This post won’t be an easy one to write, but I think that it’s worthwhile. So I’ll soldier on.
Mariana was rarely comfortable with having her capabilities brought into the spotlight, so she’d probably be pissed at me for doing so now. Nonetheless, I think that the onset of her final chapter is amazing and fascinating on so many levels. Her potential annoyance from the Beyond won’t dissuade me.
Mariana and Showbiz had a mutual parting of the ways when we had kids. She loved to rehearse, and she enjoyed the performances to a somewhat lesser degree, but she really disliked the relentless self-branding and soul-crushing lack of return from auditions, so she took a signal from the Universe and put her energies into being a great Mom.
When the boys wanted to participate in their elementary school’s Theater Club, Mariana volunteered to help with costumes and sets. This continued into the boys’ middle school years, where Mariana eventually became the full-time Costume Designer. But, it went beyond that. She had never lost her passion for the process of making theater (now rekindled), and she had strong opinions about pretty much every aspect: casting, directing choices, set design….you name it. And she had the professional resume to back them up. I’m guessing that not all of her opinions were welcomed with open arms. She was very fond of her co-workers at CAST (the middle school theater program), but she didn’t mind ruffling an occasional feather if she disagreed with certain decisions. Being right without always being nice brings to mind a certain character in a certain play. See below.
A CAST production began rehearsing in May, 2016, but this one had no middle schoolers in the show. Rather, it was meant to showcase the adult staffers, and they chose Horton Foote’s “The Trip To Bountiful”, with Mariana cast in the lead role of Callie. It was her first substantial acting gig since the 1980’s. The task of learning such a huge part was a daunting one, but Mariana’s old muscle memory kicked in as she methodically set to work, despite occasionally uttering variations on the “Why the hell did I agree to this? I have no business trying to pull this off” theme.
As the rehearsals progressed, Mariana’s insides decided to declare war. And, one by one, foods that she had always enjoyed began to disagree with her in a big way. We both attributed it to the stress of her having taken on this huge undertaking. After all, she was genuinely concerned that she no longer had any acting chops and didn’t want to disappoint anyone who had never seen her on stage before.
In hindsight, the stress of playing the lead role after a prolonged absence was NOT the cause of her discomfort. It was ten years of cancer, chemo and radiation finally catching up to her. Her organs had begun to shut down, and this process took another seven very unpleasant months to complete. In the meantime, she strategically located her proximity to bathrooms wherever she went. And, when she was onstage for prolonged scenes, she (in addition to doing all the acting stuff to her liking) would hope to make it to her exit without soiling herself. (Sorry, Mariana…..I’m sure that you consider this to be Too Much Information, but I think that this makes what you did all the more impressive.)
There’s no way of knowing how Mariana interpreted this particular set of ailments, and there’s no way of knowing whether aspects of the plot of “Bountiful” (trying to maintain dignity in one’s final chapter; enduring what what must be endured; making a last visit to an important aspect to one’s earlier life, etc.) informed her approach to the portrayal of this character. But it certainly adds all kinds of layers to this play that already has plenty to begin with.
Mainly, though, I’m so happy that Mariana got to sink her teeth into this art form about which she cared so deeply. And I’m so happy that there is documentation of her performance (linked below).
Here are the links: