Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The West Side Waltz

When we arrived in New York a week ago today I discovered this picture, which had been slipped under our front door.

A thoughtful neighbor and fellow Hepburn devotee had taken it from the Talbot's catalog to share it with me. (Talbot's...Hepburn...no. But I digress.)

It was the perfect welcome, a smashing-of-the-champagne-bottle-over-the-prow kind of gesture.

Even though I don't officially live live here yet—there's the whole pesky matter of selling my condo in Los Angeles and, you know, moving—this feels like a practice live-here. I'm working, shopping for groceries, cooking (a little), going to the post office, meeting friends for dinner, doing laundry, buying toilet paper. And I'm a little giddy while I do it.

I keep taking out my camera phone to record moments. Everything seems photogenic here:

The architecture:

The pilings of a ghost pier in the Hudson River, marking a trail to Hoboken, New Jersey:

The High Line, the former elevated railway that's been transformed into landscaped walkway in the air, sailing over the trendy Meatpacking District and the grit of 10th Avenue:

And the view from our living room window, which I can't take my eyes off of, morning...


...and night.

Plus, we do things here. It's really easy to do things here.

Yesterday, we went up to the New York Public Library's Performing Arts branch at Lincoln Center, where there was a special exhibit called "Katharine Hepburn: In Her Own Files." It featured photographs, letters, posters and scripts from Hepburn's theater career, beginning with her days as a student at Bryn Mawr through her late-life performances in Coco and A Matter of Gravity. There were some wonderful pieces in the exhibit, including a fan letter from Judy Garland (who added, "I'm getting fat, pregnant, and mean") and Hepburn's statement on the Kent State shootings, which she delivered to the audience after a performance of Coco ("Now you may call them rebels or rabble-rousers or anything you please. Nevertheless, they were our kids and our responsibility").

I was particularly struck by her typescripts from the plays she was in, marked in extraordinary detail in her own handwriting—notes on blocking or inflection or character. It seemed that almost every line of dialogue was accompanied by a notation she'd written on where to cross the stage or how to emphasize a word. Miss Hepburn was a star, a personality, a legend. But she also did the damn work.

After we left the exhibit, we walked 30 blocks down Columbus and 9th Avenues, then caught the subway home. At 8:15 last night, we headed out again. Let me pause here. I said, we went out in the afternoon, and then we went out again in the evening. At 8:15 at night. To have dinner and see a 9:40 p.m. movie. And then we walked home at midnight.

These are things we don't do much of in L.A. The going out twice in a day thing. The 30 blocks and the subway thing. The walking home at midnight.

It's been exhilarating. I'm grinning a lot, and whacking Stan on the shoulder, and saying "Isn't this great?"

But I also look forward to taking on a new role. I want to open the typescript, do my research, write my notations, deliver the performance. I'm ready to do the damn work.


Miss Whistle said...

Oh, that heady joy of being in a new city and seeing things for the first time. It makes everything photogenic. Your pictures are absolutely beautiful.


Miss W x

Susan Champlin said...

Heady joy is so right—I feel like I'm falling in love again. Thank you so much, Miss W!

one of 365 said...

Well Miss Hepburn, I think YOU ARE doing the work. And the best part is that you're enjoying it. How lucky you are that you and your partner have a new future. That this is your new "stage." And this blog is your script where you are making notes about your performances everyday. I think you are doing this magnificently. Now....if we could just get you that Academy Award.........

xoxoxo--One of 365

Susan Champlin said...

Oneof365, I love the idea that this blog is my script where I'm making my notations; hadn't thought of it that way. Thank you for that!