la Ketch

my life story

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The sun will come out...

I’ve had this theory for a while that the reason there is such a disproportionate number of women in my generation wanting to be actors compared to the men, is because we girls were all obsessed with “Annie” when we were little. The play was popular but the movie that came out in 1982, with Aileen Quinn as Annie and Carol Burnett as Miss Hannigan, was a phenomenon. With the VCR becoming affordable to every middle class home in America around this same time, us chicks watched that movie to death. In my family there were two girls and we didn’t just watch it, we WATCHED it like a million times. We had the record too and of course, we acted it out.

That’s the wonderful, wonderful thing about Annie when you are a little girl. The main character is a little girl too. All you need is a bucket and a mop and BLAMO - you’re in a God damned musical! Orphan wannabes across the nation were taking up housework in droves. Slamming our buckets down, scraping into the linoleum, screaming at the top of our lungs, “Empty belly life! Rotten smelly life! No tomorrow life! Full of sorrow life…” How could we have known that we were describing our own future lives; the lives of the struggling actors we would eventually become…

As I’ve mentioned before, my sister and I grew up very close to our cousins. The cousins who lived right next to us were like siblings to us but we had other cousins too. C. and N. were my mom’s oldest sister’s daughters and they are about five and six years older than us. They were such beautiful girls (still are!), very energetic, smart, fun and creative. They were GODS to us but they lived about two hours away and we only got to see them two or three times a year. The one day we could always count on seeing them was Christmas. We would have our regular Christmas morning which consisted of opening a SICK amount of presents and eating this pastry called “Monkey Bread”, which is a family tradition. Monkey bread is basically a bunch of Pillsbury dinner roll biscuits cut up into triangles, smothered in cinnamon and sugar, thrown into a bunt pan with about 3 sticks of melted margarine and more cinnamon and sugar poured on top of it and cooked at 375 for 45 minutes. It is really good but it is also sort of gross and expands in your stomach all day long. We would open our gifts, eat this crap (We still eat it. We will eat it this year. It tastes good.) and then play with our toys and wait for our cousins to get there.

When they would finally arrive it was mayhem. My sister and I would literally scream and run around the house waving our hands in the air because not only did we get to open another present but we got to play with our cousins for the rest of the day. WE LOVED PLAYING WITH OUR COUSINS!! They always created these really elaborate, interesting games for us to play. One game was called "Detective" and it would take too long to explain. There were two teams and many many rules and you could play it for HOURS. We also played "School" and "Hospital". All of the games would be played for hours really and they all involved a lot of play acting.

Then there was this one stretch, three Christmases in a row actually, where we put on full length productions of “Annie” for our family which I directed. All three years the casting was the same: my sister played Annie (She has the better singining voice), C. played Miss Hannigan, N. played Grace plus various Orphans & Hoovervillians, M. played some Orphans & Hovervillians and T., our one and only boy cousin, played Rooster and Daddy Warbucks. He hated doing it but he did it all three years. The reason he hated it so much, besides the singing and dancing, is because Daddy Warbucks had to hold Annie’s hand in the last scene. He begged me not to make him do it. “Do I have to hold her hand?” He would whine desperately. “YES! YOU HAVE TO!” Was always my tyrannical response. I filled in for the extra parts where I was needed: Orphan, Reporter, Rooster’s Girlfriend, etc. The thing I remember the most about these productions beyond the fact that they were so much fun to do, was this hamper we always used to sneak Annie out of the orphanage in. We had this huge pink hamper that was round and plastic and shaped like a pig. It was a big, pink, pig hamper. It was more than large enough to sneak a small child out of an orphanage in and it also took up most of our playing space and we never cleared it from the stage. It was the main set piece but it was only used once for about two minutes. What is a big pink pig doing in the middle of Annie? Our audience was very forgiving.

After the third year of doing this, we decided to play something different with our cousins at Christmas because our elementary school was doing an actual production of “Annie” which dwarfed our own production by comparison. There were these two teachers that put on really great plays every year, pretty extravagant for elementary school. You had to be at least in the fourth grade to audition, which I was the year they did “Annie”. I couldn’t believe my luck. Here they were doing a play I had been rehearsing for years. I didn’t care what part I got, I just wanted in. I was always very small for my age and I was cast as “Molly” the littlest orphan. I had the fist line in the play which was, “Annie, Annie, Annie!” Molly is having a nightmare and wants Annie to read her the note again. The note Annie's parents left with the locket when they abandoned her. The note in which they promise to return one day to get her. Little does Annie know, THEY BURNED TO DEATH IN A HORRIBLE FIRE AND THEY ARE NEVER COMING TO GET HER!

