Friday night was like nothing I've ever experienced in my many years on planet Earth. Hansoo and I headed down after my full day of preparing myself physically, and mentally, for the Premiere of "Unspoken Words". Glancing at my gown(which, by 2:00 P.M., I'd already gotten dressed in), I asked for a 1970's style hairdo from talented hairstylist, Angie Brookmire, at Regis Salon, North Point. She did a "half-up, half-down" style that my sister Tina and I, used to beg my Mom--Demetra to fix our hair in, often lamenting when we were 8 and 13,respectively, "Mom, please fix our hair some-up-and-some-down?!"
Angie had colored and highlighted my hair only a couple of days before, but I stopped in for the styling, which meant literally--a half-up, half-down, off-the-face hairdo. Immediately after, I headed next door, to Macy's, and spoke with Lindsay at the Dior makeup counter.Lindsay prepped my face and applied light makeup; Julie did my (rather extravagant, but totally rockin')eyes. I was feeling comfortable in my Laundry gown, a hot pink number with a very Cher circa 1970's feel to it, which I'd picked up the night before, from Tootsie's boutique in the Around Lenox Shopping Center in Buckhead. I headed home, selected a faux-fur (very dear pal Dan Morrison had personally shopped for me, leaving several wraps of various fabrics and shades of silver, for me, from which to choose).
After much slow-moving traffic (Hansoo drove us--just he and I, down together.My dear Mom, Daddy, and Uncle, were in Mom's car.It turns out, all that annoing traffic was due to a Falcons game, going on in an adjacent area. Anytime there's heavy evening traffic in the ATL, it means (sigh) sports.)
As we approached the Georgia World Congress Center, I could see UNSPOKEN WORDS on the marquee.(!)
My only thought: So this is really, actually happening.That film we all worked so hard on, it's happening....
I asked Hansoo if he could drop me, as I was worried I'd be late (I'd spoken to our Director's girlfriend while I was getting my make-up done, and she'd said "There's a lot going on right now. Don't worry. You're alright."), and he agreed. He dropped me directly in front, and drove away to park our shiny, silver Mercedes ML 550(a large SUV, which he bought for transporting our large dogs, but that night, it looked luminous, and it made me feel glamorous, stepping out of this elegant vehicle).
As I stepped out, I looked up, holding the seam of my gown in my right, silver-gloved hand (the gloves were elbow-length, found-- by Dan Morrison--- at Eddie's Magic Trick Shop(!)), while the other silver-gloved hand held a structured vintage purse, courtesy my "Omma K." (courtesy my "Omma K."-my Korean Mother-in-Law).
And who, of all the nearly 1700 people present, should I see first?
Why, as I stepped as gingerly as possible down the stone steps that lead to the building, I heard "Hey, is that my 'mom'? Is that you? Wow, you look GORGEOUS!" It was Zeek Mayes, who plays Dante' Jordan, the young man who yearns to escape Benetha Evans' grasp in "Unspoken Words". Startled, and frankly, not able to see him well, I yelled, rather loudly, "Zeek? Oh, wow, is that YOU?!"
The hug that followed was one of those warm, I-love-ya-man hugs, and it was exactly what I needed, before the surreal-ness of the evening would begin....
The swirls of light focused on me, as I entered the Georgia World Congress Center's Building A, nearly blinded me.
As I entered the lobby, I noticed several people at various tables, and quietly made my way over, when suddenly, I heard several pop-pop-pops which startled me. I actually felt frightened, as the sound was reminiscent of gunshots. There were
people--men, women, young, old, professional, and people with cell-phones, aiming cameras at me. I actually glanced behind me, thinking someone important must be present, but no--they were aiming at me-- because they wanted pictures, of me?!
I felt like one of those whirling dervishes, as I had to keep moving, to prevent being stopped, and asked questions ("We'd like to ask you a few questions." "Hi, I'm
from Holywood Review, you're next, okay? We want to speak with you." "BET, hi, would you give us some time,please?")or requests, "Hey, will you sign my poster?" I started to laugh, because it was all so incredibly CRAZY. For heaven's sake, the film has not even been released, and this, uh, what is this??? Fortunately, I saw my hubby and assorted friends and family arrive pretty quickly, which meant I could run off and speak with loved ones, instead of strangers.
I ended up doing(I honestly cannot recall how many, 4, maybe 5?), and enjoying, the interview process, but the evening was getting later and later, and we still had not adjourned to the Sidney Marcus Auditorium for the pre-show of hip-hop music and dance performances, and poetry, though some poetry and dance was being performed on a small stage in the lobby. I cannot list all my friends without accidentally leaving someone out, but I will say the biggest chuckle of the evening came when my friend, Liliya arrived, with her husband, and I began to introduce her to my good friend, Julie.
I screamed out, "Oh, this is the woman who waxes me; she's great." I feel certain the peals of laughter rippling through the hundred or so friends and strangers
gathered around me, were happening because everyone must've been imagining and giggling about, this lovely tall blond Russian lady stripping me of my bikini-hair, or giving me a "Brazilian", but I was actually referring to her stellar skills in Brow and Face-waxing, as she had just performed those services a few days before.
