“Get after it.” French Stewart
by Robin Byrd
Last month we had a LA FPI Night at the Pasadena Playhouse. We all went to see STONEFACE The Rise and Fall and Rise of Buster Keaton by Vanessa Claire Stewart on June 13, 2014 and afterwards, there were Micro-Reads with the actors from STONEFACE. Erica Bennett blogged about it in her article To the Readers! the next day.
It was very hard to select 400 words from a play that gave enough of a storyline, showed the style of the piece, and embodied the essence of the piece and I only wanted to use the female characters. My 400 words were pulled from my play The Grass Widow’s Son. Seema Sueko, Associate Director at The Pasadena Playhouse, did an excellent job of casting it. The actresses, Daisy Eagen, Tegan Ashton Cohan and Rena Strober, with Seema reading the “active” stage directions were excellent in their cold read. The audience clapped – no awkward pause after the reading; I was a happy camper. All of the reads went very well; these thespians knew their craft. It was amazing to watch them deliver on the spot. Their performance in STONEFACE was phenomenal as well. And, French Stewart’s voice – have you heard it? – reaching the balcony in full resonance – something to behold. I personally had never seen a play like that in my life. I knew of Buster Keaton; my mother used to talk about the silent film stars who transitioned to talkies and the ones who just faded away. French Stewart’s portrayal of Buster Keaton was like watching the real thing. It felt as we were all transported in a Pleasantville sort of way back in time. It was a documentary, it was film, it was alive, it was spectacle, it was theater… I loved the way seeing something new and unexpected made me feel.
I stopped to tell French Stewart how much I enjoyed his stellar performance and to thank him for participating in our micro-reads when he commented about liking my 400 words and said, “Get after it.”
It hit me like an arrow, jump started my heart, woke me up out of a lull. French Stewart just told me to get after it like he knew I counted, like my 400 words were all he needed to know that I belonged. I thanked him, wandered about the Carrie Hamilton Theatre area a bit, found myself standing looking down into the courtyard when he approached me again and said, “Get after it!” Okay, twice in one night – I heard it! This was not something I was going to put in the “oh, that was so nice” area of my memory. I confessed to him how much I needed to hear those words, how much they meant to me, to my soul…
Then, I shook myself and made a conscious effort to get after it…again… Battle bruises had left me numb – more numb than I realized but I decided that as long as I do something creative whenever I get the chance, in between submissions and rejection letters/emails and writing, it will keep me from being too vulnerable to the drop-of-water-on-the-soap syndrome. I bought fabric and patterns to start back sewing, bought more music for my fiddle, bought some running shoes and put more me time in my schedule. It really helps to be doing something creative – anything creative – at all times…
Funny thing about art, it hurts to do it and it hurts worse not to do it. Back on point getting after it…
Thank you French Stewart!