[by Heather]

Lately I have been having trouble getting myself motivated to write.  We worked hard to prep for the Judy in Hollywood event, so maybe I just needed a little break after that, I don’t know.  It’s not that Dot isn’t on my mind because I am constantly thinking of her.  She is ingrained in my subconscious and I feel that she is a part of me in some way. I have had meetings to discuss possible artwork, many discussions of Dottie and our project and have been trying to prep for the upcoming Judy Garland Fan Club magazine, among other things.  So it seems that I have been constantly working on all aspects of the project but writing the play itself!!! As the project goes on, I guess I am finding it hard to find the balance between group leader, playwright and actress.  Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t have it any other way.  This project is my “baby” so I take great pride in making sure we honor Dottie in the best possible way we can.  I having been utilizing my “group leader” self and I feel I am constantly using my “actress” self, but now I am just waiting for my “playwright” self to rear its head again. I need to remain calm and be confident that this self will indeed show up again. I need to fully own and be proud of all parts of my so-called “selves”.  As a quote from Sylvia Plath goes, “The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt”.  I am also coming to realize that every artist probably goes through these periods as well.  Besides, things are looking up. Ben & I have started meeting again more regularly to write and I have been inspired by some the ideas we have been coming up with.  I have also had many recent discussions with Martha to help figure out directions to take the play in as far as dramatic structure and the arc of the play.  I finally feel like we are starting to get the ball rolling again and I am catching glimpses of my “playwright” self again everyday.  ☺

[by Ben]

Continuing our writing path, I find there are a few things about Dot’s life that parallels my own life.  For example, she was a progressive thinker and felt that there was nothing wrong with homosexuality and that was no ones business but your own with what went on in the privacy of your own home.

I could sense an understanding from her as she was pushed into the minority while trying to build a career in a heavily male-dominated world.  She was branded a lesbian in order to stop her from becoming the great makeup artist she became, and with this she rose above it all and proved that anyone can look past these prejudices and rumors.  I applaud her for it and feel that she was one hell of a model for everyone who knew her.

I started to read through some of Dot’s thoughts and one particular thing struck me and that was her description of her returning to her home town.  I couldn’t stop reading.  It was a powerful moment in her life and I felt that this must be retained in our text.  I recalled the film “A Trip to Bountiful” where Carrie Watts is determined to go back to the place she grew up because that was where everything was good and normal.  Dot’s return to home was very similar, as it probably is for most who return to our homeland and have that glimmer of hope that nothing has changed upon our arrival.

With Dot struggling with her MS all she had were her memories, which never once faded.  I feel that in writing our story, we must convey all of her traits down to the simplest details.  Her determination to survive with a life-threatening disease, her persistence in keeping in touch with all of her close friends, and her ability to love and be loved by all she had been surrounded by.

As Heather and I continue, I see many roads to take, but they all lead to a light in the horizon where Dot’s story will be seen and heard by many.  While reading more about Dot, I find that there appears to be a little Dot in all of us and this story will strike a chord with just about everyone who views or hears Dot and our story.

[by Martha]

[Note that this is a slightly revised version of the original post in my personal blog at http://mattiewade.wordpress.com/2010/06/24/and-the-cheese-stands-alone-one-person-plays/]

One storyteller on stage, evoking a time, a story, a history – perhaps a call off stage, or a silent second character serves to prompt further story telling.  Yes, the one person play.  One act or full length with song (such as Elaine Stritch at Liberty) or sound effects.  Or just a human being in one on a stage.  Settling in for a good story with our narrator as the focal point. That’s it — clarity of focus and purity of intention and there’s nothing better when done well.

In my role as dramaturg with this project, I conduct background research on a range of topics.  A key area for this project are the basic structural challenges and opportunities of the single-character play.  As background research, I continue to draw upon my own long-term ongoing passionate interest in the one person play about historical figures, especially individuals in the arts. In our work on our play about Dottie, I analyze the strengths and weakness of particular dramatic choices from the scripts on my library shelves and the playbills in my own archives and the performances in my memories of stage adventures past.  As we research the life of a woman about whom there are no published memoirs or biographies, I assemble raw material (from conversations, from documents our discussions with Meredith provide, from other sources) in rational sequences.  I develop the raw life history.  And at the same time I attend to the details and events and interactions that have dramatic potential.  I ponder which events might frame a scene or begin an act or propel action through an intermission or resound in a play’s final moments? And in particular, I analyze what we can  learn from examples of other one person (or limited cast) plays also inspired by the lives of particular non fictional characters.

