Broadway Lullaby

January 3, 2011 at 11:37 am 20 comments

Kathy Bates at the rehearsal for the 1999 Emmy...

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The high school I attended had a really excellent vocal music and drama program. It was the suburb of a big city, and it was the rich suburb of the big city. Kids I went to school with drove brand new Beemers. One kid that I went to school with hosted an after prom party at his house, and his dad was so rich that he collected rare Bibles. They had a page from a Gutenberg Bible displayed in a glass case like a museum piece, in their home.

Our high school theater was featured in Architectural Digest, and the fine arts reviewer for the newspaper of our state capital used to come to our musicals and plays and review them. We had some very, very talented people graduate from that high school, and some even went on to perform on Broadway or otherwise become working actors. I’ve seen one guy I went to high school with in at least two Richard Linklater movies, which is funny since Linklater, the director of Dazed & Confused, is part of the Austin film scene.

I was reasonably talented for a high school kid but not a triple threat. My parents didn’t have the money for the voice or dance lessons that so many of the kids I went to school with took. We also didn’t have the money to take off to New York once or twice a year and see Broadway shows, as so many of the kids I went to school with did.

My parents were also not big contributors or supporters of the parents’ group for performers that forked out the cash for our little productions, probably a big reason why I stayed in the chorus or got the tiny roles in school plays. The kids who starred almost always came from deep pockets. I never got the connection back then. A friend and I were talking recently about how naïve we both were on that score.

When it came time to go to college I wanted to study theater, but my dad said that I could study anything I wanted but theater, and that if I was going to study theater then I was on my own. I was in no way prepared to be on my own, so I stayed home and majored in English Education, which later was changed to just plain English.

However, even though my Dad was right that I was eventually proud that I graduated from college with my degree that I paid for myself by working my own way through school, and without any student loans, I still hated the fact that I didn’t get to major in what I wanted to study or get the chance to go to a more prestigious school that might have opened doors for me with just a name. Even though I’d sort of moved on and decided that I wanted to go into ministry and study at a seminary, I still had that niggling little thought that I’d been cheated out of a dream. I resented that my parents didn’t support me in my dream. Other people’s parents did; why not mine?

Well, last Thanksgiving when I went home for a little holiday visit we were sitting around the breakfast table when my dad congratulates himself on the fact that I was free to become whatever I wanted in life and that he and my mom never forced a profession on me. And I thought, seriously? What revisionist history! I mean, no, I wasn’t forced into a specific profession, but I was barred from my chosen profession. So, I sort of pipe up about what a lie that is and challenge them on it.

This is when my mother pipes back with the fact that so few actors are really working actors. She actually tells me that they were afraid that I’d fall into prostitution if I pursued a career in acting. What? No waiting tables or folding t-shirts at the Gap? Just straight from the cattle call to crack whorehouse?

As if that weren’t insulting enough, she then tells me that I didn’t have the looks for acting, and adds that not everyone can be Kathy Bates. It doesn’t even occur to her that she’s insulting. That’s the worst part of it.

I won’t claim to have given a beauty like Elizabeth Taylor or Angelina Jolie a run for her money, but when I was younger, with the right makeup, wardrobe and lighting that movie stars get, I could have taken on Meg Ryan at least. Jeez! Kathy Bates.

It was a long time ago. My mom said that if I wanted it that badly then I should go pursue it now. Then she tells me that I should perform in community theater. And honest to God, I just decide that she’s entirely clueless. I don’t want it badly enough now to bother, but she thinks that community theater would do it for me? My mother is a nurse, and perhaps the only analogy I could make that would get to her would be if I told her that instead of going to nursing school she should have just volunteered with the Red Cross as a weekend phlebotomist.

And what is my point with all this drivel? I love my parents dearly, and I know they love me. They did a pretty good job of raising me. I’m a functioning adult, well, mostly functioning. On a recent phone call home somehow this very subject came up on whether or not my mom was a good parent, and I said that I thought she was and I knew that she’d done the best job she could and that she did much better than her own mother had done. And then I said that I always thought I would have made a good mother.

And silence.

Pause.

More silence.

I said, “Gee, thanks.”

My mom responded. “Well, what did you want us to do? Lie?”

I won’t ever be a mother, so there will be no chance to find out. But I like to think that if I had any children I would at least encourage them in their dreams and instill them with the self-confidence necessary to be successful at them. I wouldn’t have asked my children to sacrifice their pursuits so I could pursue my own dreams, as my mother’s college education inflicted real financial hardship on us growing up. My mom makes a very comfortable living now, but I didn’t benefit from it. One other thing I wouldn’t do: I certainly wouldn’t assume that a bright and attractive young woman raised with good values would succumb to prostitution! I would give my kid more credit than that.

Entry filed under: Childhood, Education, Entertainment, Ethics, Mental Health, Relationships, Social Commentary. Tags: , , , , , , , .

