Friday, June 5, 2009

They aren't all Taylors and Paines in Washington. Their kind just throw big shadows, that's all

I am not an adult, that's my explanation of myself. Except when I am working on a set, I have all the inhibitions and shyness of the bashful backward child . . . unless I have something very much in common with a person, I am lost. I am swallowed up in my own silence

Whether it happens in celluloid, the printed word, or on a lighted stage, we all have characters, performers, writers that we identify with, that seem to speak only to us. We know that we are no more than the impersonal mass, anonymous to the great, the known of the world, yet we reach out our hands and trust.

For me, one such performer is Jean Arthur. On screen she was witty and self-assured, her speaking voice an instant identifier. Off screen to this day she remains mysterious, odd, complex in memory. She valued her privacy above all else and closed herself off to the prying eyes of the public. She did not travel in the smart sets of Hollywood, attend the lavish parties, or bother with people that she didn't like. Off screen she was incredibly insecure, and often had to be coaxed out of her dressing room to do a scene because she was too nervous and unstrung. Because of this, she received a bad rap in Hollywood as someone that was uncooperative. In later life she lived as a recluse in Carmel California and was once arrested for trespassing on a neighbor's property to try to help a mistreated dog. When she died her ashes were scattered along the coast in perfect symbiosis with her restless spirit.

The thing about Jean that I find so admirable is her individuality, her complete disregard for the falsities of life in Hollywood and blind conformity. She seemed completely real in her imperfections.

One role of hers that I now relate to my own life is that of Saunders in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. I live in the shadows of our Nation's capital, within arms length of the infamous beltway. It is not really a human city, but a city of ideals; Constitution Avenue, Independence Avenue, the likeness of Jefferson, Lincoln. I still look in awe at the beauty in its great stone structures, meant to represent the heart of an entire nation and the things it aspires to be. I've shook hands with Representatives and played in sandboxes with children whose parents did work that was classified as top secret information. Here politics is a sport, a game, and we consider ourselves wise in the ways of Washington.

Even though I am not involved in politics, as a woman attempting to break into the film industry (and currently interning at a production facility in DC) I understand what it is like to be a woman who wants to sit behind a camera rather than pose in front of it. I reach out my hands in blind faith that I will have the tenacity necessary to succeed, the humanity to prevail, and the wit to survive.

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