In September 2009, as I was beginning to wade into the experience of working with my play development colleagues, before I started interviewing and researching and assembling the timeline of Dottie’s life that I continue to augment — I crafted a research memo on the structural questions suggested by one person plays.  I was asked to suggest some one person plays to the group offering examples.  And this I did from my own experience of reading and observing and actively consuming this art form for the past 30-odd years.  My suggestions ranged from Belle of Amherst (Emily Dickinson) to Master Class (almost one person about Maria Callas) to Tea at Five (Kate Hepburn) to Gertrude Stein Gertrude Stein Gertrude Stein to Golda’s Balcony (Gold Meir) to Lillian (Lillian Hellman) to Full Gallop (Diana Vreeland) to Tru (Truman Capote) and on and on.  All of these plays offer ways of framing a life as a theatrical experience.  And all of these models require deep knowledge of the subject and the willingness to pare down a fascinating life into key and evocative details.

Before I knew many details of Dot’s life, I offered a summary of the possible elements of a life around which an evening of theatre could dramatically be structured. How could we root the show, I wondered.

  • Is there a particular pivotal event in Dottie’s life? from the Garland history perspective I’d vote for the drama of the BBC interviewers taking their “poor Judy” agenda into their interview with Dot but that’s Garland-specific … were there others?
  • Was there a loss of parent?
  • Were there career decisions and/or career transitions as in the Vreeland play?
  • Were there long lingering final illnesses that led to confessions?  Or dramatic pivotal events like the eviction as in the Stein play?
  • Were there late life accolades. For example: the Chaplin movie with Robert Downey Jr. used the event of Chaplin receiving an honorary Academy Award toward the end of his life .. were there events like this in Dot’s?
  • Would the pared down “an evening with Dot Ponedel” work as a structure?  Mark Twain Tonight and Clurman (about Harold Clurman) take this approach.  The character tells stories, using the audience as an audience that individual in character may have had at a public event.

I am struck in reading the original version of these words from 9 months ago that so many of these questions (now answered) have indeed provided initial dramatic structure to our developing enterprise.  And now I rise.  And now Dottie does begin to rise.  And our work continues.

[by Heather]

I could not believe it when I stepped off the plane and entered LAX.  The Dottie-ans and I had been working so hard for a long time to get things ready for this trip and it was finally here.  I think I was still in disbelief that this was all happening right up until our reading that weekend.  But before I go into that, I will touch on a few of the other events of the weekend.

On the first day, Martha and I arrived separately and after we had both checked in to the hotel, dropped off our luggage and freshened up, we went straight to Meredith’s house.   It was a surreal experience to have finally met Meredith in person after we have been talking to her for a little under a year now. When we get to her house we are met by all the animals she owns that we frequently hear her talking to when we speak with her on the phone.  It was funny to put the names with their faces too. Then Meredith brings out THE boxes- THE Ponedel Archives, themselves.   I was seething, practically foaming at the mouth with anticipation of what was in these boxes.  Well maybe that’s exaggerating a little but I was so excited and were on those Archives like bees on honey.  I had waited for this moment for so long- to actually SEE the documents, letters, photographs, Dottie’s memoir pages, etc. that Meredith has told us about so many times over the phone. Every other minute I came across some new treasure or factoid that I didn’t know about and I was in Dottie Heaven.  And yet despite my complete elation, I was quite overwhelmed by so much information and so little time to study and absorb every document of Dottie’s past.  I think we even decided on the first day that we needed to make another trip back to LA sometime in the very near future to spend more time with the Archives and to have them digitally preserved.