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20 Comments Add your own

  • 1. popsdumonde  |  January 3, 2011 at 3:33 pm

    I’m sorry that your parents can’t see how painful their skewed opinions of you are. Perhaps some of those opinions are not meant to be personal slights, was your mom referring to the broken dreams of Hollywood? It’s hard just reading about it, whatever the reference, they hurt you.

    I’m certain you would make a great parent, your solid beliefs and knowing how important encouragement and listening are make that clear.

    Congratulations on getting through college with no student loans and for getting through college.

    With your writing skills and life experiences as a young African American woman, with your host of real life characters, you could write and star in your own movie.

    Reply
    • 2. gooseberrybush  |  January 4, 2011 at 4:01 am

      I almost laughed out loud at that. I am glad that I did not have liquid in my mouth. I would have spit up.

      Reply
      • 3. popsdumonde  |  January 4, 2011 at 4:54 am

        ; )

      • 4. gooseberrybush  |  January 4, 2011 at 5:07 am

        Thanks, Pops.

  • 5. kayisacute1  |  January 3, 2011 at 5:06 pm

    As a mom I can tell you it is not an easy job to take on… It’s easy for you to say what you would have done in her shoes but truthfully you only know your mother as that, mom. You don’t what dreams she may have had that she never shared with you, for that matter with your father, that she may have given up for the “good of the family” and although your mother could have phrased it better or been a little more understanding, she (in her own way) was looking out for you. You were mad because she said you were no Kathy Bates and you say you could have given Meg Ryan a run for her money. You speaking about looks maybe your mother was speaking about Kathy’s talents and achievements.

    You want your children to pursue their dreams but when their dreams are a little unrealistic (from our limited stand point) we try to encourage them to follow a more obtainable path. You say your family stopped you from pursuing a career in acting and I say you stopped it. What stopped you from getting a job and moving to New York or LA, like so many other actors did… some accomplished their dream some didn’t, either way they tried. Your parents said they wouldn’t support you and you let the dream drop their.

    You feel like they didn’t support you, well you went to bed full and warm. The magic refrigerator always had something in it to eat? There are children who rush to school everyday because the meal they get there is the only one they will receive all day. Yeah you had it rough.

    Reply
    • 6. gooseberrybush  |  January 4, 2011 at 1:07 am

      I never claimed to have had it rough, and i’m sorry if I struck a nerve. We grew up eating a lot of mac and cheese for some of the time in a trailer that was later foreclosed on and qualified for the school lunch program, but you’re right. I never went to bed hungry, and my parents loved me. I realize that makes me fortunate.

      I love my parents, both of them. I just would have appreciated my parents being as emotionally supportive of my dreams as they were of my mother’s. She had wanted to be a nurse since she was a little girl. Her childhood was pretty emotionally abusive, and both her mother and her sister (the favorite) were huge hypochondriacs who thought doctors were gods. I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

      Reply
  • 7. Amanda  |  January 3, 2011 at 6:40 pm

    We are all entitled to feel the way we feel about our childhood. No one’s was perfect. We all look back and think we could do it differently when we really don’t know what we would do. And once we are thrust into parenting, we still sometimes do not.

    Reply
  • 8. kayisacute1  |  January 4, 2011 at 4:02 am

    You didn’t strike a nerve and I don’t presume to know your life but you are upset because they didn’t support your dream… I was just trying to convey that YOU are the Captain of your ship and that some kids have it a lot worst than unsupported dreams.

    My daughter wants to be a designer, I understand that but for every Ralph Lauren, there is a Steve Whatshisface that never has his sketches viewed by anyone, so I am steering her toward healthcare, I told her to if she wants to be a designer fine but I want her to have something to fall back on, I believe that’s what your parents were doing for you. There is NOTHING stopping you from doing it now. Actors like Sam Jackson didn’t fulfill there dreams until he was well after he was in his 40s. All I’m saying you want to be an actress, go be one.

    Reply
    • 9. gooseberrybush  |  January 4, 2011 at 4:27 am

      Thank you; I would have loved for my parents to have supported my dreams in a realistic way, like, for instance, to support me living at home (like I did ) and double major in English or English Education and Theater, as well, instead of finding Theater offensive, morally, or entirely unrealistic. I realize that I could pursue ti now, but that chances that would have been open to me then are closed to me now because I was a good girl who realized that my parents actively disapproved of my dreams.

      Is there a way to support your little girl’s dreams as well as a backup plan? That option was never presented to me. I was “told” that my dreams were trivial, unrealistic and also abhorrent, as they actively believed that it was literally the pathway to prostitution. There was nothing preventing my parents from at least volunteering for the parents’ support group; they actively chose not to do so, and the message was not lost on my teachers, as well as it was not lost on me.

      Yes, I could follow that dream NOW, but even the most successful actresses in Hollywood will tell you that it’s a young woman’s dream, and that being out of practice that I could have gotten in school so many years ago, would put me at a distinct disadvantage. Just like not designing dresses for years would put one out of practice. Please continue to encourage your daughter’s talents, because my parents, great as they were and are, did not. Acting is an art and a skill; it requires practice that I could have had but was barred from, because I was given a choice between making it on my own, which I had no skills for, and wasn’t provided any, or staying at home and adhering to my parents’ wishes, to have nothing to do with theater.

