Yesterday, at the Festival, someone was telling an anecdote about the actor Ralph Meeker. The anecdote itself is not worth repeating but the takeaway for me was that Ralph Meeker, according to this person’s mother, was gay and struggled with playing the course, virile Hal in the original Broadway production of Picnic. Obviously, as an actor who often plays heterosexuals (though usually less course, virile ones) I was reminded of the on going challenge for the gay actor playing straight. I suppose in some ways it was easier and then in some ways more difficult. And then, I thought I would do a little google sleuthing to find out more stories about Meeker’s sexuality. I found nothing. Nothing on IMDB, nothing on Wikipedia, even gayorstraight.com said he was heterosexual. So, who knows. I will say that looking at old pictures, I do wish he was gay, he is a heartthrob. Maybe it’s a little inappropriate to out an actor who does not seem keen on being outed from his grave, but I suppose at the end of the day, Ralph Meeker was an actor. I’m sure he’s just glad people are still talking about him.
It’s 1:30 am and I’m in bed, trying to go to sleep but I can’t turn my brain off. I spent the day and evening taking in the William Inge Festival here in Independence. It’s an annual theatre festival and I have not attended one for over 15 years. There were several highlights but the big one for me was a talk with the actress Elizabeth Wilson. You might not know her by name but she was Ralph Fiennes’ mother in Quiz Show, Dustin Hoffman’s mother in The Graduate and is perhaps best known as Roz in Nine to Five. Most recently, at 91, she was in Hyde Park on Hudson as Franklin Roosevelt’s mother. There’s not a scene she’s in that doesn’t belong to her. I’m still thinking about something she said today. She was talking about working with Kim Stanley in the original Broadway production of Picnic. She said Ms. Stanley revealed so much that it was like she had no skin. As she said it, she grabbed her arm and pinched her skin. She told us that Inge was the same way, giving everything he had inside of him. Another woman in the panel, actress and writer Barbara Dana talked about how magical it had been to watch Elizabeth play Sonia in Uncle Vanya in the early 70s. And because I’m always thinking about age, I did the math and realized she was over 50 when she played her. Sonia is around 20. I have such a habit of limiting myself, doubting what I am capable of and there’s something so brave about a 50 year old playing a 20 year old. It reminded me to always see the possibilities. She also was told us a piece of information about Dolly Parton that surprised me and no, it’s not what you think. Anyway, it’s now 2:30 and I’m even more tired, but I wanted to share a little about my day. And if you ever see a 47 year old me playing Tom in The Glass Menagerie, you have Elizabeth Wilson to blame.