Monday, November 8, 2010

Are You Hungry, Dear? by Doris Roberts

Doris Roberts withy Danelle Morton. Are You Hungry, Dear?: Life, Laughs, and Lasagna. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2003.

The author notes her character Marie Barone on the TV series “Everybody Loves Raymond” gives quite a bit of advice, some good and some bad, bit “all of it comes from a mother’s love.” She notes the title of her book “Are You Hungry, Dear?” is an alternative form of “is there anything I can do for you?” She notes the emotional and symbolic connection between feelings and food.

The author has played the role of a mother numerous times, from the TV show “Alice” to “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”. He also is a real life mother who understands who mothers feel. The “Everybody Loves Raymond” set was created by set decorators to include the clutter, toys, and plastic slip covers found in real homes.

Roberts notes that created the proper tone, which sometimes can be challenging, can create good comedic interactions. Sometimes a single critical line has to be delivered in a correct manner to convey its comedic contradiction.

Roberts has directed, which she enjoys as she appreciates being a decision maker. She realizes directing is more than having strong opinions on how things should be done. When casting, she wants actors who can follow directions.

An acting teacher David Craig advised actors to “think pink”. Thinking pink means an actor is fresh, open, and easy going. She was thinking pink when she read for the part of Marie Barone, in competition against over a hundred others. She read the part, not as an angry character as others were, but with realistic frustration.

Roberts states how, before reading for roles, she tells herself “I’m coming here to give you the best I’ve got and I hope you like it. I’m not here to be validated. I validate myself.”

Roberts loved performing in theaters, noting ‘you don’t do it for the money, I was having the time of my life in this company of struggling actors”. She recalls once not having enough money after touring to afford a bus ride home and getting a job with an auto company that was transferring cars in order to get a car to drive home.

Good acting allows an audience to reach feelings they usually avoid feeling themselves, she observed. Acting should put an audience in touch with the human spirit. Acting should make people watching feel better.

Roberts was on the TV series “Remington Steele”. She was unhappy that the lighting made her look sickly. She explained her feelings honestly with the cinematographer without getting angry. He listened and made the changes. She is glad she stood up for herself yet did so without being confrontational.

Actor Jimmy Coco advised a way to negotiate is to lean forward, stay in the position, and explain your position quietly and simply.

Roberts studied improving her acting at the Actors Studio. She observed that Rod Steiger stood out as an exceptionally good actor who drew attention. She noted some actors acted like divas even though they lacked the talent to deserve the respect they demanded.

Lee Strasberg was a great teacher who could always tell what was wrong with an acting performance. Once, Lee Strasberg criticized her before opening night. She realized she could have let that destroy her performance. Instead, she chose to believe in her performance.

Roberts was surprised when acting teacher Milton Katselas told her she needed more arrogance. She then realized that “arrogance” comes from a word meaning that one should stake a claim for oneself. She realized that walking onto a stage, one has to be arrogant to be noticed.

Roberts notes she wasn’t called to be considered for casting on “Remington Steele” because she was considered too old for the part. She knew the casting director and persistently asked for a tryout. She won the role despite their earlier images of casting someone younger.

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