Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Celebrations and Nostalgia

(Click on the thumbnail for the bigger, better version)

This post has nothing to do with photography—it is strictly personal and reaches into my recent past. But, since this is on my mind and I am in blabbermouth mode, I am not going to sit on it any longer.

On occasion, I have mentioned, here, that I taught film acting and ran an actors' studio in Los Angeles for three decades. Having been retired less than four years, I haven't yet fully completed my long period of mourning for what I gave up. I may have left the life behind, but it will always be a major part of who am I am and it will always occupy a large and special part of my heart.

So here is the story. You have probably heard of the new DreamWorks film, The Help, based, of course, on the runaway hit novel by the same name. Well, it happens that the screenplay writer and director of that film is one of my students and the actress, Octavia Spencer, who plays Minny, also studied with me. No doubt, you will hear a great deal more about these two in the months and years to come and every time they make the news, you can bet that I will be bursting with happiness for two exceptionally talented, hard-working people—two people I adore.

I loved teaching with a passion that was difficult to put aside. Life changes—even the good ones—can be painful. Every time that phone rings and it is an actor asking about coaching, I feel a little ache in my heart. I begin wondering, again, if leaving was a mistake and I have a day or two of wistful thinking about the joys of watching talent blossom.

But, that was another life in another place. Now, I am that retired teacher who basks in the pleasure of memories and celebrates the triumphs of my precious students from a distance. It was a gift to have witnessed the journey of so many talented individuals. They taught me so very much and I will always be grateful. People often ask me if I have any children. I frequently quip, "No, but I sure borrowed a bunch."


  1. :-) Your post today has brought a big smile into my day! Congratulations to you and to them. Several years ago I did some youth football coaching. It was exciting to watch these young boys progress through high school, college and one who played pro for few years. I've reconnected with a couple of them and they still call me coach. As you so aptly said, "witnessed the journey of so many talented individuals."

    I have heard some really good things about the movie so I may have to see it myself. I hope you have an awesome day!!

  2. Monte - Thank you for your affirmation regarding the joys of teaching. I am happy this brought a smile to your face. There is a very special satisfaction in that line of work, as you know. What a joy that must have been to hear those guys still call you coach.

    I hope to hear what you think about the movie. I look forward to seeing it.

  3. It's difficult to imagine the impression a good teacher has on their students. I remember many of my teachers with fondness, a few with dread, but I always remember. Your students are the same, but I'm guessing more remember you with love than with dread.
    "The Help" is getting terrific reviews, I may have to put it on the list. It's a great story.

  4. Ken - I hope you are right about my ratio, who knows. I know I have vivid memories and strong feelings about memories of my teachers. I am always delighted to hear from my students. Clearly, those are the who have fond memories. Fortunately, I don't hear from the others.

    As for "The Help", I certainly enjoyed the book enormously. It is always difficult for a movie to compete, in my opinion. Obviously, I hope this one succeeds. I hope to hear about your impressions.

  5. It must be an extremely rewarding feeling Anita. Congrats to you, and I hope the film does really well. I have heard just small things about it. Being a movie fan, I will be sure to check it out.

  6. In my life too it has always been a major blessing and a joy to see someone I coached go on and accomplish great things. Congratulations to you!!

  7. Mark - it certainly brings warm feelings. I just feel very fortunate to have watched those two grow. They were impressive in their determination and the courage they showed in their work I hope you to see it. I am looking forward to "real people" reviews.

  8. Steve - "Blessing" is a good word. I am glad got to spend most of my life teaching.

  9. Anita, we saw "The Help" this past weekend...fantastic movie and Octavia Spencer was wonderful in it. I expect it to win a lot of awards. One thing we noticed while watching the movie was the diversity of the audience. They were older then many movie crowds and equally represented by both blacks and whites. Many of them in this part of the world had no doubt experienced some of the times the movie so well depicts.

    You have a lot to be proud of -- you're children are doing well! Thanks for sharing this and I hope you have a great weekend.

  10. Earl- Thank you so much for taking time to give me your thoughts on "The Help". Reading the reviews rarely gives one a sense of how "real" people will respond to a movie. I am pleased that you enjoyed the experience and, while I haven't seen it, I have already seen Octavia's performance in my mind's eye. Knowing her work as well as I do I know she is wonderful. For one thing, I know she was born to play this role. I am simply giddy happy for "my children" and proud of their work ethic, their courage, and their indomitable spirits. These are a couple of special ones. I was fortunate to work with many.

  11. That's fantastic, Anita! So you taught, obviously very well, too. Congratulations! :-) I did know you was into this business somehow, you wrote it at some occasion. You know, that's the best thing you can do of your life, really. You must be so proud.

  12. Ove - I think raising children is the most important work of all, but know that teaching ranks pretty high in satisfaction. I am enormously pleased and grateful to have been part of their journey. Their success hasn't come from lucky breaks and "quit" isn't in their vocabulary.

    Thanks for the comment.


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