act: Mary Louise Wilson at Russell Sage College.
Louise Wilson pursued an acting career because she wanted
to be funny. “In high school, I was always being told to leave
the room because I was too loud, and I didn’t know what I’d
done,” she says. “On stage, I’d get such powerful reactions
to being funny that I wanted more of it. I’m still a little
scared of doing serious things. I’m afraid they’ll laugh at
Wilson won a Tony Award last year for her portrayal of eccentric
doyenne Edith Bouvier Beale in the musical Grey Gardens,
and has enjoyed a distinguished career that includes the TV
show One Day at a Time and a string of Broadway credits,
including Flora the Red Menace, two revivals of The
Women and the recent revival of Cabaret. She also
developed, coauthored and starred in a one-woman show about
Diana Vreeland titled Full Gallop, which enjoyed off-Broadway
Twenty students from the Acting III: Performance Styles class
at Russell Sage College in Troy enjoyed an afternoon last
Thursday (Jan. 22) with Wilson, which began with an hour-long
Q&A period and then turned into a master class.
insightful and, not surprisingly, very funny, Wilson shared
anecdotes about her career even as she encouraged the roomful
of actors-in-training to pursue their passion. And the first
question showed a shrewd insight into the business of acting:
Were there times when Wilson had no work and questioned her
choice of career?
she said. “I got hot and was on my way up, and learned that
you never arrive.” Typecasting is an ever-present danger,
she later noted, adding that, since her Tony Award, she’s
gotten only calls for “wheelchair-bound women with Alz heimer’s.”
in love with the characters you want to play,” she said, explaining
that it’s a much more fulfilling aspiration than the pursuit
of fame. What’s the most challenging aspect of creating a
role? “It’s all challenging. It’s very scary.”
Fifteen students presented a monologue apiece, all of them
already at an impressive level of accomplishment. Wilson offered
re finements in characterization, encouraging the actors to
push into more extreme emotional realms, and guided the participants
through a process of breaking each speech into component thoughts.
“Take more time,” she frequently said. “Let us see the thought
as it occurs to you.”
kids were terrific,” she told David Baecker, assistant professor
of theater at the college, who prepared the students for the
event. “I haven’t had a lot of hope for theater lately, but
who knows? In economic times like these, theater can thrive.”
Orleans is still waiting: Frisbee Houde’s In
WITNESS Connie Frisbee Houde, photographer and longtime
friend of Metroland—we have featured her work in these
pages on multiple occasions—has a new exhibit up at the Chapel
+ Cultural Center (2125 Burdett Ave., Troy). Known for
her wrenching photographs of Afghanistan, Frisbee Houde’s
The Forgotten: New Orleans and Afghanistan pairs
images from the Katrina- ravaged city with the war-ravaged
country in poignant and revealing ways. As she wrote me in
an e-mail, regarding our selective amnesia about still-wounded
New Orleans, “I continue to be shocked to see in my own country
the same short-term memory that allows us to distance ourselves
from the fact that war continues to devastate families in
Afghanistan. Many Americans continue with business as usual
while the war is waged and levies remain questionably secure.”
The exhibit runs through Feb. 25. For more info, call 274-7793.
CHOWDAH We all have cabin fever. Admit it. On Saturday (Jan.
31), why not brave the cold and venture into Saratoga Springs
for Chowderfest at the Feast Gallery (142 Grand
Ave., 2nd Floor). From 11 AM to 4 PM you can warm up with
some hearty chowder and check out the soon-to-end exhibit
of recent paintings by Chuck Brouillette, Four Color
Crime: The Streets of Gorilla City. Or you can stop by
from 5 to 8 PM for the “artist farewell reception.” For more
info about these events, call 321-8473.
BALLADS OF A SOLDIER Also happening Saturday (Jan. 31) in
the city we pay too much attention to in the summer (and not
enough in the winter), poet W.D. Clarke will read from
and sign copies of his book Soldier Ballads and Other Tales
at the New York State Military History Museum (69 Lake
Ave., Saratoga Springs) from 1:30 to 2:30 PM. The Vietnam
vet writes experienced-based “narrative rhymes done in a style
reminiscent of Robert Service and Rudyard Kipling.” For more
info, call 581-5100.
AND THE BAND PLAYS ON More than 300 musicians! Eight hours
of live music! Where, you are wondering, can you experience
this—whatever “this” is? “This” is the Empire State Youth
Orchestra and their Playathon 2009. The annual
event takes place near Burlington Coat Factory’s inside-the-mall
entrance at Crossgates Mall in Guilderland on Feb.
7 from 10:30 AM to 6:30 PM. The 300 kids—er, young people—don’t
all perform at once; there are continuous performances by
the ESYO’s various combos, from the full Youth Orchestra to
the Wind, Jazz and Percussion Ensembles. There will also be
an interesting educational oddity (set up near the Gap) they’re
calling the Musical Petting Zoo. Assorted musical instruments
will be the “animals,” and kids will get to try them out.
For more info, visit esyo.org.
A ROSE IS A ROSE IS A . . . One of our favorite northern venues
is looking for a new name (and the economic benefits it is
hoped will come with the new moniker). The City of Glens Falls
has selected Front Row Marketing Services to “oversee
the naming and commercial rights” for the Glens Falls Civic
Center. Make an offer!