I think I was on 'The Educating Rita Diet' without realizing it.
No - I know I was on 'The Educating Rita Diet.'
Both my co-star, Jack Rose and I had our appetites wane as our rehearsals progressed.
Fortunately (or unfortunately), while coming to one of our 14 rehearsals, Jack got there early one afternoon and found this fantastic ice cream store where they made their own ice cream. I don't even eat dairy and I went there three times in three weeks. And two scoops each time! If you're ever in Palm Coast, you have to go to Sweet Melissa's Homemade Ice Cream. FABulous! I'm just saying.
Honestly I don't think I have EVER said so much onstage as I did in this comedy-drama, "Educating Rita" by Willie Russell.
It was a mouthful! And I am not talking about those two scoops of ice cream either!
Previously, I have portrayed Eliza Doolittle in Pygmalion, which was done with a completely different regional accent. A definite Cockney accent. Now, for Rita, I had to develop a working-class Scouse accent from Northern England. It wasen't easy to catch, and her wording and phrases took an inordinate amount of time to develop. Hence, the ice cream!
There was just the two of us.
Jack Rose and I.
Our acting processes were as different as night and day.
He was outstanding by the time we got to final dress. He evolved and took things in at a slower pace than me...
Yet like in the play, we both learned from each other and came out with something that truly pleased one and all.
Educating Rita..remember the movie? I always loved the movie. I had no idea not a clue that it evolved from a two-character play.
The dialogue from 1980 has stood the test of time and we were able to do it in present day.
I played Rita. NO! I think I BECAME Rita. A married, working-class hair stylist who wants to educate herself and gets admitted into an "Open University". She gets tutored by Frank, a proper English Professor, using alcohol to cope with his frustration as a poet no one, has read and spent his life teaching students he finds appalling.
In the end they both learn much from each other.
And, in the end, so did Jack and I!
It all takes place in one setting: Frank's office at The University. Our director, John Sbordone, used some very imaginative techniques to give the audience much illusion with gradual fade-outs between each scene.
Finding Rita took alot of time and effort way before I started inhouse rehearsals. Since there was no understudy, I chose to stay put and didn't venture out to the gym or to dance classes starting a week before rehearsals began. I didn't want anything to get in the way of giving everything I had to this role.
And I gave it everything.
Maybe even overtime trying so hard to reach Jack at our rehearsals to move his process along, not understanding his technique.
The audience loved Jack. Adored him. He got very emotional and intense on stage and it was electrifying to my character.
I am so delighted to say we received standing ovations, even appreciative whistles and belly laughs. And in between, when there was all this drama between the two characters, you could have heard a pin drop.
In the words of my good friend, Lisa: "Fabulously portrayed, the way you draw the audience in each emotion you have. I can feel through my body. You're exceptional. The whole audience is captivated by you."
From my English friend and fellow dancer Micheala, who coached me on pronunciation and certain meanings of words and phrases: "Your Rita was excellent. I actually teared up. I was there in the room with you. I was so into each act."
In the words of the Artistic Director of City Repertory Theatre: "I have worked with Annie for more than 10 years on productions as diverse as The Women and Pygmalion. She has been consistently marvelous. But her last show, as Rita, in Educating Rita, has been her very best. She embodied the character with vitality, a physical presence, and an emotional understanding that had audiences ecstatic about her performance. It was truly a tour de force.
With many curtain calls and flowers, I am still basking in the afterglow. It was well worth it all!