In a daze, I left Meredith’s house and went back to the hotel for the “Getting Acquainted “with all the rest of the Judy fans and Judy in Hollywood Festival organizers, Jan and Richard Glazier (congrats to them for putting the whole weekend together!).  I must give a quick shout out to my new-found friend and hotel roommate, Joan Beck Coulson.  From the very beginning we hit it off and somehow or another it was decided that she would be my Auntie Joan (kinda of like Auntie Mame, because well that’s how she is!).  What a fascinating woman and what an honor for me to be sharing this weekend with her.  Anyway, throughout the next day we partook in numerous and equally fascinating Judy adventures including a bus tour of Judy’s old homes and haunts, a tour of the old MGM Studios (now Sony), seeing a few of Michael Siewert’s Judy costumes (absolutely stunning!), and a presentation about The International Judy Garland Fan Club by Joan Beck Coulson and Gary Horrocks, the current head of the Club (more on him in a minute!).

Next came our Reading/Presentation of the scenes we have been working on for the play.  Whoa. It actually started to hit me when we were on the bus going back to the hotel from the MGM tour.  It was a pretty intense feeling- I tried to stay calm but I was a bundle of nerves to the point that I thought I might have an anxiety attack.  It’s hard to explain exactly what I was feeling at this time because it was so many things- I was so happy and so proud of the Dottie-ans and how far we have come, I was nervous and scared yet I was confident and bold.  I felt that as soon as the reading was over that I would cry with relief and happiness of what we had just accomplished.  I just couldn’t believe that we had talked about this event for so long and the moment was finally at hand.  As cheesy as it sounds, the dream was becoming a reality at that moment.  Quite honestly I guess the dream has been becoming a reality for a while now, but at that precise moment is when it finally sunk into my brain and into body that all of this was really happening.

Heather, Martha, Meredith

So Meredith and Martha gave opening comments and we did the reading, with me reading Dot, of course, and Martha reading the stage directions.  One of the best compliments came right after the reading came from Meredith. She said that she was kind of worried about how all of this would go but as soon as I opened my mouth, “there was Dot!”  Talk about major validation— to have Dottie’s own niece say that she thought I sounded like Dot was just proof to me that we are on the right track.  I am so glad she is happy with what we have done so far.

Heather, Judy and Dot, Martha

Besides Meredith’s feedback, we got a few questions and suggestions but the group was rather quiet, so at first we weren’t really sure what the general response was.  I thought that people were probably tired and restless as we had been out on tours all day.   Plus, we were running behind schedule from the day’s activities so people were probably getting hungry and antsy to get going again.  Well maybe it just took a little while to marinate in their minds because throughout the rest of the weekend people kept coming up to Martha and I and telling us how great the reading was and what a cool idea, etc.  One of the best remarks we got was from Gary Horrocks (the Editor and Chief of the new Judy Garland Fan Club Publication,  Judy Garland: A Celebration) came up to us and said our Dottie event was one of his favorite events of the whole weekend.  He later offered to give us a spread in the next issue of the Club magazine!!!  WOW!  What an honor and what a fantastic way for us to spread the word about Dottie and our project!  Thank you Gary- what a lovely man he is and his partner, Justin too.

The rest of the trip was wonderful as well, but I am trying to keep this post Dottie-related (as hard as it is for me not to talk about all the amazing Judy things we did!).  We did got to tour CBS Studious with the delightful George Sunga, Production Supervisor of The Judy Garland Show when it aired.  I could write a whole post about this visit, but let’s just say it was an absolutely magical experience and we could all feel Judy in the room.

Dot in pastels

On the last day of the trip, Martha and I checked out of the hotel and Meredith picked us up to bring us to her house for one more look at the Ponedel Archives.  She also showed us some items that belonged to Dottie- some glassware, some jewelry (including a ring with a beautiful golden stone that I tried on that Dottie herself wore! Fab!), some props from movie sets and a stunning pastel portrait of Dottie that has some water damage.

Then back to LAX to go home.  Home from one of the best trips I have ever been on.  There were memories made that I will cherish forever and some newfound friendships that will last a lifetime.   Hopefully we made a few new Dottie fans along the way too…..

