No, gentle reader, today I’m not doing the talk-about-the-book-publishing-process-and-reveal-another-sad-detail-of-my-husband’s-physical-debilitation thing. Today’s post is triumphant! Uplifting! Inspirational!
The past two mornings I have gotten up early, done the gym thang, then spent about two to three hours editing interior photos for Jimmie’s book. About a week or so ago, we went through the physical photos we have from an old photo album, and then I bundled up about 15-20 pictures and sent them off to imemories.com, where they were digitalized and dropped into my “library,” yet another cloud-based repository for my life. It’s so strange that we’ve become comfortable with farming out our most intimate family videos and photos to the digital abyss. It is the ultimate leap of faith, severing physical ties with the objects so that you can utilize them digitally as you need to.
Jimmie has some wonderful photos from his long and storied life in the theatre. I am not going to share them here, because, of course, we want you to buy his book when it becomes available! From his first job in New York as a Capulet servant in the 1951 production of Romeo and Juliet starring Douglas Watson and Olivia DeHavilland, to the moving photos (by Craig Schwartz) of him with Charlotte Rae in their trash cans during the recent KDT production of Endgame, the span of photos document his enduring resiliency at all phases of his career, and through reiterations of roles, in two cases, the same roles performed three decades apart.
The other thing I had to fill out today on Createspace, was the description of the book and what audience it is geared for. These are tough questions. Yesterday, I was in a meeting about the upcoming production of Side Show that we are doing, with VP Boyle, the director of the show, and he turned to ask one of our current students if he knew who Tim Conway was. I can’t remember the context of the conversation, or why Tim Conway came up (I’ve provided you with the link so you can sneak a look in case you need a refresher course). The student looked blankly back at us, embarrassed to not know who this was. VP then said:
We are only here for a moment.
It is so true. Our lives, so important, so individually rich and resonant and storied, striated with the creative intersections with so many other lives, are still only a flash. So as I considered the audience for his book, filled with the names of very famous actors who the majority of readers won’t have a clue who they are, I thought about the value of Jimmie’s story to both young and old. He has been acting and living his life in the theatre for so long, working exclusively as an actor since the late 60s. He has continued to work diligently throughout the past 60 years, with integrity and stamina, throughout the various phases of his life. Always a character actor, as he’s aged he’s become even more of a character. You may have seen him on a few seasons (5 and 6) of Parks and Recreation, as the crotchety Councilman Milton, whose bigoted misogyny combined with his age made us laugh. But really, Jimmie has had the last laugh. Now at 89, on the cusp of 90, he has all the training of his youth, combined with vast amounts of stage and screen time and experience, still with the mental agility to learn and retain lines, and show up and deliver. That is impressive, and inspiring to me, and I think will be so for young and old actors.
And so, when I received an email last night from Writer Director Cameron Watson, creator of the web series, BreakAHip, to ask if Jimmie could work Thursday on two episodes for the second season, I wasn’t surprised. I’ve had the pleasure of working with Cameron at USC, as he’s directed several productions for us. I have followed his directing career with avid interest, and this recent venture as well. I had hoped that sometime he might ask for Jimmie to participate in his webisode. So I was delighted by the request, but not surprised. And for Jimmie, to get to spend a day with Cameron, and the star of the series, Christina Pickles and a few other actors with whom Jimmie has worked, it will be a delight.
It will be like day camp for you.
That’s the beauty of pursuing work for which you have passion but that also gives you pleasure. Where an unexpected job at the end of a long life is easy and fun. And that’s the job now for actors. There are so many different platforms to deliver content now. It is the young (and old) actor’s job to stay attuned to what the trends are and to develop your fluidity with these changes in technology. And to keep on keeping on.
Last night Jimmie and I binge watched Season 1 of BreakAHip. Good news for those of us who are time-crunched. The entire season takes an hour to binge watch. So go do it. Jimmie turned to me and asked me where one would watch the show. I pointed to the little 4.7 inch screen we were watching it on and told him that was where people would be watching it. He briefly had a quizzical expression on his face, but then settled back in to enjoy Christina Pickles’ and Britt Hennemuth’s performances. To quote Cameron,
It is a study of aging and youth, of beginnings and endings, and of survival. And it is funny! Entertainment Tonight called it “The new web series you definitely should be watching!”
So, my friends, I don’t really know who will buy Jimmie’s book when we are finished editing and uploading the inside pictures, but the take away today is just that. No matter how brief or long our time here on this planet is, it is worthwhile to make a life that gives you pleasure and joy and friendship. Document it, share it and keep engaging in the new and unexpected analogue and digital realms of acting, or design or stage management, or writing. And try not to break a hip unless you are invited to by old friends.