Call Answered: Tulis McCall: Are You Serious? A Woman of a Certain Age Inquiries at Cornelia Street Cafe
I first met Tulis McCall when we both joined a theatre blogger group. I knew Tulis loved theatre and reviewed shows and that's all I knew. Fast forward to 2017 when I'm asked to come see a one-woman show called Are You Serious? A Woman of a Certain Age Inquiries. Then I'm told that one-woman show is by Tulis McCall and I go, I love Tulis, sign me up!
One Sunday afternoon, I attended Tulis' show and I was blown away by it. Are You Serious? is a show everyone can relate to because we are all aging. There was not one part of Tulis' show that I didn't identify with. Tulis is engaging, enthusiastic, and knows how to draw an audience in. She brought up several poignant points about living, mortality, fear, goals, and accepting yourself for who you are. This truly is one show you don't want to miss.
Are You Serious? A Woman of a Certain Age Inquiries plays every Sunday at 3pm at the Cornelia Street Cafe, being extended through March 26! Click here for tickets!
1. Who or what inspired you to become a performer? Oh good grief - It was always something that was comfortable and easy for me. I liked being on a stage and telling a story. Even in grammar school. To deliver a story and watch it land is a bit of magic, and to be on the initiating side is very powerful. You have to calculate and execute at the same time, and eventually you have to let go of the steering wheel for it to all work.
2. Your show, Are You Serious? is currently enjoying an extended run at Cornelia Street Café, after winning the 2015 United Solo Award for "Best Stand-Up" along with rave reviews. What made you want to create this show? I suppose it harkens back to "write what you know." I have become a "Woman of a Certain Age" and was surprised to have arrived at this juncture. When I looked around I saw not only no one talking about it unless it's as a clinical study - I saw no one who represented me. Not in the movies, onstage, nowhere. We are all over the streets here in Manhattan, but we are not represented in any artistic venue - unless of course you are an icon like the various Dames who keep working or the occassional appearance of a star like Glenn Close. But these are few and far between. I decided to write about how I was feeling, what I was thinking and observing, and see if anyone responded. They have.
3. Are You Serious? is your story about becoming a WCA (Woman of a Certain Age). What is it like to talk to the audience after the show? What do they relate to most? What has someone told you that made you change something in the show? What I have heard mostly is people, women AND men, say "I am a WCA too. I relate to everything you are saying." The other conversations are with people whose opinion I seek out and we have a conversation around where they were engaged and where they were disconnected from the piece. These are great conversations because as a performer you don't "see" what the audience sees. Just as they don't see from your vantage point.
4. In the show, you say how as a child, you would say, I'm 3, I'm 4, I'm 5, etc, but then you start to hit milestones. I hit 30, I hit 40, I hit 50. Then it becomes I reached 60, I reached 70, etc. At what age did say to yourself, I'm a WCA? After you admitted that to yourself, what was your next thought? Well, getting my Medicare Card was an eye-opener. I remember showing it to people, and my peers or those older than I responded with, "Congratulations." And people younger than I, and often by not that much, said, "What's that?" As to the "next thought" - there wasn't one. Just carry on. Those next thoughts occur gradually. Reflection. Goal setting. Reality checks. Dismissing of the naysayers in your head and externally. All sorts.
5. You also talk about how men are considered to always be in their prime, but women of a certain age are considered past their prime. You could run circles around most men with all you have going on. How do you keep your youthful outlook about yourself? I have a very low threshold for boredom. That's why I live in NYC. I remember back in the day Johnny Carson complimented Jane Fonda for how she looked - she was 50 and back then that was old. Her response was, "This is how 50 should look." So I don't think of it as a "youthful outlook" because that belies my age - which is at the center of this whole conversation. The idea of old is slow, withdrawn, frail. In other words, feeble. Time to jettison that and let us all wear our age like a many colored cloak and see what hapens.
6. I love how you talk about the way your bullshit meter changes as you get older. When did you say to yourself, I'm old enough not to have to tolerate anyone's bullshit anymore? What was the most recent bullshit you didn't put up with? If I am in a group of people and someone refers to us as guys, including people IN the group, I correct them. To refer to women as GUYS makes us invisible. People say, "Oh it is just a saying. It doesn't mean anything." And I say if it doesn't mean anything why are you wasting your breath saying it? Call us folks or people or come up with something else. I will also lean into a conversation to tell someone how many times they just used the word "like." It makes them sound so stupid, the way that smoking cigarettes makes people look stupid.
7. You also mention how as you age, you do things you may never have done before. What are some things you've done at this stage of your life, you never thought you would be doing? I never planned for the future, really. So whatever it is I am doing is usually a surprise tome. I follow my nose from one path to the next. I never thought I would be reviewing for the theatre (www.thefrontrowcenter.com). I never imagined I would produce a monologue evening once a month at the Cornelia Street Cafe (www.monologuesandmadness.com). I never thought I would be an award winning performer at United Solo Festival (2015 Best story telling script and 2016 Best Stand-Up Comedy). In 2001 I was living out in L.A. and after 9/11 I knew I had to move back. No one thought I could pull it off, move back, find a job and an apartment. Luckily I never asked anyone what they thought about it and only discovered their opinion after the fact.
8. There is a great scene where you talk about regret and the doubts that fill your head. We all have those voices. How do you keep those voices at bay instead of allowing them to flood your mind? Like I say in the show you have to get a little crazy - well craziER than the negative voices. And this is something you learn over time because eventually, if you are honest, you get bored with whining about all the bad shit that is affecting your First World Life. I am in no way Pollyanna and perky people, frankly, give me a PIA. Instead I have figured out a way to grab these voices and shake them till they are silly. You do have to give them some attention because they, like our president, are narcicistic and need attention. If you just ignore them they fester. There is a fine line between acknowledging them and giving them power - you have to strategize, get out ahead of them, just like Congress has to do as soon as it pulls it's collective head out of its own butt. The way that people are coming together to demand town hall meetings - that is what we have to do within us.
9. When you become a woman of a certain age, you get to see all the gifts you've given yourself. What are the top five gifts you've given yourself? Appreciation for my fantastic sense of humor and my point of view. Quiet time and Meditation experiments. Two women's groups with whom I meet regularly. Hope. Writing.
10. What do you think is next for Tulis McCall? I am already thinking about the next incarnation for this show. It will be called All The Queen's Horses.
11. On "Call Me Adam" I have a section called One Percent Better, where through my own fitness commitment, I try to encourage people to improve their own life by one percent every day. What is something in your life that you want to improve by one percent better every day? Oh yeah - my fitness. I have been carrying extra weight around for awhile and I KNOW it is a protective coating. So I am using one of my women's groups to be accountable using Weight Watchers which works for me because it is all about numbers. I was always terrific in math.
THANK YOU ADAM FOR THESE GREAT QUESTIONS.
Tulis McCall is an actor, writer, producer and performer. Her first one woman show, What Everywoman Knows, was produced at the Public Theater by Michael Moriarty and the Potters Field Theatre Company, in Los Angeles by Dan Lauria, and toured nationally. Running With Scissors, directed by Philip Proctor of The Firesign Theatre, was produced in Los Angeles. She is the recipient of the 2016 Best Standup Award from UNITED SOLO™ for Are You Serious? and the 2015 Best Storytelling Script Award from UNITED SOLO™ for her show All Aboard! Since 2007, she has hosted Monologues and Madness, an evening of original work read by 12-15 actors, each month at the Cornelia Street Café in Greenwich Village. Tulis is the creator and editor of the theatre review site www.thefrontrowcenter.com that features 20 writers and covers over 500 shows per year.