Being the editor and founder of The Happiest Medium has its privileges. I’d like to think that I know how to delegate but I’ll be honest – when an opportunity came up to interview Ms. Alex Bond I took it for myself because I’d been wanting to meet this wonderful lady ever since I’d seen her show Late Nights With The Boys. I was fortunate to also see Ms. Alex Bond in the MTWorks production of David Stallings’ Barrier Island. She is currently playing opposite David in Cody Daigle’s A Home Across The Ocean.
Ms. Bond is one of those rare performers whose light shines out so brightly that you can see her eyes twinkle from the back row. I admit that I was nervous to meet her and sit down with her but, of course, Alex is as warm and dear as she comes across on stage and she not only gave me a great interview but she also shared some deep insight into A Home Across The Ocean.
We sat down for lunch earlier this month while rehearsals for this play were still going on. Now that A Home Across The Ocean is in its last week there’s still time to get your tickets, and I urge you to do so. I’ll let my interview with Alex explain why . . .
Tell us a little bit about A Home Across The Ocean , and about your character, Grethe, in particular.
AB:I guess it’s best for me to speak mostly about my part because I wouldn’t dare speak for the other characters. As actors we bring ourselves to a part so I will mostly speak about about Grethe.
A Home Across The Ocean itself is like a poem to the idea of forming families when perhaps the ones that we were born with or the ones we’ve had before don’t fulfill us. I play the mother – and it’s great because I’ve been forming families all my life, and you hope that they stick around with you for as long as you stick around. In some cases, they don’t… but moving on, and moving forward are also themes of our play.
So Grethe is the mother of a gay son – which frankly could not have been more perfect. If I had had children I would have wanted them to be gay- either male or female – simply because when I was younger and growing up it was such a stigma and I thought that was wrong. I felt that people who are different need a little extra love. And I get being different . . . so that’s why I’d be a good mom of a gay person.
A Home Across The Ocean is a beautifully written play by Cody Daigle. I’m wondering if Cody had a lot of his own mother in my character . . . she’s a highly educated woman; maybe a little too educated. She likes to use big words when she gets ticked off … words like “incredulousness” . . . she pulls out the vocabulary when she wants to make a point!
Grethe has just lost her husband of 33 years and she has decided to move forward and in doing so maybe has made some choices that are precipitous (laughing). How’s that?
That’s a great ten dollar word!
Her son certainly thinks that Mom is moving too quickly after Dad’s death, so we have that contention going on between family members. In the meantime, her son, Conner, and his partner have adopted a child which they don’t tell Mom is a 13 year old girl . . . and Mom is anticipating a baby. Also, the child is African American, But that’s fine with Grethe because she herself has written a letter to a former lover (someone whom I’m convinced she lost her virginity to) who is an African poet who she had aligned herself with in college.
I think it’s one of those reactions: “I don’t know what to do with myself, I’ve taken care of the business that has to do with my husband’s passing, now what?” So she writes to this man who now lives in London and probably thinks he won’t reply . . . or come to visit . . . but he does!
What follow are the labor pains of everyone forming this new family.
You’ve worked with David Stallings now for several projects in a row. He plays your son in A Home Across The Ocean. How does it feel to be playing his mom?
We love each other a lot already. But what I have to bring to this play is that “mother-judgmental” thing . . . which I would never do to David in real life. I admire him as an actor as well as a playwright. But Momma judges, as Mommas do. So I have had to bring in some things that are not in our daily friendship.
Does it feel strange?
Yes, it does. Because we’ll get through rehearsal after I have yelled at him or he’s gotten snippy with me in a scene and it is odd. We haven’t really talked about it, but it’s interesting. I have to bring something that isn’t there in our normal relationship. I don’t want to yell at him and I have to judge him and that’s something that I, Alex, wouldn’t do. So yes, it’s been tough.
A Home Across The Ocean is a very heartwarming play that’s nestled amid some very prickly issues. Do you see this as a message play, or just a play about people who happen to be in certain situations?
I think any play is a message play. Some hit you over the head with a jackhammer – this one does not. This one uses subtly and beautiful language.
One of the most interesting things I find about A Home Across The Ocean is that it’s not about gay adoption. It’s more . . . “okay, they’ve adopted her, and now how do they cope as parents?” So the conversations these men have about their daughter could be coming out of any adoptive parent’s mouths. And that’s what’s wonderful about the play. Yes, these are exceptional circumstances and that gets mentioned occasionally. But that’s not the big thing. So it starts from a point of gay adoption already being acceptable.
