ONCE A HAM, ALWAYS A HAM
In which I tread the boards, or something, again.
This is a picture of me demonstrating the length of my hair – for a wig, I’m guessing. You’ve been waiting for this! Yes! Shortly I will be filmed in a cameo for Murdoch’s Mysteries, now in its astonishing seventeenth season. (For those not familiar, it’s a detective series set in Edwardian Canada.)
Quelle Thrill! I am sure a hat will be involved, and I hope it’s a good one. I’ll let you know when to view my stellar performance, and I’ll post a few pics of my costume fitting. I’m a key element in the plot, I’m told. I shall not fail them.
And on Saturday, at the Toronto International Festival of Authors, I’ll be appearing with Bryan Doerries’ Theatre of War in a production called Patient and Impatient Griselda. Three real actors will perform the original 14th C Boccaccio story from The Decameron – stories told to entertain the traumatized during the Plague —in which poor Griselda gets badly treated by her husband. Then I will do the sequel, “Impatient Griselda,” a story told by an alien from outer space to entertain the traumatized during a modern plague. In this version there are two Griseldas, and one of them is not patient.
The in-person event is sold out, but you can join online: tifagriselda.eventbrite.com. I will try not to be too weird. Correction: I will try to be too weird. (See Alien, above. We eat different things.)
It’s not my first rodeo with Theatre of War: Here is me playing Tiresias in their production of Antigone. Such typecasting! An old know-it-all with second sight who scolds people and is always right. One must not let oneself get carried away by Art.
In a similar vein, I had a cameo in Sarah Polley’s excellent 6 part mini-series of Alias Grace. The character was called “Unpleasant Woman” -- that’s what it said on my trailer. Much woolen clothing was involved, including petticoats; the temperature was in the 90s and the shoot took all day, so by the end I was very unpleasant indeed.
My hamminess goes all the way back to Miss Pickering’s tap and ballet class in Sault Ste. Marie in the winter/spring of 1945. It was the War, so for the tap number we five year olds were dressed in little sailor suits, and we tapped on top of round wooden cheese boxes decorated as drums. The number was Anchors Aweigh. It was too much fun.
So that was it: I was doomed. From then on it was high school improvisations, running a puppet show, writing for and acting in the variety Bob Review at Victoria College in 1959-60, a minor part in Ben Johnson’s Epicoene, and various japes and pranks since then. Was that me singing “Anything You Can Write, I Can Write Better” in a screechy Annie Get Your Gun voice with Robertson Davies at a PEN fundraiser? Yes, it was.
Graeme Gibson’s comment, while contemplating a corner of the ceiling: “Isn’t it interesting how people like to watch a person who does one thing quite well do another thing rather badly?” Yes. They do.
Finally, how could I fail to mention my cameo in Season One of the Hulu series of The Handmaid’s Tale? I’m the nasty Aunt who whacks June (Elizabeth Moss) on the head for not paying attention. We had to shoot it four times because I was being too soft on her. It’s an experience to have your cherished leading lady turn around and say, “Hit me harder!” “No! I’ll hurt you!” “C’mon, give me a smack!” They added the sound effect.
A bonus factoid anecdote about the filming of the 1990 film version of The Handmaid’s Tale to follow.