I started 2011 with the Dallas Theater Center production of Arsenic and Old Lace directed by Scott Schwartz. The play co-starred Ms. Tovah Feldshuh and me. We played two whacko killer little lady sisters. It was a blast!
The production was, hopefully, Broadway bound with major designers—William Ivey Long, Anna Louizos, Paul Huntley, Jeff Croiter and Curtis Craig doing costumes, sets, wig design, lighting and sound respectively. Our production, with its glorious revolving set, kicked ass!
Arsenic was divine. The Dallas Theater Center is a truly remarkable theatrical playground. The ensemble of actors, including one of the funniest persons I have ever met, Lee Trull, is wonderful! Kevin Moriarty is a most excellent Artistic Director and has surrounded himself with an elite group of artists in Big D and from NYC and elsewhere. I had wanted to work there for years and finally got to play in that beautiful Frank Lloyd Wright structure, the Kalita Humphreys Theater.
We rocked it—this ol' chestnut of a play to which we brought such fresh life! Scott Schwartz is brilliant, the cast was tremendous and I got to play an outrageous psycho killer with my new sister for life, Ms. Tovah. So much fun—rave reviews, the best business in DTC history and then a "rights problem"—or so I was told—wouldn't allow us to move to Broadway.
Right after our run, the second "Story Songs" was presented at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth for three nights. Nine wonderful singers from my Song Interpretation Workshops sang wonderful songs for most appreciative audiences. We had worked for months in preparation and the intense ramp-up to performance was during our rehearsal schedule for Arsenic. I was burning up the Dallas FW freeway from our rehearsal to classes to prepare for "Story Songs."
My students, singing with all the passion I had been requesting of them, along with Arsenic, made my January, February, March three lovely months. Nothing makes me more "adrenalized" than helplessly watching my students soar in front of an audience. It is terrifyingly wonderful! The audiences loved them, and I wanted to hug and kiss them all, but contained my crazy love to offer warm congratulations while secretly calming my swelled heart.
I finished my recording Ghostlight this year produced by T Bone Burnett. T Bone made the first recording of my voice when we were both 19. The archival record was released three years ago by Playbill Records, Betty Buckley 1967. The reminder of this record of our youth brought T Bone and I back together at the same time our beloved Stephen Bruton, guitarist, singer/songwriter, was dying of throat cancer. It was a bittersweet reunion.
So last year T Bone called and said "Let's make a new record." We did and Ghostlight will be released in the spring of 2012 by Palmetto Records.
This wonderful label with a collection of disparate artists from heavy metal, rock to jazz to me also gave me a budget to record Ah, Men! The Boys of Broadway, a show I worked on all summer to debut at Feinstein's in October. Stephen Holden of the New York Times, a critic whose favor I always wish for, came back twice to see us and raved about our show! Most remarkable! I was thrilled. And so I'm now working on that record too. It will be released sometime following Ghostlight.
I also got to play the character Regina on an episode of Pretty Little Liars, the ABC Family hit show about very pretty little liars. My character was written for me by show-runner/producer Oliver Goldstick, and she is one of the most outrageous hilarious women I have ever been privileged to play. Regina is glam and way over-the-top, drily saying such memorable lines as "Where's the little girls' room, I gotta wipe the dew from my lily." Seriously, so fun!
My brother, Norman Buckley, television/film director par excellence, directed me in the episode. He's why I got the job. He invited Oliver and friends to come see me in concert in LA for the Reprise Theatre Company. Oliver was inspired to write the part, so I was working in television again on the Warner Brothers soundstage where we shot Eight Is Enough for the first two seasons. It was like coming full circle, or something like that.
I loved being directed by my brother. He is so "direct," very succinct and on point. I was getting all "actory" in my head, and he was like "Nope, like this and do that." And I did. And it worked. Supposedly Regina will be back with the pretty little liars in 2012. We will see.
It's been an interesting year. I am most grateful. I live on a ranch and ride horses and I travel and sing and teach. Teaching gives me such joy. I love to assist aspiring artists to step into their full potential.
I have been so blessed by my great teachers. Paul Gavert, my voice teacher for 19-and-a-half years, recognized a finer potential for me than I knew for myself. He was able to impart that vision to me and hold it in space with me until I could step into it. When he passed away, I couldn't hear very well or so it seemed. My grief took time to process and I developed some constricting habits without my teacher's eye and wisdom to keep me singing freely. After sessions with a brilliant psychologist my hearing returned. Grief does strange things to humans.
I went on a quest for a new teacher and wept through many a class and finally found my current teacher, Joan Lader. I see her in NYC when I travel there, work with her tapes between sessions and, from time to time, on the phone.
It is amazing to me that many singers and actors don't feel that it's necessary to stay in an active relationship with a teacher. A singer/actor is a kind of athlete and like any athlete you must train under the eye of a coach who assists you to stay in elite form. Well, that is if you want to be an "elite athlete."
So I teach here in Fort Worth, in NYC, in LA and in upcoming 2012 workshops in Chicago and Boston. It is my privilege to pass onto the people who want my assistance the phenomenal, powerful tools I have learned.
And basically what I can tell you is that these precious, sacred tools work! They are the source of every good thing I do or have done.
The brave, young, questing souls who have come through my workshops in Ft. Worth have all been accepted into the universities and conservatories of their choice. Many of them have gone on to university on full scholarships. It does a girl singer proud to know I've helped them along their way. Some come back on breaks to do brush up work. I relish watching them grow. Nothing makes me happier than to see them step into their true talent, strength and self knowing.
I grew up here in Ft. Worth. I was blessed with amazing teachers, Ed Holleman and Larry Howard, out of NYC who had worked repeatedly with Bob Fosse and decided to settle here and open a school. I was one of their protégées. I worked at Casa Mañana repeatedly from the age of 15.
The mere idea that these two wonderful dancer/performers and my Aunt Mary Ruth, before them, who taught me from age 3, and, of course, my mother Betty Bob, who imparted to me her deep love of song and performance, is the reason I teach now. Sharing what takes years to learn is a blessing.
I got to see the "Betty Lynn Buckley Awards" this year again. Wonderful that this great program has blossomed to such a rich degree. Instituted by Denton Yockey the previous Artistic Director of Casa Mañana, I am so honored that Denton named this program for me.
It should be named, in actuality, for all of my teachers. Everything good I do, every person who is moved by the music I create with my collaborators, comes from a legacy inspired in me by these great beings.
So between "gigs" I'll be at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth again this year teaching by the grace of Ms. Tina Gorski, my sponsor at the Modern. If a group of committed students come along then we will be doing our third set of "Story Songs" concerts. Come sing or practice your story telling/communication skills with us.
Oh, one of my favorite students is Ms. Molly Moon who is a very successful interior designer for her day job. She had sung jazz all of her life with her Dad, but secretly longed to be an "actress/singer" so she came several years ago to study with me. She is a glorious, moving actress now and moved folks to tears in our concert. And there are so many others. Maybe through the year TheaterJones will allow me to share more stories with you.
It's been a wonderful year. I really feel we will all move to new levels of joy, awareness, connection and fulfillment in 2012 if we have the heart to focus and decide to do so. Happy New Year!
◊ Editor's Note: This is the seventh and final essay in a series of year-end essays by members of the local arts community. The first was by actress Emily Scott Banks, the second by Artes de la Rosa artistic director Adam Adolfo, the third by Dallas Opera's Jennifer Schuder, the fourth by Second Thought Theatre's Steven Walters, the fifth by Dallas Thaeter Center's Joel Ferrell and the sixth by Jubilee Theatre's Tre Garrett. Here's to an ah-mazing 2012 for all.