At the same time, Daniel and Conner worry about “are we able to do it?” [as a gay couple]. As much as you don’t agree with something that society is saying, you still hear it, and it still creates that grain of doubt. There’s a part where Grethe says to Conner “Everything you’ve done smacks of impermanence” . . . in Grethe’s eyes.
She brings out the questions of Why are you fostering instead of adopting? Why is [foster daughter] Penny 13? She’ll be out of the house in 5 years. Maybe Conner never thought of that but Mom knows how to provoke Son.
I feel that gay adoption is such a wonderful thing that I don’t see anything wrong with it in my own head. I have a neighbor who can’t understand “gay” anything, much less gay adoption. We were discussing it and I said “You know more children are abused by ‘traditional’ parents?” For me, it’s a no-brainer. And I don’t know when people will wake up to just celebrating goodness, no matter what package it comes in.
I’m right there with you.
This feeds right into my next question – In your own show that you wrote “Late Nights With the Boys: Confessions of a Leather Bar Chanteuse”you take audiences back to a time when being gay meant hiding out in bars and putting on a different persona out in the “real” world. What does it mean now to you to be part of A Home Across The Ocean- a play that celebrates the relationship of a gay couple – and also shows the challenges of two men trying to adopt a child?
I think progress generally moves slowly. In thirty years strides have been made – and it’s high time but in retrospect, a shame. Some people say “We’ll take what we can get” and I say “Let’s open people’s eyes.” Late Nights is somewhat of an eyeopener in that it shows exactly how much progress has been made … but there are still [gay] people being beat up, there are still people being ostracized, there are still people being kicked out of their homes because they don’t fit the norm. Equal rights shouldn’t have qualifiers or exceptions. So we’re not done yet.
I don’t march anymore . . . but I do what I can, and so that’s what Late Nights is about. It’s for younger gay people to see how there has been progress and to keep it going; and for people who remember the old days who can be nostalgic about the crazy kick-up-your-heels days. People always find inequity in the world, and I’ll never change my neighbor’s mind, but I know that there are people who have changed their minds.
Without giving away too much of the plot, do you have a favorite moment or scene in A Home Across The Ocean, one that really gets you excited every time you come to it?
Yes – and it happens quite early – there is an airport scene. I’d mentioned that the African Poet comes for a visit. This is one of those moments that everyone would love to have – where they see their first love after 35 years come walking toward them in an airport . . .and all of a sudden, especially for someone who is . . . well Grethe’s 56 in the play (and I’ll say that’s how old I am) but you all of a sudden are 19 again. That is so cool and it’s so much fun to play with and to experience because I often act and talk younger than my years. Maturity is something that . . . well there are certain aspect of it of which I am not fond. So that is a favorite moment.
Bonus question time! You can tell me anything you want. It can be a favorite memory, or tell me about your favorite charity. You can give me a recipe or tell me a joke or just leave me with a quote. Anything at all. The mic is yours . . .
Well at the risk of sounding maudlin there is something that I don’t talk about a lot, it comes up in personal conversations, but it is now time for me to own and be proud of. And that is the fact that I am, twice, a TBI [traumatic brain injury] survivor. I’ve had two skull fractures in my life — both of which had me comatose. They were a long time ago. But they affect how quickly I memorize, and I have no peripheral depth perception and there are some things I’ve had to adjust to. And the fact that I’m still acting, and that people still want me, even though I take a little longer to learn things, that – to me – is a miracle.
So if other people got cracked up a couple times and feel they can’t do anything – I’m living proof that you can.
You are MORE than living proof! You are sparkling proof. You are the most dynamic, sparkling person I know!
Thank you! If anything, I want my life to be an inspiration. I want to inspire people and I want people to be tolerant of each other, because you don’t know their story . . . you don’t know them. And on a molecular level we are all the same. As a codicil (another good word) . . . as a codicil . . . guess what? I forgot what the codicil was! (laughs)
Well if you remember you tell me!
Alex did remember – her codicil was that there is ONE thing she herself doesn’t tolerate – and that’s a bigot. I agree – bigotry is one thing we all can be intolerant of!
To see Alex Bond’s touching performance as Grethe, and to watch this entire talented cast experience the growing pains of forming a new family, make sure to get to A Home Across The Ocean this week.
A Home Across The Ocean Theatre Row
410 West 42nd Street
between 9th and 10th Avenues -
Tuesdays at 7:00 pm (followed by a talk-back) Wednesdays through Saturdays October 2nd, 2010 at 8:00 pm Tickets are $18.00 General Admission ONLY 1 WEEK left – BUY TODAY ONLINE: visit www.Telecharge.com PHONE: call Telecharge.com at (212) 239-6200 BOX OFFICE: tickets can be purchased at the Theatre Row’s box office, open from 12pm to 8pm