      Reply
    • 10. Amanda  |  January 4, 2011 at 10:25 pm

      Designer scrubs??

      Reply
      • 11. gooseberrybush  |  January 5, 2011 at 12:28 am

        I just got that. That’s funny.

  • 12. Girl From Out of Town  |  January 4, 2011 at 4:03 am

    Gooseberry, we are so much alike, we could be sisters! Wait! I consider you a sister, if not by birth, then by choice, which is most important.

    My parents said the same to me and I majored in Education. I was a terrible teacher. Then they told me they knew I would be a terrible teacher because I am NOT a disciplinarian, which is what one must be these days. Is being a failed teacher better then being a passionate actress? I was acting, all the while of student teaching, acting sane to keep myself together! Best damn Oscar worthy performance ever.

    My pal Zack is trying his hand at acting; he was injured with a SCI in a diving accident, got married, and got his theater degree afterward. People do say to him: “Don’t you want to be a writer? A director? A producer instead?” (Someone behind the camera, and not in front of it? Something more comfortable?)

    It’s never too late to go after your dreams, but it is a bummer to have the dream deferred when you see the ship has sailed.😦

    Love ya, sis Goose.🙂

    Reply
  • 13. kayisacute1  |  January 4, 2011 at 12:39 pm

    Honey, I had hippy’s for parents. Pop smoking, tye dye earing hippy’s for parents, who “sold out to the man” when my older sister was born, lol. Because of their “free spirited” ways I was completely directionsless for years. You had the parents from the movie Footloose, I had their Bizaro twins. I have a saying that you might want to adopt. I am a lot saner (and skinnier) than I have any right to be.

    If you ask me I am a better parent than my parents were but check back to this blog in about 6 years (my oldest will be 20 and she will probably be blogging the same blog you were blogging yesterday about me, lmao,

    BTW, it’s never too late, I say it’s never too late. I would go to one of your movies or watch you be a stiff in the morgue on CSI Miami/NY/LAS VEGAS/ Japan or where ever the hell else we are going to get one next, just to say I told you, lmafao.

    Good Luck sweety.

    Reply
    • 14. gooseberrybush  |  January 4, 2011 at 12:51 pm

      Thanks!🙂

      Reply
  • 15. Girl From Out of Town  |  January 4, 2011 at 6:48 pm

    Gooseberry, get on Catherine Hart’s audtion list. It is free. Catherine is Morgan Fairchild’s sister. There are several film shoots in Austin that need extras or speaking parts.🙂 I almost auditioned to be an extra in True Grit but I was too scared.

    Reply
    • 16. gooseberrybush  |  January 5, 2011 at 12:31 am

      Ah, my new dream now is to be a professional writer. I find that this is just as unrealistic but better suited to my talents and abilities. I think mom and dad can be proud that I have just as great of a statistical chance of being the next Stephen King as I would of being, say, the next Kathy Bates. Buy my book. I haven’t written it…yet, but buy it anyway.
      🙂 Love you, too.

      Reply
  • 17. sandraroffel  |  January 5, 2011 at 7:36 pm

    I hear ya. I got a voice scholarship to a very prestigious music school (in Boston, I live in Western Canada – big deal) but it wasn’t a FULL scholarship. My mom, who I trusted completely (why, I don’t know…another blog) told me that if I weren’t practicing 8 hours a day than I really must not be passionate about it.
    I am now 40, and quite directionless. I have a job, but no career. Worst still, I have no real dreams left. This is not entirely due to my mom’s comment, and I do believe that we chart our own destinies, but I believe it did start with her cutting comment.
    I know she loves me, but all this “realisitic” crap is just that. Poop. To the “mom” above: Why not let your daughter try and fail at design and then go do something in health. Just a thought. She might surprise you…:)

    Reply
  • 18. sandraroffel  |  January 5, 2011 at 7:38 pm

    Okay, just reread my comment and must amend: I am not directionless and the journey has been pretty good, but I am like Goose, always wondering.
    Keep up the awesome work, Gooseberry.
    Cheers, your humble follower, S.

    Reply
  • 19. Girl From Out of Town  |  January 10, 2011 at 3:58 am

    I heard the same thing! “You don’t practice now! Why would you practice later! Look at all that competition and…” Now I have confidence to say: “All that is gold does not glitter, and not all who wander are lost.” J. R. R. Tolkien. Maybe if one does follow one’s heart, one would have had direction, either one way or the other, and now, it is the NOT knowing that is distressing.😦

    Reply
  • 20. Girl From Out of Town  |  January 10, 2011 at 4:03 am

    I look around at others and think: “Where do I get confidence from? How do others have it?” Nature, or nurture?

    Reply

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