An Academy Interlude: Mother & Daughter

“ Why did you do that??-I can’t believe it, what is wrong with you?!,” my daughter is screeching at me, incensed that I have made a plan that involves her and I am about to holler back that she doesn’t have to go when suddenly I say excitedly, “That’s it –that’s the moment.”

“What are you talking about?”, she narrows her eyes.

Mom and daughter

Daughter & Mom Then

“What Rob said in class…for our “Delicate Balance” scene that’s how pissed Julia is at Agnes- like you at me now.”

At this point most observers would probably be appalled at this mothering style- but I am merely doing what comes naturally- honestly calling the attention of my teenager to the nitty-gritty emotion locomotive as it tears through the room, and teaching her to mine it for some art. It’s what I’ve been doing since I myself was a teenager and first started studying acting- applying mindfulness to the feelings that play us and turn us into instruments.

Delilah Napier

Delilah Napier

If you had told me when Delilah was a child that we would both be actors in a scene class together I would have resolved myself into a disbelieving dew and said, “I’m not that crazy…” but life takes its turns and we find ourselves in places we did not expect- like L.A.  I am a set in her ways New York theater rat, maybe on good days a mink, too accustomed to subways and bookish black box immortal shadows to be entirely comfortable with the Light. Action. let alone the Cameras of L.A. Imagine then the deeply orienting, flickering beacon that is Antaeus as we navigate the choppy waters of this new world-where there is even an inviting library-row upon row of shelves housing plays with well-worn spines.

Cut to: INTERIOR-NIGHT

A MOTHER and DAUGHTER sit in a black box theater in North Hollywood amongst actors trained in theater, many earning their livings in television.

antaeuslogoGreywithBlackROB NAGLE is on stage twisting his body into an impression of the Antaeus logo- A man firmly planted on the ground reaching forcefully towards the sky…

“Who is Antaeus?” he asks, and explains that in Greek Mythology he is the half-giant son of Poseidon and Gaia, who derives his super human strength through his contact with mother Earth. He is insuperable until Heracles discovers his secret and holds him high in the air and crushes him as his strength drains away.  Rob springs up, smiles impishly and reads to us from “Tom: The Unknown Tennessee Williams”-reconnecting us to our hallowed theater earth.

Mom & Daughter Now

Mom & Daughter Now

The next week my daughter and I will work on Amanda and Laura from” The Glass Menagerie”. I am an actor like any other but here, now in this iconic scene, in this class, with Rob’s help, I can realize the Gaia in myself-by reconnecting with my roots I can find the strength to pass on this art to my daughter-this wild mix of earth and spirit that is acting.

Picture 001- Rob

The impish AND puckish Rob Nagle. Photo by G. Wade

We have found a home for serious play. As we rework the scene with Rob encouraging us to blow every last bit of dust off our conception of these classic characters, he puckishly places himself on the wall of our scene; Williams describes the set as being dominated by a large photograph of the absent pater familias-and before our eyes Rob plasters himself against the stage right wall and becomes the portrait of Tom Wingfield Sr.-suddenly the father is no mere ghost but a living breathing presence in our scene! Talk about connecting us to the earth and the present moment! I am filled with gratefulness to be in this room right now. There are sun-soaked days of late when I can feel weary as something of youth seems to fall away-my daughter’s as she enters young adulthood, my own as I stare down the throat of middle age, but here, in this class we can find the common ground of theater, where we seek the paths to eternally becoming and where we remain ageless. Rob embodies the spirit held aloft as an ideal by my late-great theater teacher, Herbert Berghof, in whose studio I met my husband doing a Williams scene! On the walls of the H.B Studio, Herbert had framed a favorite quotation of his late-great theater teacher Max Reinhardt, “I believe in the immortality of the theatre…it is a joyous place for all those who secretly put their childhood in their pockets and ran away to play to the end of their days.”

Thank you, Rob. Thank you, Antaeus, for providing us with an authentic place to play.

Alex NapierAcademy member Alexandra Napier shares a very unique experience with her daughter Delilah Napier in our Classics: Rebs/Yanks class, which meets Tuesday evenings this Spring.  Lead Moderators: Rob Nagle.  For more information on the Antaeus Academy, please visit our website: www.antaeus.org/theacademy.html

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