Saturday, May 10, 2014

How My Mom Gave Me a Love For the Arts, Part Four

In the week leading up to Mother's Day, we'll be sharing a handful of personal essays written by The New Victory Theater/The New 42nd Street staff members. We gave them instructions to interview their moms about how and why the arts were integrated into their childhoods and received back these touching stories! For young mothers and parents looking to introduce their own children to the arts, join us for Baby Rave happening May 7-18 at the Duke on 42nd Street! Happy Mother's Day!

by Audrey Frischman 

When I asked my mom to interview for the New Victory blog she said, “thank you for choosing me.” This should give you a sense of the funny lady that is my mother, the greatest person in the world.

A little background on Isabel Wolfe-Frischman: She’s a published poet and she’s written two novels. She’s been an actor and a puppeteer. She can read tarot cards! She had plenty of pre-kid adventures before entering the different (yet still adventure-ful) world of paint on the walls and faces covered with lipstick and games where her kids spat water all over each other inside the house. I have memories of bathtub paints and in-home puppet shows and knowing all the words to Grease and Guys and Dolls before I knew much else.

It’s no surprise that we were brought up this way. My Mom has had a vast career in the arts starting from when she was very young. She took up the flute when she was nine (the same flute she would later pull out every once in a while when I was little). She started acting in plays in sixth grade, or at least that’s when acting really “got” her. She told me, “One time I saw Macbeth on TV and I liked the three witches, so I always liked to pretend to be them with my friends.”

It seems that I, too, was bitten by the acting bug at a mere three-years-old. As my Mom tells it, “you wanted to be in the Wizard of Oz at the nearby park. You said, ‘I want to be in this show,’ and so we got you your little purple outfit and we would take you to these little rehearsals of The Wizard of Oz. You were this little three-year-old and everybody else was in their twenties and they all thought you were great.”

Although I was not allowed to get an agent, I could be in as many school plays as I wanted. My Mom describes how she “always thought it was ridiculous [that arts programs in schools are constantly under the threat of being cut]. Children must have arts in order to be human beings; in order to have a full education.”

It was due to her work with the PTA at my school that I even had a drama teacher who directed me in all those school plays. She said, “I think when you did the plays with your drama teacher and she started casting you in the leads, that’s when I realized that you were pretty good at it.”

That first leading role was when I was cast as Miss Hannigan in Annie in fourth grade. At the time, my Mom told me that she had always thought that it was more fun to play the villain. I reminded her of this and she said:

Mom: Oh yes I always loved playing the villain! Well you know maybe that’s from a woman’s point-of-view. In the olden days when I was growing up, the leading lady was a wimp! But now the leading lady is as interesting as the villain.

Me: Oh yeah and then there was the vaudeville show where you made me that dress that I wanted to be strapless when I was seven!

Oh yea it fell down.

Yes. But like, duh it fell down.

But if I’d put elastic in it…

That was so funny, but I don’t remember why it was a big deal at the time.

Oh that’s good because I was just mortified.

I didn’t know what was happening. I remember doing a kick line of some sort and my dress kind of falling off and someone coming up to me and saying “Oh don’t worry nobody saw anything.” I wasn't sure what they meant by that.

That’s funny.

But I wanted a gold sequin tube dress and that’s what you made.

I’m glad you liked it.

My mom and I could go on like that for hours, retelling stories and laughing about it all. She enabled me to do so many amazing things; I wouldn't be where I am today without her encouragement. I see now how many things she made possible, not only for me personally, but also in my community as she stood proud and advocated with the PTA for arts education in my school district, growing up.

I wrapped up our talk by asking my mom about what advice she has for me today. She said, “first of all, keep doing what you’re doing. Secondly, don’t doubt yourself, don’t get in your own way. Here’s a cliché: follow your heart, follow your dreams” (my dad pops up in the background and mumbles something), “Dad says follow your nightmares.”

After a few quips about that being the exact reason I didn’t ask to interview him, my mom concluded, “don’t be afraid of your own stuff. Just do it, use it, you know what I mean? You’re the best.”

These are the kinds of things that my mom says to me all the time. I know I can always count on her for words of encouragement and silliness. She supports me and celebrates all of the choices I’ve made for myself.

Me: Thanks for doing this interview.

Mom: Oh you’re welcome it was fun.

It was fun! I like to hear all your little things.

I like to hear all your little things too. So are you turning the thing off…

So that we can talk about the real stuff? The real answers?

So we can act, like, normal?

Yea, I’ll turn it off, one sec…

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