Scene4 Magazine: Claudine Jones |

Claudine Jones


2am sleepless.

R, who went early to bed in pain is snoring away.

Patty Duke died this week & I kindled her autobiography in a couple of days.  O that poor woman.

Miracle Worker was my chef d'oeuvre in high school; Mr. G. announced it for the coming season when I was finishing my sophomore year, so that summer I got the play & studied it, read as much about Helen Keller as I could get my hands on & learned the manual alphabet. I was too tall at 5'4”, but there was nothing for it. That part was mine. Another girl auditioned whose body was right; she couldn't convince the way I could. Too bad for us both in that respect—but I smashed that one hard over the bleachers.  Fell off the set during rehearsals, got belly-aches from cold rice in the dining room scene, smacked body parts on furniture more than once. WaterPitcher0516crMy Annie Sullivan was one walking bruise, with a cut hand from a chipped water pitcher. 

It was fabulous.  We shared the Best Performance trophy at the year's end.

Ma flipped out this last month; said she was bi-polar & pleaded that she could not be alone; demanded that she move in with me, live in my basement, routing my middle son out & sending him up two flights to the workroom—his oldest brother's former room—where he & his girlfriend would endure the mortification of sharing a bathroom with me & my old man.

It turned out to be severe anxiety, not the manic-depressive behavior of the sort Patty Duke suffered. Hollywood stars have the money to throw around, but there are none-the-less lots of cheap ways of going off the rails. Vodka & phone calls. This time she just doesn't believe she can get through without pills.

That's hard; to get pills, you gotta have a shrink. The one we landed her is in his eighties & loves all things French & wants to hear all about her childhood; yet she'll have none of that even if she does admire Jung. She just wants to sleep; get her pills & sleep.  And get her oven replaced. The City finally after three years has said it will force her landlady to do that. Cross off a dozen or so things from that pesky list & get some pills & she's good to go again. Slower, but good.

Through all this drama, April concerts are coming. Slogging through music day after day; my preoccupied mind is resistant, but I've developed enough admiration & respect for S., my current director, that even the monster pile of new repertoire doesn't quite destroy me. Old counterproductive impulses to cram are giving way to a slippery, meditative, instinctual drilling/dissecting.  S's response to me questioning my hillbilly background as an impediment to the kind of assertive sight reading he advocates: that's just a mind-set.

I'm serious, though. If you have warring factions in your DNA such as mine—French discipline vs American flapdoodling—doesn't this suggest a neural position will dominate if you let it?  My experience of Miracle Worker was like an early antidote to that struggle: complete commitment & permission to overdo in a way that neither parent was really able to deny me. 

My mother admired—insisted on—study, but feared over-heated exaggeration in all things. If I really wanted to wear vulgar jeans that she frowned upon when I was a teen-ager, she says I should have insisted; Miracle Worker was my jeans.

My father sat in the car next to me once back then & gave me what was probably a pep talk; something to the effect that he thought I had what it takes.  Coming from the guy who had sabotaged his dream to join the circus & fantasized being Robert Preston; who was miserably ill-equipped ever to realize anything even remotely as hazardous—until he chose to blow up his life instead—this advice later turned out to be regressive & earthshakingly depressing . He finished as an old geezer in a wheelchair, weeping every time he heard me sing.

Ma called this Sunday morning; insomniac that I am these days 9:15am caught me somewhat fuzzy. She wanted me to check her landlady's phone number: she'd called twice & gotten a nice lady who said she had the wrong number. I thought she meant she'd gotten a recorded 'nice lady', but no: she said it was live. The problem was her rent check; had she sent it? If so, why was there another check lying there among other papers on her dining table? A duplicate written in the confusion of having some guests around? (Not sure about that scenario...writing your rent check during a party...?)

Last month, the rent had gone out electronically & I had convinced myself that family times being somewhat challenging this was the doing of my sister-in-law (since we both can monitor Ma's bank account) & though I didn't confirm it with her, I privately thought great idea & hoped it would continue. It did not. 

This unexpected Sunday phone call proceeded to go off in an interesting direction. I had had very little sleep, so perhaps that's why I absolutely had no energy to do any suggesting or proposing or solutioning or critiquing of any sort during the entire call. Revelatory. I actually had no desire to control my mother's life. Wow.

Tonight at bedtime I realized I truly do love music & theater & my family, but that in the past 50 years, there really has only been one true daily constant in my life.


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Actor/Singer/Dancer Claudine Jones has worked steadily in Bay Area joints for a number of decades.
She writes a monthly column and is
a Senior Writer for Scene4.
For more of her commentary and articles,
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©2016 Claudine Jones
©2016 Publication Scene4 Magazine



May 2016

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