2010 OFFICIAL XENA CONVENTION
Report by KTL
First, just a little confession.
I’m afraid that as a Lawlessbian Xenaho, I tend to not get a lot written down about Renee when she’s on stage with Lucy. I don’t TRY to ignore her, I am just always mesmerized by Lucy. Forcing myself to tear my eyes away to write things down at all when Lucy is onstage in front of me is hard enough, never mind trying to also get down what other people are doing/saying.
Normally I can root around the internet and find other people’s con reports that I can read over and then remember the scene for myself. (Though once in a while, for some of them, I wonder which con THEY went to). But there doesn’t seem to be very much out there this year to goose my memory.
So let’s see…
What I do remember is laughing out loud with great delight at Renee’s portrayal of her character in the one act play. Renee is a very gifted comedian. I’ve always particularly enjoyed watching her in the comedies in Xena.
She was very funny in this role. In terms of fanfic set in stone character types, Renee was definitely playing against type. I liked very much that she played the “bad girl” in the play and Lucy played the appalled straight-laced woman. We’ve already seen Lucy play depraved-and she plays appalled so well. Renee created a nicely nuanced person who’s a bit off in what they do and in their reactions to what they’ve done, and remains totally unaware that they’re operating outside the parameters of normal behavior.
And at the end of the play, we see that these two characters are still going to be friends. Or perhaps more than friends.
The play was fun. I think they had almost more fun than we had. They laughed and smiled at each other with happy faces at the end. Of course, I’ve often talked about how at the con we’re like parents at a school play-we applaud madly, whatever they do. (I guess, for those of us who have been here for the last 15 years or so, I should update this to “We’re like grandmas at a school play…”)
One thing I thought about when they first talked about reading a play for us-we’ve always heard that when acting, Renee likes to plan out every second. She’s very methodical in her approach to a part. She makes copious notes and decides how she will present her character every moment of her time onscreen. So I wondered if she was totally comfortable doing a cold reading in front of an audience. But she seemed to have had a good time doing it.
As I said earlier, I always notice that Renee still tries to put the spotlight on Lucy during their Q&A segments. Very often on stage when she’s answering a question, she’ll turn to Lucy and try to drag her into the conversation. And Lucy does that back sometimes too, encouraging Renee to talk. But Renee still seems to not really enjoy being questioned by the fans. She likes playing roles for us. And if Lucy isn’t there on stage with her, that’s what she tends to do more than just taking questions.
The very few years that Lucy couldn’t make the con, due to work requiring her presence elsewhere or being heavily pregnant (or working in New Zealand on “The Vagina Monolgues” while being heavily pregnant), Renee didn’t take questions. She did readings of “Love Letters” with Michael Hurst and another time with Tim Omundsun. One year she performed her excellent one character set of short plays. Neither time did she also do a Q&A with the fans. Lately, as she did this year, during her solo time on stage, she wants to tell us what’s happening in her life, what journey she’s taking, new experiences that she’s had. From the fact she does this, I think she must find that much more fulfilling than answering fan questions.
And she takes this route of talking about her state of mind with us with enormous courage, sharing very personal things about herself that have been a great challenge in her life. I admire her honesty and ability to talk about her abusive childhood and to therefore be a positive role model for people who have suffered through the same thing.
Okay. So-Renee’s solo appearance on Sunday, the last day of the con.
As always, we started with a fan made video about the character to introduce the actor.
The film ended. Then another film started. There was a long shot of a beach and the ocean behind it. Then a person walked into the scene on the right hand side of the image. And went down to the surf. And we could see that they were carrying a fishing pole.
There was a jumble of images, flashes of other things and places but we would keep returning to the beach. And it became obvious that the person on the beach was Renee. Some of the images that the movie cut to were pretty horrific. Bad things that happened around the world. And then back to the beach.
The real-life Renee came out through the curtains unto the stage and sat on a chair. She was dressed the same as she was in the film. I think a plaid shirt, a little fedora type of hat, and holding a fishing pole. She stared out into the audience as the film played. Just sat there looking at us as the film scrolled on.
When the film ended, Renee continued to just sit quietly and look at us. Then finally she began to speak, “When I was 11, I spent a month in the Bahamas. We had planned the last perfect day on the beach. I was staying with a family I was trying to get to know. We were going to bathe in the ocean. We had a soap that removes salt.”
And she said that the whole time she was in the ocean, she had this awareness that something was there. She said the water was crystal clear, that you could see right to the bottom of the ocean and there was nothing to see. But she just knew something was there. Right after she got back in the boat-a giant nurse shark showed up.
And she talked about how aware she had been while in the ocean. How open to the moment. And said wouldn’t it be great if you could always be that aware.
Then she joked a little bit about how the people said that it was just a nurse shark and they don’t hurt people. Renee gave a dismissive wave of her hand, playing them poo-pooing her concern, laughing as she did it.
She told us that the one woman show she’d done for us a few years ago “Was the beginning of my journey of saying goodbye to what I already knew. I was giving up Gabrielle.”
Looking out into the audience she said, “You guys have been around me so long”. It strikes me that Renee first did a convention in 1997 in Valley Forge and so was around us very early on. And then I’m pretty certain that she never came back until she came to Pasadena in 2001. But she has done cons every year since then, I’m pretty sure. 1997 was 13 years ago. So yeah, we’ve been around her for almost a third of her life.
She talked about how working in a theater or in a movie, “You have to open your heart and be a part of this.”
She mentioned her friend Emily, (I’m almost certain she was talking about Emily Saliers-though my first thought to myself was, “Oh-Emily the Spice Girl”, immediately followed by a snorting realization that no you fool, it’s Emily the INDIGO girl…)
“Emily is so present, so open. We all have contrasting traits of being”.
She said, “Grief, anger and anxiety. Shutting yourself off from the world. How do you keep the joy and love we have now in the rest of the other parts of your life?”
“It’s hard to look at yourself. We’re here to grow. I’ve been kicking my butt.”
“There was a synchrony of playing Gabrielle. She was so loving.”
I wrote a note here that I thought essentially, Renee was talking about “Getting rid of the garbage.” Less elegant wording, but that was my impression.
She talked about the ending of the show. Rob asked her if she’d be willing to sign on for continuing to play Gabrielle in a follow-up project. (I’m thinking this is the (was it 4?) Xena telemovies deal Rob was trying to put together to film in the future.)
Renee: “I said, Rob, I want to be a mother. I can’t be Gabrielle I want to be everything to my kids.” She said she didn’t know then that she could be a mother AND (other things at the same time-can't read my notes). “Hold the prism. I can be all of this. There are patterns that serve you and patterns that don’t.”
“I had a pattern of letting people shame me. As a kid, it happened to me.”
“There is a Hollywood rubric of having to look a certain way and weight. How do you react to other people putting things on you?”
She talked about working against the prop 8 drive in California, the proposal to invalidate existing legal marriage rights for all adults and allow them to only a select group.
And she was very surprised that gay men and lesbians were fighting over the protest over it. It stunned her that “They couldn’t come together over prop 8.”
Then she began to talk about a woman named Mary Rocamora. "She's like a little Yoda to me".