POSTED ON JULY 28, 2010:
Backstage Chit Chat
Odeum Theatre member reminisces about life on stage
All Life’s a Stage. Leslie Long has performed throughout Tulsa as a member of Odeum Theatre in a number of productions, including, Trojan Women, Speed the Plow and Educating Rita.
KENNETH M. RUGGIANO
Leslie Long, 29, is a member of Odeum Theatre Company, which begins its second season in September. The company formed in 2009 after Long, with Will Carpenter and Whitson Hanna, worked together on Theatre Tulsa's production of Educating Rita.
Long graduated from Morris High School and attended Tulsa Community College for two years before earning her bachelor's degree at the University of Kansas. There, she starred in such shows as Lysistrata and You Can't Take it With You.
Long has performed locally in Laughter on the 23rd Floor, Nickel and Dimed, Educating Rita, Speed the Plow and The Trojan Women.
She spoke to UTW about being a thespian in Tulsa as well as her best and not-so-best moments.
UTW: When did you first discover your passion for theatre arts?
LL: I knew at an early age, whenever I would say something or do something in front of people and got a response, no matter what it was, I enjoyed it. I would make up dances to this '50s tape I had, and I would give myself stage names -- I remember "Blondie" was one of them -- and I would invite all the apartment kids to come watch me perform. And surprisingly they would. I was nine or 10 years old, and that was my outlet. I didn't have theatre in school.
I just remember wanting it so badly because I felt like I had all this energy and all this creativity that I wanted to express, and I didn't know how.
UTW: Are you happy doing theatre in Tulsa, or do you wish you were in a bigger market, like Chicago or New York, doing professional theatre?
LL: It took doing some theatre in Tulsa to realize I'm doing work here that is as good as work I could be doing in New York, and I don't have to be in a pool of 600 people going after the same role.
I love doing the work here. I do. I'm perfectly happy doing theatre wherever I am.
UTW: Were you surprised, when you came to Tulsa, at the theatrical opportunities that were available here?
LL: I think I came to Tulsa with an open mind. I had never done theatre in Tulsa before, so I didn't know what to expect. I didn't have these high expectations, but I didn't have low expectations.
I greatly appreciate the community theatre I have done in Tulsa. I've been able to work with really great, amazing people, actors and directors. And then I think once Educating Rita came along, and I met Will and I met Whit ... during the rehearsal process I kept thinking, "This is unlike any other experience I've ever had."
I remember thinking, "Wow, this is some damn good community theatre." I think, after that show wrapped, we were like, "We like working together; let's keep doing this. ... And let's find some other people (to work with)." And that's how Odeum got started.
I'm still constantly surprised. Show by show, I'm surprised.
UTW: What was your most rewarding experience on stage?
LL: Rita was definitely a pivotal character for me. It was that pivotal role that changed my life.
And so playing that role, not only did I love that character, but -- my parents have always supported me, and my family's always supported me, in this venture of theatre, whereas some parents tell their kids, "Oh, it's great that you want to do theatre, but why don't you do this, too?"
And I remember after one of the shows that my father came to, he had these flowers and he just gave them to me very quickly, and he said, "Good job," and he left. Because he was in tears. He couldn't talk to me. He just gave me the flowers and left.
And I didn't need him to sit there and talk to me; I didn't need him to tell me I did a great job. I knew that what I was doing was important. It was so rewarding for me as an artist and an actor. To see those tears in his eyes, and to see and hear how proud he is and the support -- it makes me blessed to be able to do what I'm doing.
UTW: Your worst?
LL: When haven't I screwed up? That's why I love theatre because of the live, "Oh crap, I really jacked that up; I need to fix it quick."
I did one musical my entire life -- it was at (Tulsa Community College) -- and I had a solo number, which I probably didn't sing very well because I'm not a singer, and I remember I had to lay across the booth on the set, and I laid across this booth and just fell right off of it.
And I thought, "Oh, this is bad," but luckily the song played right along with the mistake because it was, "I Just Want to Be a Star." If it was during any other number, it would have been really bad.
But, you know, if you fall off of a horse, you get back on, and I just jumped right up and I was like, "Just keep singing." I just kept going.
I think when you, as artists, as actors, make those mistakes, you can acknowledge them -- which you should, because the audience sees them; they're not stupid -- or you can be mortified and leave your wig there on stage. I think, because it's live, when you acknowledge it, the audience is able to connect with you and empathize more. And that's what theatre is about: making that connection with the audience.
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