Lane Bradbury: A Life of Meaning and Purpose – Page 2


Last Update: 2008
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I was not a particularly good student. In fact, I was a terrible student. School was a horror story for me! When I was fifteen I met a boy and fell in love with him. His name was Eddie Cathell and his father was a doctor and the mayor of Lexington, N.C., where they lived. He was the brother of a friend of mine at school. One day he came to visit his sister, Peggy, and she asked me if I would go out with him. I remember him coming to the front door. I saw him through the screen. The minute I saw him through that screen door I fell in love with him! (laughs) He was everything I fantasized a boyfriend should be. Of course, being that he was from North Carolina and I lived in Atlanta, we didn’t see each other a lot, but I would go up there sometimes and he would come down to see me. We talked about going to New York together. He was the person I wanted to spend the rest of my life with. Don’t tell me you can’t fall in love at fifteen! (laughs) Anyway, when I was a senior I went up to see him. I remember I was wearing my best pink skirt and matching cashmere sweater. Eddie picked me up at the airport and he was kind of quiet. He said he had to go to the train station on the way to his house. His old girlfriend, Tillie, was leaving to go back to school and he had to see her off. Eddie asked me to wait for him in the car while he went into the station, so I did. When he came back to the car he proceeded to tell me that I was very special but I wasn’t a woman to him. He said I was more like ‘this little spirit person…like an ondine.’ I said, ‘What’s an ondine?’ and he said, ‘It’s a creature from the spirit world. Audrey Hepburn is playing one on Broadway right now in a play called Ondine. That’s what you are to me. Not a woman, but an ondine’. I was devastated.

Basically, Eddie broke up with me that evening, but on Sunday we went with another couple to a beautiful mountainside covered with trees majestic in their brilliant autumn colors. At one point I tried to give him the little gold cross that I was wearing around my neck but he said he couldn’t take it. On Sunday evening he put me back on a plane to go home. I still remember, there was a full moon that night. And I also remember the way my feet felt on the tarmac as they took me away from him and how my hands felt as they held on to the railing on the airplane stairs…each step taking me into a mind-boggling land of devastating loss. I cried the whole way home—I couldn’t stop crying. I remember driving myself to school on Monday but the principal sent me home because I was just hysterical. On my way home I started to steer the car toward a telephone pole. My only thought was to kill the pain. For some reason, though, I swerved the car at the last second and just missed hitting the pole. When I got home, Miss Prinzee, our housekeeper, called my father at work because she didn’t know what to do with me. [My mother was in California at the time at a Girl Scout convention.] Daddy came home from his office and he was beside himself, too. He took me to see Miss Dorothy and she brought me to St. Luke’s Episcopal Church and prayed with me. On the way home she told me that The Atlanta Opera was doing Tales of Hoffman and she was choreographing the ballet in it. She told me she wanted me to be one of the dancers. I remember she said, ‘Lane, you can take all the devastation you are feeling right now and put it into something beautiful that will make other people happy’. I thought about it and agreed to do it. I often wonder: what do people do with their devastation when they don’t have a creative outlet?

I did the performance of Tales of Hoffman and shortly afterwards I was driving to school and I heard on the radio that The Atlanta Playmakers were holding auditions for a play called (get this) Ondine. I called my mother from school and asked her if she could get a copy of the play from the library because I wanted to audition for it. The library didn’t have the play but I decided to go to the audition anyway. It was held at the D.A.R. Building in Ansley Park. I arrived and signed in and was handed sides to read for the part of Ondine. I didn’t know what the play was about but the scene that I was given was between the Knight Hans and Ondine. I thought, ‘Eddie said I was like Ondine, so Hans must be like Eddie.’ All I did was read the scene like it was Lane talking to Eddie. The next day I got a call to ask me if I would like to play the lead, Ondine. Of course I said yes and went and picked up a copy of the script so I could see what I would be doing. I don’t remember getting any direction in rehearsals except that I had to speak up to be heard. My body had been trained but not my voice. Rehearsals were magical. It was like I was with Eddie all over again. Then came the performance. In the last scene of the play Ondine has to tell Hans goodbye. They’re going to two different worlds but she promises she will be true to him always. I knew what that felt like, but during the performance I heard someone laugh. That really shook me. When I came off stage I burst into tears. I didn’t want to go back out there for curtain calls because I felt that I must have been horrible. Some sweet member of the cast put their arms around me and said, ‘Sometimes people laugh when they are moved because they are too ashamed to cry.’ She said that there were a lot of college boys from Georgia Tech in the audience. When they finally got me back out on the stage it was just filled with flowers for me. I remember going from devastation to wonder and then the people begin to come back stage and I saw tears running down so many cheeks. What an amazing time that was for a 16 year old.

I was still very young, just a teenager, when I moved to New York City to pursue becoming a dancer. My introduction to life in the city was an eye-opener. I moved into a cold water flat. It had a couple of rooms, a tiny kitchen and a tiny bathroom…and lots of cockroaches! But I was in heaven. My parents walked up the three flights of stairs to my apartment and they were ready to bring me back home but it was already too late. I was there and I was going to stay! Because I didn’t go to college, they enrolled me in a pantomime class at Columbia University and that’s where I met an actor named Tom Wheatley. One day I was watching him rehearse and I never saw such freedom in an actor. He was on stage and then at one point he walked off stage and started walking across the chairs in the auditorium. I was fascinated by him. After he finished rehearsing, I saw him in the lobby of the theatre. I walked up to him and said, ‘Can I say something to you?’ He said, ‘Yes’. He leaned down and I whispered in his ear, ‘I love you’. (laughs) Well, right away we became best friends and he became my mentor, as well. When he auditioned for The Actor’s Studio he asked me if I would audition with him. I said ‘Sure, but what’s The Actor’s Studio?’ (laughs) He told me that it’s a place where James Dean and Marlon Brando and Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward and Montgomery Clift all studied. I said ‘Oh, wow…that sounds like a really good place.’ I had no idea what it was! Anyway, we chose to do a scene from Ondine and we went in and auditioned and they asked us to come back and do another scene. The final audition was in the afternoon of the night I was to leave NY to fly home for Christmas. Tom called me the next day and told me they had accepted us both into The Actor’s Studio! So I got into the Studio really not knowing anything much about acting except just being me.Tom was really an awesome person to work with because he never pushed me…he never pushed me to act. He only pushed me to be Lane.

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