Alexandra made me wonder about the connection between acting ability and an intelligence well connected to her emotions. I'm talking about feelings that are deeper than that which teenage girls feel when they are screaming joyfully at a singer they love. And I'm talking about feelings that run deeper than those expressed with over-acting by those with less talent.
Who were the great actresses of the past? Ingrid Bergman was one. She could mimic subtle emotion without overdoing it. Who is an actor living today with this kind of innate emotional intelligence: Jennifer Lawrence.
Alexandra had roles on Broadway when she was in her twenties, but in New York City she also worked as a waitress. She had a role in a top-rank soap opera on ABC, but she walked away from it. She told me she disliked the lines.
For awhile she worked as an airline hostess. I met her when she was fifty, just after she played Miss Daisy at a performance at Ohio University. She was out of the hospital and recovering physically and mentally. She was from Ohio and preferred Athens because it had hills. In line at the Athens post office someone was talking about the play and said that she had carried it. An educated old friend in his seventies had been stunned by her performance. He lived in the apartment next to her in a public housing building and was taken by how relaxed she was the morning before opening night.
It was he who introduced me to her. She was interested in people who read a lot of books. Eight years ago, at fifty-four, she moved into a small house near a lake in the hills just north of Athens. She told me that she preferred to go to movies alone, that she didn't like to talk about a movie after she had seen it. She discussed acting and mixing with people, and she asked,
Why do you write? You didn't answer it. Why do you? I suspect it is for innumerable reasons, many perhaps unconscious....ie, leaving something of value behind. Some people leave children, some leave a plant, a garden, a tree...some leave great works of art....others leave ideas, knowledge, coupled with wisdom only they can bring due to different lifestyles and experiences.
I have thought a lot about acting lately.....why was I drawn to it? Why am I still drawn to it? for me, it's more about a NEED to act. The act of acting itself.....I have never ever sought the applause or acclaim, however minor it might be in even a community setting. that kind of frivolity embarrasses me. I can remember after "starring" in "Driving Miss Daisy," refusing to do radio interviews, meeting the audience afterward in costume or even going to any cast parties. Acting allows me to draw on emotions deep within that are otherwise inexpressable (unexpressable?...obviously spellcheck doesn't like either one!)..........I suppose it is also the ultimate escape from myself. I can remember, In NY, being embarrassed to be on a soap. The quality of the scripts was so poor.....I always preferred theater to film......the type of acting is completely different.
Ha..........just thought another reason for acting...and perhaps your writing.....I believe communication is a fundamental part of who we are as human beings .......but I -- (you?) have such a preference and need for solitude (and dare I say disdain for human frailty--my own included) that it is so much easier to communicate with imaginary characters (in acting) or with others via the written word.
Three years later she wrote:
Meanwhile, rehearsals are going past 11 at night....saturday and sunday will be from 12 noon till 11 p./m., (no doubt a reflection on how much work still needs to be done)......remind me to remind you to remind me NEVER to get involved in anything like this again. I'm through with theater....it's supposed to be fun and it is nothing but stressful and exhausting. And sure enough, all the tech people and the director, etc. are getting paid for this "labor of love"--everyone except the actors. Figures. We are stupid enough to be willing to do this for no compensation. It's always been that way, I guess.
She loved animals and kept a cat named Ashley. In 2011 she wrote:
Well, I couldn't find your 2 books at the library, but I did purchase the biography of the French actor Georges Depardieu for a quarter. Now that has to be one interesting life.
My only other news is that in the midst of the pouring rain, thunder and lightning, that poor dog came into my yard and huddled under the seat of that back swing. No doubt he was still getting drenched. The rain was so loud that he couldn't even hear me apprioach with bowl of food in hand....I was able to place it practically right next to him before he realized i was there...by then I had run away. I was so glad to look back and find him eagerly eating the food. But after that he went away....so I have now made contact. I know it will take a while for him/her to come near me....so at this point, the cost will be 2 cans of food/day. I like the idea of having a guard dog, but I am also VERY aware that dogs are extremely expensive to have......will contact a few organizations around here (not the pound--he'll never make it out of there) to see about either getting some help or finding a foster home. Of course, if he is here when YOU are here, I know you will be able to make contact with him---really Frank, I attribute all of Ashley's intelligence and hutzpah to his being trained by YOU. [ An exaggeration.]
God only know how your kids would have turned out!!!!
So long for now.
She had not wanted to have children.
She died alone sitting at her kitchen table on January 15, 2016, at age 63. She is survived by a mother, three brothers and talented nieces all of whom she liked very much.
Her obituary is here.
Copyright © 2016 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.