February 22, 2010
My flight to Memphis was uneventful and sleepy, a movie, a book, a crossword, Obie curled up in the small space in front of my seat. Caroline, the company manager, picked me up at the airport and drove me and the pup over to a board member's home for dinner. Rough-hewed wood paneled walls, Southern food served on china, a feeling of the Old South, whitewashed baseboards, a leafy mural creeping across the dining room wall, a large display case of carved wooded ducks. I met the cast, all women about my age, and all fabulous people. I met the stage manager, the PAs, a couple of Tennessee Shakespeare volunteers, and reconnected with Dan and Stephanie.
Tracy brought me to my host's home after dinner. Her name is Mila and she lives on the southeastern edge of Memphis. Mila is from Russia and she immediately offered me cognac when I walked through the door; when I told her I didn't drink, she laughed, punched my shoulder, and said, in a heavy Russian accent, "What the fuck is wrong with you, eh?!" Needless to say, I like her. This is not a big, old Southern home; it's simple, carpeted, Russian tschotskes everywhere. The only drag is that I really only have partial use to a car, and there's not too much within walking distance. But, overall, this is a nice little home with a funny and incredibly generous host.
In the morning, Obie and went off exploring. We saw lots of little brick houses, lots of spiky dead grass, and absolutely no one outside of a vehicle. I definitely felt a little out of place, walking with my bright red hoodie, green down vest, cut-offs, stripy blue leg warmers, and multicolored cat-ear-bedecked knit cap. Lots of cars, lots of sideways glances, lots of dogs kept outdoors in large chain link dog runs. I was determined to find some breakfast on our excursion, and that's what brought me eventually and smilingly into the Fill N Go, perhaps the only place in walking distance that sells anything edible. And so, for breakfast, I had a delicious package of Little Debbie Donettes and six salty peanut-butter-and-cracker sandwiches. It's chilly here, colder than I expected, so Obie and I jogged home to keep warm.
There is an enormous church on just about every corner, so it's no surprise that our rehearsas are in St. George's Episcopal Church. TSC has many loyal supporters, without whom the company simply wouldn't be able to exist, and the preacher at St. George's is one of them. The use of the church's rooms for rehearsals is provided to TSC free-of-charge. Amazing.
After an introductory meeting and then a read-through (in which I realized that I have a whole lot of work to do on this script), we went to the vaulted entryway of the church for a dance rehearsal. It feels good to be moving again. And then we all piled into cars and drove to the second part of rehearsal, a welcome party at a nearby board member's home.
Turning off the main road, we followed a long drive up, passing a large horse farm on the right, and parked out back by the stables. Walking around to the front, we gazed upon an old Southern brick mansion, glowing with light from every window. We were greeted by an African American man (in a suit-vest and bow-tie, who looked shockingly like Morgan Freeman), who took our coats and asked what we would like to drink. The interior of the house was absolutely stunning, 1930s, old wooden floors, grand paintings on the walls, books everywhere, small rooms opening onto rooms for gathering, a maze of narrow hallways, elegance and history. I was swept up into the feeling of Gone With the Wind as I looked around me and listened to an elderly board member's memories of the cotton fields and attending boarding school in New England, and recollections of being a young, married woman, very much in love, living in a large Southern home in 1945. Dinner was BBQ — ribs and pork belly and beans and ham and on and on. It really was an entirely different world there, and I left with the overwhelming feeling of Southern comfort and generosity, as well as a slight disquiet that the only African American present was the butler.
I came home to a lovely late-night snack and conversation with Mila and Caley, another cast member hosted here. There was wine and chocolate and funny stories and lots of laughter. Though I am a little homesick, missing Sam and our crunchy-hippie grocery store, missing my friends, my other pup, and a walkable city, this is definitely a worthwhile adventure.