Actress for an Afternoon
March 28, 2019
In the words of Yogi Berra, it was like déjà vu all over again.
In 1962 when I was in my 20s and sported long hair and a bohemian look, I spent a few hours sitting in an upper row of a makeshift theatre on a set in Los Angeles, playing an audience member in “Wild Guitar,” a teen-idol/beach party movie starring Arch Hall Jr. I was instructed to make a frenzied run to the stage since I was portraying someone smitten by the lead’s performance as a budding rock star. It was a hoot, but since payment consisted of Cokes and burgers, I decided to stay with my day job in commercial mortgage banking.
And Sunday, March 24th found me sitting in the top row at the Whitmore-Lindley Theatre Center in North Hollywood, playing an audience member in “The Perils of Perfume,” a film by Lizzie Maxwell, longtime Culver City resident. This experience, too, was a total lark, with me grimacing, coughing, clapping, etc. in several reaction shots while in the company of fun, enthusiastic actors. Payment consisted of bottled water and protein and granola bars. (Maxwell did say this was a very low budget film.)
Who knows, I may yet have a career as a seat filler.
This latest adventure came about through my friend, Janet Hoult, Maxwell’s neighbor, who was invited to play an audience member. As seat fillers were still needed, I opted to unchain my inner actress and join in.
This required committing to a four-hour shoot, from noon to 4 PM. For wardrobe we were instructed to think about what we would wear if going to an opera, as Maxwell was looking for a vintage feel and “the more outrageous the person and the wardrobe, the better it is.”
We have some interesting and very creative souls in Culver City. Maxwell, who exudes warmth and vitality, certainly fits that description.
No stranger to show business, her career began in her late teens when she was introduced to RAPT (Readers and Playwrights Theatre) in Springfield, Massachusetts. Her plays received awards and she subsequently produced and hosted a comedy club called The Playhouse.
With an educational background encompassing radio, TV and psychology, Maxwell headed west in 1984 to pursue her dream of acting, and has appeared in ER, LA Law, Unsolved Mysteries, General Hospital, and many TV movies, including her own films.
In 2000 she wrote and published "Little Fish in a Big Pond - A Support Guide for Actors," and that segued her back to her earlier love of writing because “I love acting but I don’t need the applause anymore. What I need is to be creating characters on a page. The written word has always been my greater passion. It took me a while to realize that.”
She began producing theatrical pieces and films for others, realized she could produce her own as well, and in 2006 wrote and produced her play, “Confessions of a Nice Jewish Girl,” to a full house every night in North Hollywood. “Fixing Rhonda,” a full-length feature film she wrote and produced, followed. And a
few years ago her short comedy, “Nothing as It Seems,” did the film festival circuit, including the Culver City Film Festival.
This year, motivated by her increasing sensitivity to fragrance, Maxwell decided to make another short, “The Perils of Perfume,” showcasing an audience reacting to smells around them. She hopes to “spread awareness of the discomfort that one's fragrance can bring to an allergy sufferer, especially in closed quarters like a theatre.” It will be released in May.
At first Maxwell wanted to do it as a public service announcement because “according to one survey, this problem affects about 30% of the population.” However, she decided a short film might take it further. Planning for it to go viral, she will put it on her YouTube page, which has a few other films she’s been involved with as well as many Alzheimer’s videos she’s made to help people care for their loved ones. (Her mother has Alzheimer’s).
The audience players in this film comprise a mixed bag, varying in age from 18 to 85 and include doctors plus people with lengthy careers in education as teachers and administrators who, after retiring, decided to give acting a shot. Lynne Moody, a beautiful, charming, and notable actress who was featured in the miniseries “Roots” and other series, sat a couple of seats over from me. She’s a real trouper, having accidentally dislodged a cap from a tooth the day before. Regardless, she somehow stuck it back on, showed up, and will be seeing her dentist shortly.
Not only did I have a great time, even getting to wear a face mask in a pretty shade of blue that matched one of the colors in my outfit, but thanks to Maxwell I also learned a new definition for perennial.
“I was recently told by my 26-year-old partner, Ecem Senyuva, a Columbia Film School graduate who is the Director of Photography as well as the editor of this film, that I was a ‘perennial,’ which is the adult opposite of ‘millennial,’” she said. “Perennials are the ageless generation that ignores the notion that same age equals same interests. Gina Pell, founder of ‘The What’ (an email newsletter), defines perennials as ‘ever-blooming, relevant people of all ages who live in the present time, know what’s happening in the world, stay current with technology, and have friends of all ages.’ We get involved, stay curious, mentor others, and are passionate, compassionate, creative, confident, collaborative, global-minded risk-takers who continue to push up against our growing edge and know how to hustle.”
Here’s to Maxwell and the wonderful perennials in “The Perils of Perfume.” From what I observed during this shoot, I believe this comedy will make you want to avoid censure by using common sense about scents, hopefully encouraging the viewer to forego the flagrant application of fragrance.
And to the chap reeking of after-shave or cologne who almost asphyxiated me and a few other riders on the No. 3 bus the other day, I’m talking to YOU.