[by Martha]

On April 23, 2010, three members of the Dottie development team presented before a crowd assembled to honor the life of Judy Garland — “Judy in Hollywood”.  We have offered impressions about this event in prior posts in descriptive and perhaps rhapsodic prose.  And forgive us if we return to the topic repeated times over the next few months.  The events held at the Beverly Garland Hotel, and in areas in and around Hollywood, California April 22-24, 2010 were just *that* special.

As promised, we have arranged to provide here Meredith Ponedel’s opening remarks to the play scene presentation offered by me and by Heather as part of the conference proceedings.  Meredith Ponedel is Dottie’s proud and unassuming niece, animal lover and product of Old Hollywood in the stories and people who surrounded her as she grew up in Dottie’s household.  We are honored to be working with Meredith to unearth the details of Dottie’s story from which we are crafting what we hope is grand theatre.  Meredith has agree to allow us to share here the words she delivered to the assembled crowd on April 23, 2010 as a kind of introduction to our draft scenes from Dottie.

——–

My aunt didn’t get angry often; she didn’t feel there was anything to gain from it and Dot wasn’t one to waste time by engaging in fruitless activities.

However, nothing would infuriate her faster more than lies; outright lies and deliberate mistruths cast against someone she knew –  would set her on a path to deliver the truth in a most direct and bold manner.

Not too long after Judy died, I came home one day with some movie fan magazines – and Dot got angry.

Angry at the lies told about someone who could no longer defend herself.

Angry at the attitude of people who should have known better – but whose only motivation was money and perhaps, a brief moment in the limelight.

Angry at people who had no possible knowledge of what Judy’s life and career had actually been like but who were suddenly passing themselves off as experts in both areas.

Angry and furious  at the deliberate destruction of another human being – of someone she had thought of as a daughter – for the sole purpose of self-promotion and greed.

At that moment she made the decision to set the record straight and tell the truth as she had lived it – and that very evening she and I set to work on her memoirs.

We were off to a good start, she and I.  We’d sit together for hours, Dot telling me her stories (most of which I had heard many times before; however, some were new) – and the more she talked, the more new details about the old stories came to light.  Together we’d go through her box of remarkable pictures – both of the stars she made up and… this…. the scrapbook her own mother, my grandmother, began when Dot first started as a dancer and extra in silent pictures.

Dot had a lot of support in this endeavor.  Several of her friends were either writing their own stories or had already been published.  Joan Blondell, Vincente Minnelli, Barbara Stanwyck, among others, spoke with Dot often and were encouraging.    “Tell almost everything”, they’d tell her with a smile, knowing full well Dot could be trusted to keep their secrets.  Dishing dirt was not something she was into, and I learned to follow her example.  These people were friends, many of whom I knew as well, and their personal stories, their thoughts and feelings were to be respected and not toyed with – and certainly not put on any type of gaudy display.

The word of her efforts soon got out and there was plenty of feedback from the publishing world.  I was thrilled.  I would sit with Dot  and have these wonderful flights of fancy about  which talk shows we’d be invited to and who would play the various parts once her book got onto the silver screen!  I was about 16 or so and my imagination was running wild.  Dot, however, knew better. She was older, much, much wiser and knew better than to allow fantasy to take over.  Dot knew first-hand about not letting that happen.

Work on the book progressed and an independent agent was chosen.  That’s when the irresistable force met the immovable object and everything quickly ground to a halt.  Dot knew what she wanted and how she wanted to say it – and being old and set in her ways, she wasn’t going to listen to me or anyone else on the subject.  End of progress and end of project.  The book and her wonderful box of pictures was put away in the closet.

Fast forward ….. to a day not long after Dot died.  I was in the house, missing Dot, missing that whole way of life that I knew was gone forever.  Due to some rather nasty family issues that had arisen, I didn’t have much time to decide what I wanted.  Completely unknown to me,  and just prior to my visit,  most of Dot’s things had been sold at a yard sale.  However, no one had thought to bother with any of the items in Dot’s closet.  I peeked inside, not looking for anything specific; just wanting another whiff of the old familiar closet scents – and to see what few items of clothing she had left behind.  There, in the back of the closet on the floor behind some old, 1940’s style platform shoes… was the box. THE BOX.  The box that I had discovered as a child stuck away on a shelf in the bar.  The box that I had dragged down the hallway to Dot’s bed so she could describe to me the treasures that lay within.  The box that afforded us hours and hours of enjoyment, hers in reliving her Hollywood days and mine in sheer wonderment that people who looked like this could really exist.

