Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Neil Simon's Speech from the Actors' Equity Association

When I was in high school, I remember the drama department doing, "Barefoot in the Park," and it was utterly charming. But I was introduced to Neil Simon long before that with "The Odd Couple," which my folks watched on TV when I was a kid. Then there were all his hits at the movies: "Murder By Death, "The Good-bye Girl," "Seems Like Old Times," most of which I was way too young for, but when "Biloxi Blues" hit the theatres, I totally got it! And a few years after the film, I got to play Daisy onstage.

When I moved to NY, I remember passing the theatre which had been endowed with his name, "The Neil Simon Theatre." I even took my husband and sister-in-law there to see "Hairspray."

 In 1983, Neil Simon received a special award from Actors' Equity Association at the National Membership Meeting. The following speech, which he made while accepting the reward, were first printed in Equity News in November, 1983.

“The actor is the bravest soul I know. My god, it’s hard to be an actor. I know of no greater act of courage than to walk out on an empty stage, seeing the silhouettes of four ominous figures sitting in the darkened theater, with your mouth drying and your fingers trembling, trying to keep the pages in hand from rattling and trying to focus your eyes on the lines so you don’t automatically skip the two most important speeches in the scene, and all the while trying to give a performance worthy of an opening night with only four pages of a play, the rest of which you know nothing about and can only guess at … and then to finally get through it, only to hear from the voice in the darkened theater, 'Thank you.' You nod politely, and start the interminable six mile walk off the stage into the wings, only to have to walk back on because you left your purse or you galoshes or your envelope with your resumes on the chair at stage right, now having to make a 12 mile walk off into the wings. It has got to be the most painful, frustrating and fearful experience in the world. Because with it comes a 90% chance of rejection. And to do it time after time, year after year, even after you’ve proven yourself in show after show, requires more than courage and fearlessness. It requires such dedication to your craft and to the work you’ve chosen for your life, that I’m sure if Equity posted a sign backstage that said, ‘Any actor auditioning for this show who gets turned down will automatically be shot,’ you’d still only get about a 12% turn away.

Since for the past 22 years I have been one of those silhouetted figures in the darkened theater, I want to express my gratitude and appreciation for your courage, your dedication, your talents. I think I became a writer partly because I had an acute case of shyness all through my youth and I was well into my teens before I said full sentences. Since then I have found spokesmen to utter my words and thoughts. And what spokesmen they were: Maureen Stapleton and George Scott and Walter Matthau and Jimmy Coco and Elizabeth Franz and Matthew Broderick and Peter Falk and Lee Grant and Alec Guiness and Marsh Mason and Jason Robards and Richard Dreyfus and Zeljko Ivanek and Jack Weston and Joan Hackett. And the featured actors and the bit players and the understudies and the thousand who have performed my plays in theaters, barns and probably supermarkets all over this country. I don’t know how many plays I have left in me, but I sure hope there’s enough to cover every actor who carries and Equity card.

The collaboration that has existed between us all these years had certainly not gone unappreciated by me. Recently I received the most thrilling tribute I’ve ever been given in my entire life: The naming of a theater after me. While it takes my breath away every time I see it, I’m not foolish enough or egotistical enough to think it got up there without the talent of those who have said my works all these year – my spokesmen!!! So the next time you pass 52nd Street near Eight Avenue, just think as I do, that the name of that theatre is the Neil Simon and company.“ - Neil Simon

Friday, August 24, 2018

Fern Lim, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

It's been a cool couple of weeks. August started with an invitation to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child on Broadway. Fern Lim, one of my producers and co-stars of Human Telegraphs won tickets to the show, and scoured the web to see who among her friends Potter fans!

Well, I've always loved Harry Potter, and had just filmed a segment with Kacey Camp, a wand keeper at Hogsmeade in Universal Studios:

So of course I was over the moon when Fern asked me if I'd like to go to the show! I thought she was joking at first, but she assured me the invitation was real, so I asked her if she'd like to be interviewed for my web series, "Laura Loves NY."

One of my favorite things about New York is finding out what other people love about the city. Everyone has a favorite place, and for Fern and me that week, I'm pretty sure that place became The Lyric Theatre on Broadway.

Fern is an actor-producer-art director and so much more! Before heading out to see Harry and the gang, we sat down to chat about her new web series, Human Telegraphs, which I guest-starred on, and discovered we're both California girls!

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Laura Loves NY: Musicals with VP Boyle

I recently met up with one of my first musical theatre coaches, VP Boyle. VP is a tall drink of water and Broadway vet whom I've always referred to as "The Willy Wonka of Musical Theatre."

He's been directing and teaching in LA, and decided to come back to NY to kick off his Musical Theatre Forum for MaxTheatrix.

I asked him where he'd like to meet in the city, since my web series, Laura Loves NY, showcases artists in one of their favorite spots in New York City, and he said, "Let's do Times Square!"

So we did this interview in the heart of Manhattan, right on Broadway!