The spirit and energy of Marion McClinton, my acting partner, was infectious. We were performing a short play that night for a theater benefit and we were nervous. Everyone would be there. We ran laps around the building, we went over and over our lines. We endlessly discussed our motivations. We went through our blocking.
Our director, a seasoned actor named Bob Breuler, planted himself in a comfy chair and read the paper. He watched us for awhile and then flipped down a corner of the paper and said, “IOAP kids.” We stared at him. Was this an ancient theater incantation? “It’s only a play.” He went back to the sports section. I think of Bob Breuler whenever I begin to complicate something.
I have no idea where a ten year old in Omaha got the notion to make dress from a Vogue pattern. I wanted to sew a green velvet puffy-sleeved long dress for the holidays. As if I were going to be attending cocktail parties and soirees. “You mean to wear to Grandma’s for ham on Christmas Eve?” said my Mother, “a Simplicity pattern would be much easier. No so many darts and gathers.” I refused to be deterred and had no idea what I was getting into.
The darts ended up on my waist and one puffy sleeve ungathered as I reached for the mashed potatoes at Grandma’s. Mother was right. Simplicity would have been better.
The Greatest Gift
When my husband and I got a last minute business trip to Rome, a city I had never seen, a few months ago, the tips and suggestions started pouring in. Friends and family sent long lists of the “must-sees,” and as we landed I geared up for four days of marathon sight-seeing. I was going to knock off every item on that list. For three days I traversed the city on foot, sometimes with my husband and, when he cried uncle, sometimes by myself. I was determined to get in every fountain, every piazza, every Caravaggio.
By the fourth day I staggered, exhausted, down a tiny street called via Margutta. It happened to be the street where the director Federico Fellini once lived with his actress wife Giulietta Massina. I plopped down on the edge of a fountain at the end of the cobble-stoned street. It had the masks of tragedy and comedy carved into the side. If I hadn’t stopped my mad dash, I would never have noticed a window and a man inside carving small signs out of pieces of marble. They were for sale. He brought one out to me along with a tiny cup of espresso. We spoke different languages. But he made the sign of droopy eyes with his fingers. Yes, I was exhausted. The taste of the bitter chocolatey drink was pure pleasure. He turned over the piece of marble. It said, “La dolce vita.”
Appreciating the sweetness, the simple pleasures of life may be one of our greatest gifts; learning how best to use our energy, which is precious, and not spill it about is an art.
Kate Fuglei is an actress and singer who divides her time between Studio City and Brooklyn. She has appeared in over forty episodes of television, including most recently in one of the first episodes of STAR TREK/PICARD. She is a published author with two novels based on the lives of the physicist Enrico Fermi and the educator Maria Montessori. The greatest blessing in her life is her marriage to writer Ken LaZebnik and her two sons, Jack LaZebnik and Ben LaZebnik. They inspire her every single day.
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