(though she certainly is adept at the other lower-down stuff, too). That moment
helped me stay grounded, and seeing dear old USF pal, Derek (now Dr. Derek, DOC,located in Marietta/Smyrna/Vinings area) Conte', standing nearby,caused me to smile a big smile, that lasted nearly all night.
Derek was the guy that every girl in college adored: he was the strong, athletic, dark, edge-y, very Italian guy--from New York City-- no less, and he displayed his immense acting and singing talents in nearly every single piece of theatre our University produced.I had the extreme pleasure of working alongside him, in Jean Paul Sartre's No Exit, circa 1981 or 1982, in an Acting V Honors Class, with other distinguished actors from those years.... and just this past April, saw him for the first time since, at a Reunion of USF Theatre Graduates.
But I digress.
At about this time, I was being whisked away to see the auditorium where the screening would begin, and we were told there was "a power-outtage." Yikes...what did that mean? It's already nearly 8:30 PM,would the Premiere be delayed even more?
I was worried about my Daddy, and my Mom, and Uncle, all of whom I'd seen intermittently throughout the night, but as it grew more crowded, I saw less of them, which upset me.
I dashed out, against "orders" to stay put, to hold my hands up, and wave
everyone (I soon spotted most of my family and friends)over, and they soon filed in, with many others.One dear friend, Carole, exclaimed something about tickets, but I was being told (by organizers)at that moment,to come into the auditorium and I obeyed.I hope she can forgive me, whooshing past her; I felt incredibly flustered.
Once inside the Sidney Marcus Auditorium, I threw my silver faux-fur (I would NEVER wear real fur, ugh!)over a few seats, and then waved it frantically as I watched several attendees descend into the theatre, thinking I could catch my family and friend's attention, so they'd see me, and join me, in our "Special Section" for my peeps and me...
So, now we were all settled in, and I sat between Uncle Buddy and Hansoo, my dearest sweet grrrl, Ms.Coral McGhee sitting next to my Mom--Demetra, and my Daddy--John R., on the other side of her. Both in front of me, and behind me, dozens of friends who came to support me, and showed extreme patience in doing so. A few rows behind, Arthur (Hubby's little bro) and new gal, Erin, sat. And Hans's buddy, Jay (from Jacksonville), his gal-pal,Bunny,and Jay's parents, Harold and Barbara Alexander, from Greensboro, North Carolina.
We were treated to several hip-hop singers and dance numbers, both to warm us up for the film, and I suppose, to offer more entertainment in lieu of the Screening beginning on time, due to what was later called "technical glitches".
After hours of delay, there were prayers offered via gospel-like songs, in a fervent attempt, I believe, to move this Premiere, along.
When the film began, it began rather abruptly, and jarred us to attention.The sound quality was poor, making it difficult to discern every sentence, every word.
However, I found the story (remember, I had not seen the film, either!) very exciting. I loved seeing my name Lisa Nanette Allender up there (and am not embarrassed to admit it!), and enjoyed seeing the words fall away in a jumble as they left the screen.(I loved what Henderson did with the graphics)
The vast audience remnained calm, and very very supportive,as a series of technical problems threatened seeing the film in its' entirety.
Despite the poor sound quality, and numerous glitches where the screen would freeze on a particular shot (the first frozen shot was of me--Benetha--holding that shotgun.My goodness,it's surreal enough to see one's face a hundered times bigger than reality,but downright scary to see a shot like that, frozen-in-time. Great moment: my pal, Ellen's friend, Josh, seemed genuinely puzzled that the person frozen onscreen, was indeed, me, the woman he'd just met in the lobby.That was actually quite cool, not recognizing me,as her.), the audience appeared very engaged.
Several (8-9) of my own scenes did not appear, as the screen "froze", or simply
skipped, and I'm sure other scenes were missing too, but the ending still received much applause.
Filmmaker Henderson Maddox handled the challenges with aplomb and much class. The technical glitches, you can rest assured, will get resolved soon.
Henderson's even providing DVDs of the film (late next year) to those who purchased tickets, online.
As I headed out with family, several women and a few young men, stopped me to
to sign their posters.Several said they did not realize I was Benetha, and had to ask where the actress was, who played her.One woman said "I guess you gained weight for the role.You certainly went from Z, to A, honey. I'm looking at you right now, and this is 'A'." I responded, "Well, I ate half a bag of potato chips, and a half jar of olives, nearly every night we were shooting, because it puffs up your face, and ages you under the eyes. I also lifted weights for my arms, to make them look wiry and bigger, since Benetha would be stronger than I usually (personally) look." I loved that she said "Well, it worked. You were really scary. I loved your character, because I wanted to see more of her.I mean, she was dark, but I could not hate her; I mean, she's sick, but..." Her voice trailed off.
That was the best compliment someone could give me: she seemed at a loss to understand why, exactly, she could feel something for Benetha. Which made me feel, great.
Okay, so the Film Premiere, technically, was not perfect.
But, as my dear Pax Christi friends, Joe and Mary Jean, in a private e-mail later reminded me, these things never are. Perfect.
But for my first Film Premiere, surrounded by such love--my family,including Mom--Demetra, Daddy--John R., my Hubby--Hansoo, and Uncle Buddy, as well as my extended family of dear friends,a dedicated and hard-working filmmaker, Henderson Maddox, our crew and cast, and a strong, onscreen story that I felt myself being pulled into, it was close enough.