I picked up the box, covered it with some of her old clothes and walked out of the house.

Not too long ago, I found out via an online Judy forum, that a group of people were interested in doing a show on Dot!  They had seen a few brief moments of an interview Dot had done for Impressions of Garland, a documentary on Judy and wanted to know if there were any of Dot’s family members around.  They thought she was quite a character and would be a good subject for a one-woman show!   I can’t say that I disagree!

I found the post in question, introduced myself and was immediately embraced by a wonderful group of people within whom, collectively, beats the heart of old Hollywood.  I was both flattered and proud that they feel  my aunt’s story is one worth telling – on stage, no less!

Dot embraced life, every minute of it and she especially loved her time in Hollywood.  She would be thrilled that others feel the same about her exploits and the people she shared them with.  It is with great pride that I welcome the premier reading of Dottie.

[by Martha]

Friday April 23rd (the 2nd day of our three-day conference) started early.  Just before 9am.  Eager conference attendees (there were about 40 of us) streamed onto two small buses, each staffed with a Los Angeles and Hollywood expert on the life of Judy Garland.  For the next two hours we visited selected “homes and haunts” from Judy’s years in southern California including several homes in which she lived with her family and the house she built with the money she earned making The Wizard of Oz.  We passed by Capitol Records and the sites of what had been Ciro’s and Macombo night clubs, and Grauman’s Chinese Theatre where Garland’s hand and foot prints (more accurately “shoe” prints) are immortalized in cement, as are those of scores of other stars, and the Pantages Theatre special to Garland fans as the site of the premiere red carpet event for A Star is Born when it was first released.  And on to the MGM (o.k. Sony) lot for a special tour with Garland highlights (e.g. the Thalberg Building, the stage where the Munchkinland set was located back in 1938-39, and the soundstage where Garland recorded “Over the Rainbow”).

And yet, the day, this first full day, was not over for the intrepid Dottie-an duo, Martha and Heather and our stalwart comrade-in-arms, our research colleague, the woman without whom we would not know the details of Dot’s life — her niece Meredith Ponedel.  At approximately 4:30pm we began our hour of remembrances in the form of an essay delivered by Meredith, and an introduction to Dottie by moi, and several scenes read by Heather (with stage directions and interscene set ups provided again by moi).

We shall ask Meredith for permission to post her delightful essay about her aunt here on the blog because it will just make you smile and maybe cry a bit in recognition: Dot was a charming and tenacious and honest and straight talking woman who brought up a charming and tenacious and honest and straight talking niece.

Here is a version of my own comments introducing our section of the program:

I am thrilled to be honoring Dot on a day special to this Judy loving dramaturg’s heart for a number of reasons.

First, today is the 49th anniversary of April 23, 1961, and all superlatives ever stated about that night, Garland’s night, at Carnegie Hall are shared by me.

Second, today is Shakespeare’s 446th birthday.  In Chicago for the past few years this day has been proclaimed, by Mayoral edict, as “Talk Like Shakespeare Day”.  In Mayor Daley’s 2010 proclamation he encourages us all to use “thee” and “thou”, rhymed couplets, and “methinks” as often as possible.  He also encourages citizens to “let boldness be thy friend and celebrate Shakespeare by vocal acclamation of his word”.

We are here boldly to embrace Garland, the gods of theatre, and the heart of Dorothy Ponedel.

Our presentation, the three of us, took about 45 minutes.  The crowd was rapt but rather silent.  Good questions and comments were received, but we wondered: did our work “land” at all?  We went to a delightful dinner at Matteo’s, not far from the CBS studio where Garland filmed her 1963-64 television series, and we all were a bit overwhelmed by what we had experienced that day and what lay ahead that night and the next day.  And still we Dottie-ans wondered: how was our work received?

