Bursting Through

In my mid-twenties, I had the good fortune of being a member of June Havoc’s Repertory Theatre in New Orleans. I was an unlikely candidate for “The Rep”, the others being real actors, mostly from New York. I was an Isadora Duncanish dancer, mother of a five-year-old, married to a talented graphic designer/hippie husband. I came with baggage. But, remarkably, she agreed to an audition. Wearing a transparent purple tunic…my long hair streaming free, I danced. We were alone in the rehearsal room at the top of the extraordinary theater. It had been a synagogue, and the place had retained an aura of holiness. I tended to view  my dance as a spiritual calling; soaring gestures were my reason for being. But June was a practical, down to earth, I mean business sort of woman. I can’t imagine what kept her sitting there throush my long and emotive flight. She sat with straight spine, legs apart, feet flat on the floor, hands braced on her knees. Her remarkable eyes zeroed in on Leif. She seemed my opposite, unyielding in her focus. How could she possible be moved by my airy fairy improvisations. Yet she was.

For the first few months I was on probation. No pay, and I must prove my dedication – my willingness to take direction. My first test consisted of playing the part of a “bingo girl” in a production of Skin of Our Teeth by Thorton Wilder. What this meant was dressing in a flesh-colored fishnet body stocking, twined with green sequin vines. Papier mache apples floated upon my breasts. I was instructed to burst through one of the life-sized letters spelling out “BINGO” at a crucial moment and race through the audience chased by an aging actor with who knows what on his mind. That was it.

I have long forgotten the reason for this bizarre display, but it took an amazing amount of courage to burst through that paper night after night. And I passed my test and came to appreciate my director’ s unusual way of doing things. Eventually, I understood her faith in process, and even realized her appreciation for my particular talents. For the rest of the year I received my weekly paycheck, and more importantly, I starred in “The Elinor Glynn Liquid Memorial Love Regatta” , dancing my kind of dance. Toward the end of the season I was given the theatre on an off night for a solo concert – highly publicized and under the auspices of June Havoc and “The Rep”. 

All of this was wonderful, an interlude of glorious fulfillment, but today the part that calls for my remembering is my youthful willingness to suspend my dancerly dreams and become a bingo girl. She gave me lessons in the art of “bursting through”.

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2 Responses to “Bursting Through”

  1. Kendall Says:

    Oh Leif, I love the image of you BURSTING THROUGH. I think you have never stopped bursting through. You go on and on, finding new, perhaps more subtle and dignified ways, but you continue bursting through whatever confines you, whatever blocks your view, whatever obstacle stands in your way. I love that about you.

  2. leiflife Says:

    Dear darling K, I love you, too, and thanks for being here, for sharing my “more subtle and dignifiied ways” of bursting through. I suppose I barely know I am doing it these days, but wanting to must keep me going. Somewhere in my being the prospect is very real. And so… Onward, warrior women, you and I, and all of our sisters – whoever they may be.

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