Most people don’t believe I’m really an introvert who hates being the center of attention, but back in the mid-90s I took an acting class on a lark as one of my electives, and Annette Charles (Cardona at the time) was my teacher. She was intense, knew and used every psychology trick in the book, and played a key role in my becoming comfortable enough on a stage to eventually start performing my own poetry and hosting readings.
I took two workshops with her after that first class, and while I was never destined to be an actor, I learned so much about myself and how to tap into feelings and emotions I’d always avoided even making eye contact with, all of which helped my writing even more than my stage presence.
One of her goals was to make you break through your own barriers, and while I never fully got there, she helped me put some serious cracks in those walls! My favorite memory was doing a scene from A Hatful of Rain where Johnny Pope (me) is trying to convince his wife not to leave him without admitting to her that he’s a junkie; it’s an intense range of emotions that put me through the wringer, and was the closest I came to nailing a scene by completely letting go.
After that, my own writing became much more honest and layered.
She was a mentor and a friend, and “Sexy villain of ‘Grease'” [as the since-deleted MSNBC news item declared] doesn’t come close to describing what she meant to those to who knew and worked with her.