Author Archives: jeannelsmith

About jeannelsmith

i was born in los angeles, ca, and raised outside of seattle, wa. from an early age i was drawn to theatre, and that inspired me to move to manhattan in 2003 to pursue a ba in theatre arts with a concentration in performance from marymount manhattan college. i have been living and working in new york city ever since.

maid of honor

My sister is my best friend.  I expected to be her maid of honor, and for my married sister to be the matron of honor.  The wedding was only a few days ago, and I’m still not sure what the maid of honor’s responsibilities were…I certainly hope I didn’t disappoint.

I wasn’t sure what I could say about my sister.  The stories are endless, but many not appropriate for a wedding ceremony, and many having nothing to do with her relationship.  It’s clear that I love her and I’m proud of her, but that just didn’t seem to be enough.  I wanted it to be special, for her to know how much she means to me.  I took a non-stop flight from New York to San Francisco that left at 7:15am.  I took 3 melatonin to help myself sleep, and decided to jot down some notes about my sister and ideas for the wedding toast.  Inevitably, I kept passing out, so I decided to give in to the falty sleep.  Who knew when I would get another chance, it was sure to be a busy weekend.

I find the whole tradition of the wedding ceremony kind of funny.  As the days went on and the plans were made, me and the other bridesmaids kept looking at each other and saying “Is this what we do?  Is that what happens?  Then we just stand there?” and so on.  No one knew what went on during a wedding.  It’s something that we’ve watched in movies probably hundreds of times, and seen in a real life maybe a few, but still, the order of events, the reasons for the traditions, eluded us.

Most importantly, I wanted my sister to be happy, and she was.  She was calm, cool and collected, and able to enjoy her family, friends and the ceremony because of it.  There was not one “bridezilla” moment.  All the hard work she put into planning paid off.  It was beautiful.

But still I wondered when my toast was, and what I would say.  In my melatonin-induced state of mind a few days earlier, I thought surely I would get back to the all-important speech.  But there wasn’t ever any time.  I kept telling my friend and older sister that I didn’t know what I would say.  I had milled some ideas around in my head, but had never had the chance to organize my thoughts and clearly approach the situation.  When the best man, the groom’s father, began his toast, I knew the moment was coming. 

I was freezing and shaking from taking so many photos outside, so I decided to quickly drink a glass of wine before my toast, to calm my nerves and warm up.  I forgot that I was at the head table and everyone could see me, later my aunt commented how  I wasn’t waiting for the toast…I was drinking that wine!  Oh well, I had to do what I had to do.

The moment was seconds away, and then, a surprise video compiled by the groom’s mother, preceded by a heartfelt, weeping speech, praising the newlyweds and their love.  Then an amazing video with paralleled pictures of each of them throughout their lives, riding a bike, the same family trips to Sedona and Yosemite, in swings, etc.  It was beautiful and really showed how they were two people meant to be with each other.  My older sister turned to me and said, “This would have been better after our toasts.”  I agreed, now the whole thing felt even more awkward.

Now everyone’s crying and in love from watching the video, and it’s my turn to speak.  I cheered my sister “Heathie feathie!  Heathie feathie!” and started laughing.  I wasn’t really sure where I was going with that, and neither were they.  But it seemed appropriate.  Then I managed to express myself and tell the friends and family how Heather and I  had our own language when we were younger, and often times I would interpret what she was saying to the people around us.  I told her I was happy and thrilled for her to have found someone who speaks her language so well (for that I got an “awww” from the crowd).  Then I said “Cheers to the lovely couple!” and raised my glass.

They appreciated my speech, and so did I.  I realized there was a lot more I could have said, and I expressed that to Heather and later told her how much she meant to me.  She said she knew, winked at me, and reiiterated that “we speaka the same language.”  I knew that the day wasn’t about me at all, or my toast, it was about supporting her and having a party celebrating her and her relationship.  I was so happy to be there for her special day, and cannot wait to see the pictures.

Posted by: Jeanne Lauren Smith

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bitches be crazy

One evening in September of 2009 a group of actors, directors and writers came together in Manhattan to create a series of 10-minute one-act plays for AWE Creative Group’s 24Hour PlayFun. The teams were chosen at random, and each play shared the same opening line, same random line, and use of the same prop. This was the birthplace of Crazy Bitches! , a story of Momma and her two haggard daughters, Cantina Marie and Lisa Marie, and the men they entertain/abduct. I had the good fortune of being drawn from a hat to work with the writer, David Slate, and I’ve been performing it ever since.

The story is an absurd comedy, one that involves sex, serpents, cannibalism, donkeys, Mexican jail, tattoos and sausage. There are many reasons we each keep coming back to perform again. It has, over the last two years, been one of the most rewarding theatrical experiences of my career. In a city of individuals, where everyone is busy and set out to succeed on their own, the bitches have surpassed stereotype and found loyalty to one another. Against all odds, the majority of us have come back and made the time to play with each other. If I had known when I first moved to New York eight years ago that I would have the opportunity to continue to perform a play that was written specifically for me, with people I loved and cherished, I wouldn’t have believed it. I’m still pinching myself.

One of the most rewarding aspects of this play is the audience reviews we receive. After a dear friend of mine watched our recent performance, he told me it reminded him of why he got into theatre in the first place: because it was fun! What a concept. I have been acting since I was a child, and certainly was first interested in this career because it was fun. I want to play, to enjoy, to create characters and relationships on stage. Since that time has passed there have been moments when it was easy to lose sight of what first intrigued me. Somewhere along the line a different kind of pressure is exposed and one can forget about the pleasure of acting. I am a trained actor and I take my work seriously, and I also perform in a variety of styles. No matter how dramatic or silly the play may be, I believe it is important to put in the table work. However, when the joy in sharing the story of the play is lost, the audience stops caring to watch. There is nothing worse than watching an actor uncomfortable or disenchanted on stage. It has been a gift to rediscover the amount of fun I can have while acting, and I am convinced that is why our audiences keep coming back. Crazy Bitches!encourages the actors to be as ridiculous as possible, and the audience and actors alike get to reap the benefits.

The excitement of this play stimulates ideas from the entire team. The writer has plans to extend the play further, we have talks of taking it on an East Coast tour, filming it for webisodes or a short film, etc. It is extremely thrilling to be part of such a twisted, perverse package. Right now we seem to have found our home in gay bars, namely the Stonewall Inn, the perfect place to try new things and play to a quirky and receptive audience. We have performances coming up May 30, 31, June 6 and 7, and assuredly more on the way, if not at Stonewall then at other venues.

What I have learned from the success of Crazy Bitches! is that audiences want to watch people act like fools on stage, and that I am honored to oblige. I will continue to play Lisa Marie, the badass Southerner who spent months in a Mexican jail for smuggling heroin across the border, for as long as the people will let me. I look forward to the future adaptations of this infectious tale, and can’t wait to play with my friends again on the 30th.

posted by: jeannelsmith

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