I think that most actresses of my generation could tell you a story similar to mine. It all started with Annie. I’ve shared my theory with my husband and he came home from his first night of his MFA playwrighting program with more supporting evidence. “When we went around the circle to talk about ourselves, four out of the seven girls mentioned “Annie” as an early influence,” he admitted.

I recently learned that my niece and nephew will be acting in their school production of “Annie” this Christmas. My niece, who is five, will be playing an orphan and my nephew, who is seven, is playing a Paper Boy and Hoovervillian. They are SUPER into being in this play and of course, it’s bringing back memories and tugging on the heart strings of everyone in our family. My sister is relaying all of the cute stuff they are doing like practicing the songs and dances. My niece walks around the house with the script “memorizing her lines” (she can’t read) and periodically asking my sister, “Am I Annie?” My nephew is very theatrical. He has the DVD of “Cats” and he’s been obsessed with it for years. He especially loves the “Rum Tum Tigger” number. Rum Tum Tigger is a curious cat alright. He’s a sex machine! He wears this huge cod piece and his hair is all spiked out and he crawls and gyrates on the floor like John Travolta. My nephew watches this number over and over and over again; jumping off the couch and mimicking the gyrations. He’s quite good actually.

I fear for them both, that they will come to believe that there is no business like show business and follow in my footsteps to the land of make believe, heartache and office temp work. But, there’s nothing I can do to stop it. If they fall they fall. It’s a hard knock life babies!!

My mom is flying up to Seattle to see them in the show. I keep fantasizing about getting a ticket last minute so I can see it too but I’m afraid that if I sat in the audience, I would start to itch. I would critique the work of the director. I would mouth the words of Molly the littlest orphan, “A-n-n-i-e, A-n-n-i-e, A-n-n-i-e! R-e-a-d t-h-e n-o-t-e a-g-a-i-n...” I’m afraid I would stand up and grab a scrub brush out of some poor unsuspecting orphan’s hands, so strong would be my desire to go back in time. There’s no feeling like it in the world, pretending to be an orphan, screaming those songs at the top of your lungs, scrubbing that floor with that pissed off scowl on your face. I believe I will spend the rest of my life trying to get that feeling back.

Oh, Annie…….

you little bitch.


At 4:23 PM, Blogger adrien-alice said...

You see into my soul, la Ketch. Into my soul and through me. Not only was I escorted out of my first proper theatrical by my grandma for singing at the end of the first act, but I won the heart of my girlfriend very early in our acquaintance when I suggested that sometime we ditch big NYC plans and watch ANNIE. And then I bought her the video, and it's been four and a half years....

At 8:35 AM, Blogger Brikin Blog said...

Oh dear this has brought up so many embarrassing moments for me. For example cornering my little cousins at the cabin on long beach and forcing them to sit through my rendition of "Maybe" several times in a row. I can't sing, as you know, but I imitated Andrea McCardle as best I could, taking a deep breath and then forcing that song out through my nostrils with all of my nine or ten year old might, like a young, highly untalented Ethel Merman. Also, my parents took me and my brother (also a huge fan!) to see Annie at the Fifth Avenue, but I had lost my glasses and since I'm almost legally blind it was a laser light show to me.

Months later, after a concerned report from my fourth grade teacher Mrs. Miller, the glasses were discovered in a sewing bag.

At 4:36 PM, Blogger la Ketch said...

adrienne-alice: that's such a sweet story! i hope you have many many more...

bog face - that kills me, you singing maybe like that and then not having the glasses.

it's great that both of you got to go see the play (or at least hear it in bog face's case). Dup reminded me of this other friend we have that went to Annie when she was little and actually stood up on her theatre seat and sang "Tomorrow" at the top of her lungs. No one stopped her though. So funny. MY neice did the same thing at "Lion King" then she fell asleep and snored through the second half...

At 5:44 PM, Blogger Sammee said...

OMG, Monkey Bread is a tradition in my family, too! Are you from Pennsylvania?! Craziness. I love that stuff, its so unhealthy and horrible for you, but OH SO YUMMY! :)


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