Wednesday. Like I had said a couple days before, I had finally allowed myself to get some rest Tuesday night but was worse for it. I looked outside and it was a dark day. Freezing rain had been pelting New York all night. I had a sneaking suspicion a lot of people weren't going to want to get out of bed. However, I bounded out of bed and out the door, knowing I still had lines to learn for my rehearsal scheduled later that morning. I arrived early, but not many others had. Our physical acting teacher was out sick. We had three hours until our next class. However, we were unsure what that next class would be. On Monday we had all been told that one of our acting technique teachers was coming back to teach this week. She had been away months, suffering from bursitis in one of her knees, no longer able to take the several sets of stairs down to the dungeon of Circle. Finally, they had found a location for her to teach class where there was an elevator. To our surprise, we would be resuming class in the apartment of Ted Mann, the co-founder of Circle In The Square and subsequently one of the founders of the off-broadway movement. They would be clearing out one of the rooms in his midtown apartment. One of the rooms? Wow. We were indeed excited. But it was all weather permitting of course. Recently, we've been experiencing a consistent weather pattern that seems to present a nasty storm every Tuesday or Wednesday. At the beginning of the day it sounded like we wouldn't have Terry (our acting technique teacher) time this week. But it was a funny sort of day in which, like the weather, things could change any minute. A note went up on the bulletin between 10 and 11am notifying us to make our way to the apartment for class. Ok then. Here we go. We had missed her a great deal. She will be ninety years old three weeks from today. But age has only ripened her perception and wisdom. She is like Yoda to us young eager Broadway Jedi Knights. We tiptoed up the stairs and hesitantly opened the door. People were there helping her get settled. I felt like I was visiting my nanny, going to her with warmth, gentleness and ease. I thought she might start to cry, she looked so happy to see us all. The apartment had New York written all over it. The essence of art enveloped us. Antiques, brass sculptures, paintings, photographs of days gone by. We gathered around her, on cushions, in the dining room that had been cleared out for us all. The people who had brought her there tentatively waited for a sure sign she was good to go. We waited patiently for her to speak to us. As if we were waiting for the Dalai Lama. The hardwood floors creaked, the radiator hissed, sirens screamed down Broadway. "Once upon a time, a long time ago, Katherine Cornell was traveling across country, on tour with one of her productions. And they encountered a terrible storm. Oh, there was so much ice and snow on the tracks. So much so that the train got stuck. All the scenery for the production was in one of the cars of the train. They worked through night to set everything up and staged the production. When I was coming here today, this story popped into my mind because the show must go on, classes must resume. People give up too easily. You cannot imagine what it took them to get me here today. Out of bed, through the door, down stairs, over ice, into the chair...but I can't think of anything more worth while than coming here today to be with all of you." She talked with us for the next hour and a half, often pausing mid-thought to rest her eyes, but then would come back to what we were talking about on her own. It is known early on to never tell her she fell asleep. At one point I glanced through the glass door to my right, that led to the kitchen, and noticed a collage of framed photographs on the wall. A young Marlon Brando caught my eye. My heart swelled with joy in the present moment. How did I get here? "I will take my rightful place on the stage...I am not a cosmic orphan."
|Katherine Cornell "First Lady of the Theatre"|