CLEAN ROOM wins Spotlight Awards!

I’m thrilled to say that I’ve won two 2012 Seacoast Spotlight on the Arts awards for last fall’s run of Clean Room at WEST! I’m grateful for the recognition by the Portsmouth arts community, and also for the support of all my loved ones and colleagues who have made Clean Room a success through several patient years of development. But the awards were one bright, personal note in a week dominated by stress and concern on a wider scale.

Last Thursday night, I was presenting with the MAKE SURE IT’S ME/nh team at the Nashua Public Library. It had been a peculiar week: I learned about the Boston marathon violence while on the phone with NHPR’s Virginia Prescott–how bizarre to hear such news delivered right into my ear by a journalist I admire and usually listen to on my car radio! The scene in Boston mirrored all too closely the experiences of our characters in Make Sure It’s Me who have suffered blast-induced traumatic brain injury. So, as I prepared for Nashua on Thursday, I worried about framing our presentation in light of the current situation in Boston.

The presentation wasn’t easy that night, but we seemed to provide information and inspiration to some people who needed help. We distributed a lot of our TBI Fact Sheets, so that must be a good sign that something resonated with our audience.

But, as the library team debriefed about the presentation before splitting up for the night, something else was distracting me. My dear friend and MSIM cast member Pam Battin-Sacks was attending the Spotlight Awards show on my behalf that same night, just in case I won anything. I had written her an acceptance speech that explained why I was absent–giving a brief moment of attention to the MSIM project.

So, on the drive back from Nashua, I asked my cast member and car-pooler Conan Marchi to dig out my phone and check my text messages. Pam’s texts popped up: First, “You won Best Original Script!” Conan whooped, I shrieked, and much was the pandemonium as we (slowly and carefully) rolled through Newfields! Then, as we entered Newmarket: “You won Best Actress!

All I can say is, if you have to get great news, do it with a two-time Iraq War vet around. They know how to fist-pump and holler!

So, we rolled triumphantly into my driveway, where my geriatric hound was let loose for a happy bound around the backyard. Sadly, my husband Paul was in an airport in California waiting for a red-eye flight home, so he missed this whooping and bounding frenzy and had to celebrate with me telephonically a little while later.

Such is the life of a passionate but somewhat reclusive theatre artist and country mouse. I’m likely to grab any work-related excuse to avoid the social stress of schmoozing. I had been THRILLED that the awards show was on an MSIM night–I had a righteous reason to keep the scrutiny off me and to place the focus on military families. So there I was, after Conan took off. My dog resumed his place on his bed, and I waited a moment before I picked up the phone to call Paul. It was so, so quiet. In Portsmouth, I knew, the awards show was still wrapping up. In Cambridge and Watertown, I was to learn the next morning, a series of fatal shootings and a police chase were unfolding. The library presentation had been hard work and the faces of several of the attendees stayed with me. They hadn’t spoken, so I couldn’t know–did they suffer brain injury? Were they grieving someone injured, or dead? What had attracted them to the presentation? Why did they sit so silently, staring? When we spoke about TBI, what did they hear?

I called Paul and shared my wins. I called Pam and got all the details about the awards show and her role in it as my proxy. The funniest part, to me: I had been asked to provide a headshot for the Best Actress category. I had provided my standard headshot, but also a picture of me in mask as Stupino. The producers chose Stupino. And so, as Pam came up to collect my award, those in the audience who hadn’t seen Clean Room and don’t know me personally might have asked themselves,

“Who was that masked woman?”

Luckily, they will have the chance to find out in October. My Executive Director Stephanie Nugent has invited me to bring Clean Room back to WEST for Festival 2013. I’m honored and I look forward to sharing Brighina and Stupino with new audiences, as well as old friends. If you’ve never caught my act and would like to know what the fuss is about, check out the Clean Room trailer, created by Shay Willard.

Thanks again for your support, everyone. Stay safe. Protect your head. An award-winning actress told you so.