We did not have to wait long for feedback.  One by one, in small conversations with each of us that night and the next, in between events and during meals and informal interactions — people relayed to each of us how Dot’s story moved them and stayed with them.  It was clear that while people understood that we have some distance to travel to craft a complete play out of our ideas for two acts and complete character arcs, we had moved them.  They were fascinated by this woman who has been fascinating us for months.  We know now that we’re on to something.

Judy Garland A Celebration (issue 1)

1st issue, Judy Garland A Celebration

A final affirmation of all that we have been doing was the enthusiastic support of our project from Gary Horrocks, the current head of the International Judy Garland Club and editor of its glamorous magazine Judy Garland A Celebration (the updated Rainbow Review of past years).  Gary loved the presentation and how we presented our work and all the research we have assembled, and asked if we would be interested in writing a significant section of the next issue of the publication.  [For more information about the International Club, visit the newly revamped web site at http://garland.users33.interdns.co.uk/index.html.]

Are we interested?  Short answer: yes.  What a trip.

[by Lindsay]

I can’t believe it’s almost been a year since we started this adventure. When Heather first approached me to be a part of this project, I really didn’t know what to expect. But, then again – I don’t think any of us really did. I was really excited to be involved because it’s been awhile since I have worked on a show and even longer since I have had the chance to actually stage manage. And, after all that’s what I went to school for. The more time that went by that I didn’t stage manage, the more I doubted that I would get to do it again, ever. I remember in the beginning, we were having a hard time gathering enough information to really have anything substantial. Now, less than a year later, we have so much exciting and really interesting material we actually need to figure out what to leave out! I am really having an amazing time working on this and feel like I am contributing to it. I really can’t wait to see where this project goes and am so grateful to be working with such an amazing group of talented artists!

[by Heather]

Dottie Ponedel in Impressions of Garland (1972)

My first blog entry! But where to begin….  Well, I can’t believe we a have a blog now—how cool!  And to think this play originally started as a joke.  Well, not really a joke, but it all came as a suggestion from Josh (creative consultant) when I showed him the 1972 BBC documentary Impressions of Garland.  I wanted him to see it A.) because I was a newly obsessed Judy fan and B.) because there was this really funny, feisty older woman featured in it named Dottie.  Dottie just struck a chord in me—from the first time I saw her, I knew she was a woman who would tell it like it is and wouldn’t put up with any crap from anyone.  As soon as Josh saw Dottie he said, “You should write a one-woman play for yourself about this woman.”  I quickly laughed it off saying, “Yeah, sure… Right.”  But it must’ve been marinating in my brain because I found myself a few days (weeks?) later asking Ben (a new friend who I knew was interested in playwriting) if he wanted to write the play for me.  Well, I think I actually TOLD him that he should write it for me!  Anyway, at first he kind of had the same reaction I’d had (at least this is what I thought at the time)—an “Uh-huh, ok. Whatever” kind of thing.  And then we just started talking about it more.  We invited a few of our friends to join in and help us shape some ideas for this play about this pioneering woman.  Lindsay (stage manager), Juliana (creative consultant), and Josh came onboard to share their creative juices with us.  The next addition to the group was Martha, our dramaturg extraordinaire.  I had posted an inquiry on the Judy Garland Message Board (see link on the left!) asking if anyone had any info about Dottie, as she was Judy’s makeup woman and friend for many years.  Martha replied saying that she had corresponded through email with Dottie’s niece, Meredith.  Martha emailed Meredith and told her that we would be contacting her to find out more about Dottie’s life story.  We were soon emailing Meredith and talking to her on the phone and finding all kinds of goodies on Dottie.

We were on our way now!  We started off unsure of what steps to take and how to even craft a play, but the whole group has worked tirelessly to MAKE things happen and set this project in motion.  We have even named ourselves “The Dottie-ans” after this amazing woman who has left such indelible impression on us.  Trust me, we have had our share of ups and downs (and what project in development hasn’t?), but we have also come leaps and bounds from where we first started.  I think we have already come farther than our wildest expectations and I can’t wait to see what happens next!

[by Juliana]

Look at Judy Garland in Meet Me in St. Louis.

