October 2, 2008
It was raining and was going to be a bad-hair evening, even though the hair had been doing just what I wanted all day. This was important only because I was about to meet with some 15 new women of course we would all be looking each other over. I had to trudge nine Hoboken blocks in the rain to the Gaia studio in the Neumann Leathers building for the first read-through of the play The Flora Dora Girls Weekly Sewing Circle by Hoboken's own Louis La Russo. I had to give up any thoughts of having good hair.
I had met the girls at the auditions and knew they were not the type to worry about what I was wearing. They dressed well, but some were in jeans and all had a casual, personal chic. I didn't have a problem finding comfortable clothes. The women were all sizes and shapes--all beautiful and dynamic, but the only one who could be called a beauty was the 15-year-old from Hoboken High who would be playing a 15-year-old from Hoboken High. They were all extraordinary actresses; I knew that from the reading too. They would be playing the roles of women like none I had ever known. Foul-mouthed and funny, the characters were based on real women the playwright had known intimately, including his own mother. Their stories poured out at the weekly sewing and coffee circle, but on the night of this meeting, the situation of the play, life came up to hit them in the face, and they struck back with humor, strength, and one of them with a pretty good left hook.
Being in a roomful of such women was awesome. All the actresses were chosen for their Hoboken edge, that crust of New Jersey accent and aggression with an overlay of courage and an undercurrent of sensitivity. They all had strong, some shrill, voices that matched the words they were saying. No subtlety needed. We laughed, we shrieked, we relaxed and enjoyed the play. I've been to a lot of first readings in my life, and I can say with assurance after this one, it's going to be quite a show.
Donna Truglio, whose uncle wrote the play (and who actually was the model for the teenager in the cast) brought a few family members and friends to watch the first act. They loved it just like all of Hoboken will. As they left, one said to us, "I lived in Hoboken in those days, and this was like a visit home!"
To me, of course, it was a visit to another planet, but the planet about which I've been doing first-hand research since last December. It was the world of Slezak, Mahoney, the Downtown Chick and Barbary Coast Kid who sometimes visit this blog and regale us with stories of clotheslines, dumbwaiters, Palisades Park and On the Waterfront. I can't wait to hear the audience reaction when we do the first reading for an audience, at the Hoboken Museum on October 19th.