On Mixing Roux and Words
FROM STARDOM TO THE COUNTRY LIFE
Written by ELLEN BRADFORD. Last updated Wednesday April 7th, 2010
By ELLEN BRADFORD
My college career was short....a degree in three years....a lot of stuff crammed into a brain ready to absorb, but not as ready to retain....and a very short stint as an actress.
That’s how I saw that experience that afforded me the lead in two dramas -- one I loved, and one forgotten almost before the last curtain came down on the last performance.
The one I loved was “Little Red Riding Hood”.
During one week we had three afternoon performances for local first-to-third grade children, and their little brothers and sisters. The night performances drew a lot of hooting students who knew us in our everyday duds -- not as the Wolf, the Wood Cutter, the sweet little Granny, and of course, Little Red.
One matinee brought us the entertaining prospect of what to do with a tiny first grader’s little sister who found the steps and climbed up over the footlights. She was coming to help Red Riding Hood get away from the Big Bad Wolf. Happily for all of us, her Mom got to her before the Wolf did.
The scenery guys heard from me one evening after my climb onto the mantelpiece became a perilous perch to hide from the wolf; the mantelpiece began to separate from the wall behind it and lean at an alarming angle. I was in danger of losing more than my place in the script. I jumped, and the wolf got to chase me around the table and bed a couple more times on with the show.
But my favorite memory from that show came some weeks later when some friends and I were on a picnic in a park near the campus, and a couple came walking by with their little girl.
“Look, Mama! That’s Little Red Riding Hood!” She let go of her parents’ hands and ran at me full tilt, and jumped on me, knocking me over. A very exuberant fan! I’ve never had another so expressive and so happy to see me.
That was the one experience that made me even think what it would be like to be an actor. That little child was so delighted to see me, and to hug me, and to talk to me. I have often wondered if she was the one who made it onto the stage that afternoon to help me.
My picnic date that afternoon was The Big Bad Wolf. When her parents had reclaimed my #1 fan, he said, “She didn’t recognize me! She didn’t even notice me.” I think this one episode probably turned him off acting, too. He became a high school principal.
None of my friends believed me when I said I wouldn’t think of acting as a career -- there were so many real things to do in life. [I was secretly harboring serious thoughts of marrying a baseball player and giving him nine sons. That was not to be. But the four free-range children we have now are worth a lot more than those nine sons would have been, I’m convinced.]
I think I would have been a lousy actor. I can’t keep a secret. My thoughts all show very plainly on my face. My feelings are always right on the surface, and I most generally say what I’m thinking. I don’t think people with those traits make it to the top. An actor has to know how to live in another person’s skin - and I am who I am - much to my chagrin some times.
My politics don’t mesh with those of some family members, or friends. My attitudes on religion, race and vegetable gardening differ from “normal”. It’s what comes from turning down stardom for the country life.
(While seeing to it that her four school-age children had the things they needed and the business of running a busy household ran without bumps, Ellen Bradford once wrote between breakfasts and suppers as a correspondent for the Tampa Tribune about goings-on in Florida’s capital, Tallahassee. She is now focused on the wonder of six great-grandchildren and of a new garden - while keeping the deer and rabbits from devouring its products before she and her husband.)