Thursday, October 2, 2008

An Introduction to the (Hoboken) Theatre

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.


Anonymous said...

Your trek to Gaia foot ..HUUMM?? We have a long New York winter coming up. Your mode of travel needs improvement as you know. Getting a pair of skis and grabbing the first rear bumper of a truck might be of some help. No one will take notice. YES, Hoboken is another planet from Fairhope. Going from the streets of Hoboken to Columbus, Georgia when I was in
the army, I felt I was on another planet. I know the feeling. Making friends at Gaia will help you get a free ride, door to door service. I'm sure will happen. TURN ON THE CHARM, it works every time. NOW you're a member of the cast, no more walking for you. The limo is on its way.

Jerry Andersen said...

The characters sound like a lot of the people I grew with in JC just a few blocks away. Of course, my mother didn't swear. Smoked and enjoyed her beer though.