by Timothy Rutt
One-woman autobiographical shows aren’t unusual to find: a performer telling stories of her life, who influenced her for good or ill, and how it all turned her into the person she is today. You can see these performances in libraries, “black box” theaters, at festivals, in small performance venues. So far, so good, so what?
What IS unusual is for the performer to tell her story to her audience in the exact place where it happened -- which is what Polly Frost will do in Altadena next month.
Frost, a New York City-based writer, is coming back home to Altadena to perform her show, “Bad Role Models and What I Learned From Them” on Feb. 10. And she’ll be performing it on in the same horse stable on Mariposa Street where learned so much -- good, bad, and ugly.
Bad role models
“I started thinking about the whole question of role models in our lives,” Frost said. “Really and true, the people who had the biggest impact on me weren’t always the people who were the best role models -- in fact four of the people that I talk about in my show, and I pay tribute to them, could be seen as bad role models. in fact, they taught me so much about life, more than I learned from any good role model.”
Three of these bad role models were in Altadena, Frost said, “and it’s very exciting to get a chance to do my show in Altadena ... and I’m doing it in the stable of one of my bad role models, my riding teacher Aloha Robinson.”
Aloha (pronounced “Uh-low-uh”) was a “fantastic character, an amazing woman,” Frost said. A former starlet in the movies, “Aloha was an amazing survivor,” Frost said. “she was very ladylike, but she always had a cigarette, and never saw a glass of Scotch she didn’t like.” Frost said she kept her home open to all kinds of animals, including a mynah bird that learned to mimic Aloha’s smoker’s cough.
“She was always just scrambling to keep her operation going, but [she had] passion for riding horses ... she was one of the best people I could have encountered as a teenager.”
Exploring a place and time
Frost was born in Pasadena and raised in Altadena for her first 15 years. She’s been a published writer for over 25 years, with several books to her credit including the story collection, Deep Inside (2007), WIth One Eye Open (2010) and a funny mock-memoir, Rescue Dog. She has also written a psychological suspense novel, The Bannings, co-written with her husband Ray Sawhill, which was published last year.
Frost has also written humor for magazines such as The New Yorker and The Atlantic, and was a film critic for Elle and Harper’s Bazaar. She’s also a journalist and playwright, whose work “The Last Artist in NYC” (co-written with Sawhill) was selected for Best American Short Plays 2008-2009.
She began exploring the one-person show with “How to Survive Your Adult Relationship with Your Family,” which has toured around the country in 2011 and 2012.
Her one-woman shows are “just me and the audience, me and the microphone, talking. It’s really observations and reflections and storytelling It’s not standup comedy, I don’t do that .... I’m more interested in the range of exploration you can have when you talk about something, particularly in a place and time.”
Frost likes to perform in unusual venues, but performing where some of the events actually took place is new.
Her new show came from thinking about the how some of the best role models ... aren’t always the best role models.
“The thing is that to make mistakes in life is human,” Frost said, “and to learn from other people’s mistakes, to have that chance to learn from them. But i think the other... part of it is that we’ve become so concerned about what kind of positive influence we’ve having on kids. The people who are good role models, you’re often not really seeing the other side. I suspect that a lot of these good role models meant to fashion themselves that way. If they were honest, like Aloha was, we’d see a lot of other things.”
One of the themes she touches on in her play are the differences between Altadena and Pasadena. Altadena is “not about people who want to conform,” Frost said. In Altadena, “I remember many kids came from problematic backgrounds. My best friend in third grade, his father was in jail. That wouldn’t have gone over in Pasadena, but in Altadena it was OK ...
"I love living in [Greenwich] Village for the same reason -- lots of wayward people.”
"BAD ROLE MODELS AND WHAT I LEARNED FROM THEM"
A one person show written and performed by Polly Frost
Sunday, February 10th at 3 PM, 857 West Mariposa, Altadena 91001
$15, cash only at the door.
Seating will be by reservation. Reservations can be made either by calling 805-450-9955 or by visiting http://pollyfrost.com and using the contact form to email.
No children under 12 admitted, and the show is recommended for those 21 and older.
Comfortable shoes and casual clothing suggested.
There will be wheelchair access and assistance for those who need it to be seated. (Mention that when making the reservation.)
Running time: app. 75 minutes.
Seating will be be under a roof and warm and dry even in the event of cold/rainy weather.