She looks . . . different . . . than she’s ever looked before.  As often as I’ve watched Garland on film, when she’s in the role of Esther Smith, even I forget that I am watching “Judy.”  In fact, I personally think that Esther Smith is one of Judy’s three greatest acting roles.  And I believe that this is due, in no small part, to the immense talents and the careful, knowing work of Vincente Minnelli . . . and Dottie Ponedel.

Meet Me In St. Louis was the first picture (of many) in which Judy and Dot worked together—and I like to think that Minnelli knew exactly what he was doing when Dottie was called to the set on that fateful day in 1943.  Dottie Ponedel was not just an artist with a makeup brush—she was an inventor, a creator.  She wasn’t one to just “paint your lips a little and rouge your cheeks”; she crafted a character on the gentle canvas of a star’s face—enhancing it, enlivening it, bringing out the subtleties of that unique topography.  And thus was born “Esther Smith.”  Look at how even the Kapralik or Hirschfeld caricatures drawn of Judy after 1944 began to change to fit these new designs; Dottie should have been earning royalties.  The arch of Judy’s eyebrow following the line of that adorable button nose and lengthening it into a glamorous slope . . . the brightness of her eyes drawn out into striking vivacity under those impossibly long, upturned lashes . . . the bow of her lips, plumped and rounded and reddened in magical Technicolor.  This was Dottie’s work.  And it became Judy—in every sense of the word.

When this project began, there was little else I knew about Dottie Ponedel than this.  And if you’re reading this blog and finding yourself in that boat too, all I can say is—stick around because you’re in for a damn good treat!

(Images courtesy of The Judy Room)

[by Martha]

Heather and I travel on separate planes tomorrow for LA for the “Judy in Hollywood” celebration, and our reading and discussion of this work in development on Friday.  We present along with our collaborator and Dot’s relative Meredith with whom we have been working closely by phone and internet but all of us have never met before.

from balcony of the patrons lounge where 19 april 2010 reading held

As preparation for this public presentation, we held a  reading “run through'” for invited guests on Monday 19 April 2010.  After admission of a chaotic, energized crowd for a first preview performance of a replacement show in the mainstage theatre downstairs at 8pm,  some minutes later the first of our group entered the theatre lobby, rounded a corner to the bank of elevators to the left, and ascended to the Patrons Lounge on the penthouse floor of the American Airlines theatre.

After some minutes of arranging tables, stretching, admiring the view, gathering our thoughts, we invited our guests up.  I introduced and read stage directions, Heather created character, and we shared Dottie more broadly than we ever had before.  The Dottie team was joined by ten or so colleagues and friends, a theatre-intelligent crowd, who generated informed questions that affirmed some of the decisions the team has made and many others the team will need to make and execute as the play development proceeds.  These questions are in part issues of construction and choice we (and especially me as dramaturg) have returned to again and again.  One key example of such recurrent questions is an issue for all such one person shows —  identifying the audience for Dottie during those moments of direct address and clarifying how she makes the transition from musing to herself to talking to the room.  In our scenes to be delivered on Friday, the only scenes fully fleshed out at this point, these transitions, this compact with the audience, has already occurred in the life of the play.  Ah, much more on this and related topics in future installments.  It was so much fun for me to lead the talk back and get into these conversations with a broader community of helpful voices.

And because its Judy, and because it’s riotously fun, and because it captures generosity of spirit and the energy of our “birth” of Dottie (at least these beginnings), and because Judy and Dot loved each other and I suspect Dot would have laughed along with Judy when she heard this —  I share here audio that has been making the rounds of Garland fans for some weeks.  This is a recording of an impromptu “up from the audience” unrehearsed appearance of Judy with her old pals Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin in Lake Tahoe in September 1963.  The audio has been used in a  fun video by a our pal Daniel who runs a Garland discussion group and audio sharing community called “the Judy Garland Experience” [see a link to a blog associated with that Yahoo group in our blogroll].

I shall report in on the blog from the road during this next adventure.  But in the meantime, let Judy and Frank and Dean take you on a little journey of fun.

“and then they nursed it, and rehearsed it
and gave out the news …”