrayed a woman struggling with her role as a commodity. Yet the actress, Vel Jerome, remained objective. Like a pro. You hit your marks, you 'mimed' your lines, you didn't miss a single cue. And you contained the full emotion—which is why you were terrific—letting them, the folks, the audience, have emotions of their own. Again, you used it, Vel. Scott's threat was just a tool."

Much, much, MUCH better.

"I should THANK his nibs, you're saying?"

"Just forget it. Let it go. He'll say he's sorry."

And he did. Complete apology. All assembled...

 

"But, before we get to work, I'd like to take this opportunity, first to thank you for your patience and your talent and your trust; and then to humbly beg your pardons—Ms. Jerome, yours in particular—for remarks I made that really proved the case against myself. The problems yesterday were mine and mine alone. Forgive my blunders. There is no one—I repeat, no one—whose employment is in jeopardy. We will shoot this film from start to finish, cast and crew intact. And we will do so to the best of our abilities, all things shared, coequal partners in pursuit the utmost excellence."

Silly speech, but Scott accomplished what he wanted; re-instilling solidarity in a company where morale was at its worst, an all-time low. It did a lot, in fact, for those of us whose self-esteem had slumped. A lot for me—if, down the road, we deserted Graham...

 

 

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