L.A. Is A Beautiful Woman Coated in Gum Wrappers:Ruth Arnell p.2

Jan. 5, 2009
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A Talk With Actress Ruth Arnell

Part 2: The Nearly Lost Year
Los Angeles Is A Beautiful Woman Covered in Gum Wrappers

In The second part of my interview with rising actress Ruth Arnell, she discusses early experience in theatre and the brief Lost (or possibly Misplaced) Year-and-a-half she spent in California

Me: Did you do any acting outside of Carroll College?

Ruth Arnell: . . . um . . .I did stuff with other community theatre groups and a show with the now defunct Stage West . . . they were really nice folks . . . but it really wasn’t until after I graduated that I had the time. When I was in college I didn’t have any money and I didn’t have a car, so getting anywhere was really difficult. When you are I Waukesha without a car, you are isolated . . . isolatedisolated (that’s why they all drink.)

Me: [laugh]

Ruth Arnell:
. . . um . . . so yeah . . . it wasn’t until after college that I really started doing stuff outside [of Carroll College.] It was . . . at first, Sunset Playhouse. I’d done one musical before. It was Hair. (I’m not really a singer.) Y’know . . . but I went there and they had auditions for Cabaret. “I’m gonna do this because it’ll be fun.” Why not? I need to stop being afraid of all these things . . . so I went and I got cast. And I was Frenchy . . . and it was just a really good time and . . . through that I ended up working with a lot of people who I went on to work with later and [people who were] doing all this professional theatre. And I was wondering, “should I try to get more into that?” But, yeah, I just did a bunch of shows there and moved to Los Angeles and had about a year and a half hiatus from acting. I went to the City of Performance and did one show. [laughs]

Me: [laugh]

Ruth Arnell: I did . . . I was Phoebe in As You Like It. And all these people who were in the show were all these famous voice actors and they did stuff for all these different TV shows and . . . you know Fivel Goes West? [here she’s referring to a 1991 Universal Pictures/Ambiln Entertainment animated film that was the sequel to 1986’s An American Tail]

Me: Yes.

Ruth Arnell:
Yeah. Cathy Cavadini, the woman who plays his sister who sings that awesome song on the mousetrap in the second movie? She was totally Audrey in As You Like It. [A quick glance at IMDB reveals that Cavadini has a lengthy history as a voice actress going back to 1976. She still gets work, most recently in the Walla Group on the English version 2008’s Lost Odyssey] And so it was great, but it was like . . . their professional theatres were far away and full of people that I didn’t want to work with. And their community theatres were clique-ee like I’d never encountered before in my life. Nobody in high school could’ve been like that, so I just didn’t get involved.

Me: And going back . . . when was the decision to go to California?

Ruth: Um. . . I wanted to try something different.

Me: [laugh]

Ruth: y’know . . . I’d done Wisconsin for a while. It was really great, but Idunno . . . I had a lot of friends who lived out there. We were all friends through a blog service and one of them I’d been friends with since my Junior year of high school . . . and we’d never met . . . and so it was all, of course, very logical and responsible for me to make that 2,000 mile move . [laughs] . . and so, yeah I went out there and had a lot of fun, but it just wasn’t the acting place for me.

Me: And I’ve heard from actresses who’ve gone out there that, with respect to casting, just being from the Midwest adds . . . like . . . 30 pounds, regardless of how thin you are.

Ruth: Yeah, yeah. And unless you want to be the fat sidekick, which, y’know I’d rather be the sidekick, but, y’know, I don’t wanna be the FAT one . . . because that makes you feel really bad about yourself when you go home at night and the casting director doesn’t have to put up with me crying into my pillow at the end of the day . . . [for the record, Ruth Arnell is NOT overweight in the least.] . . . but yeah ,that was kind of what it was like . . . and I got involved with a group of people to make an online magazine called Red Fence and they were going to start doing short films. And I stared to write this short story and it turned into a screenplay and so we made a little five-minute short film starring me as a really crazy, bizarre person. We used children in it, which you’re not supposed to do, but we did and they were wonderful. It was just a lot of really weird, eclectic experiences. I wouldn’t call it much of an acting trip, but I met some actors. Idunno. It was . . . it’s not like my lost year, but I did take like a year and a half off of like my prime ingénue year. [growls in frustration] So shame on me. I’ll never do THAT again. [laughs]

Me: And what was the culture out there that you didn’t like?

Ruth: Have you ever been?

Me: I’ve heard.

Ruth: There’s a lot out there that’s really beautiful. But it’s really far away from where normal people can afford to live. So it’s expensive to get to things that are worth seeing. It takes a long time. And in the mean time the traffic’s horrible and it’s dirty and it’s crowded and it’s like . . . every beautiful thing has been covered in . . . this veneer. Idunno, it’s like, you have a beautiful woman and you paste gum wrappers all over her. It’s like you can see the shape. You can still see that there’s something there worth admiring, but you’ve got all this Stuff in the way. And Idunno . . . it’s all about the Stuff out there. And I didn’t care about the Stuff. I cared about the people I was with. But to enjoy the people, I had to endure the Stuff. And after a while it was so wearing on me. Especially being from here where it’s homes like this with this much yard space . . . [here Ruth is evidently referring to the house my wife and I own on the south side—a early 20th century Milwaukee bungalow. Not much yard space.] . . . in a strictly residential area. I mean, you’re living in a million dollar home. Did you know that? It’s just . . . I don’t want that. I don’t want to live somewhere where you rent a crappy one-bedroom place where everything’s falling apart and your neighbors are putting graffiti all over your walls. Y’know . . . rent THAT for 25 years? Y’know . . . move to Iowa . . . [rolls eyes]

Relative property values being what they are, a small, cozy Milwaukee bungalow MAY be worth a million dollars in residential LA, but here the interview has drifted. We pick things up TOMMORROW as Ruth discusses her return to Milwaukee, tries her best to defend Neil Simon—(sort of)--and speaks about the community in community theatre.


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