Nerd in Transition: A Little Person Takes on Big Hollywood
Jul01

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Nerd in Transition: A Little Person Takes on Big Hollywood

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a blogumn by Kelly Kaboom Lett

“I have a pretty charmed life.” the voice on the phone says to me.

“Really? I find it ironic that you would say that.” I retort.

She giggles a little and says,”No really I do. I know it seems like I’ve had it pretty tough, but I’m really very lucky. There are over 800 variations of being a little person, some people spend their life in a wheel chair. Mine is a cake walk.”

I’m on the phone interviewing Selene Luna, a 3’10” Mexican woman that recently closed her one-woman show “Born to Be Alive” at the Davidson/Valentini Theatre in LA. I kind of stumbled upon the show when purchasing tickets online for another friends show this past weekend. Since I’m working on my own one-woman piece, I’ve been on the lookout for this particular type of theatre. So I picked up a ticket for what turned out to be closing night. I had no idea what I was in for. In fact when Sunday night rolled around I wasn’t feeling too hot and almost didn’t go, but my Midwest penny-pincher sensibility came out and off I went. Arriving late I was the jerk that came in after curtain; as a theatre actor myself this is unacceptable behavior. Feeling sheepish about having missed the first five minutes I settled in and was immediately taken by the powerhouse on stage.

Selene Luna is a former dancer with the world famous Velvet Hammer, the burlesque troop that basically got this whole revival started and she holds the title as the only  little person burlesque performer, making her an international star. Using this as the gimmick for her show (because as you know to do burlesque you gotta have a gimmick, so it is with one-woman shows) she takes you through the rocky road that is her life up to its current point. From her beginnings as an immigrant living in a cramped house in East LA with an overbearing Aunt; to the one-armed father that works two jobs, while going to school only to leave her mother and the kids behind one day; through the awful awkardness of high school, into the disco era, the 80’s and her early performance days as a dancer and comedian — Selene handles it with humor and touching insight.

As a struggling actor/writer myself I was able to connect with this woman onstage in such an honest way that I got hit by my own proverbial lightening bolt: I’m going to interview her for my blog. Since her show is all about the transitions that her life has been about, then why not include that in my own transitional journey? After the curtain went down I waited outside patiently as she greeted her friends and supporters all the while thinking “She’s seems so much smaller offstage.” The confidence and charisma are still there, but without the stage and its spotlight she really becomes small. I suddenly understood what all those people meant when they would tell me “You just seem so big onstage.” Some actors just belong up there and it is so evident when you watch them that they take up the entire space with no thought or effort. Selene Luna is that actor.

A couple days later I’m sitting on my couch, furiously scribbling down as much as I can as Selene graciously answers my questions. If I’m going to make interviewing a habit then I might have to invest in a recorder. After congratulating her on a wonderful show we come to some agreements about theatre in general and LA. Such as she has never met so many actors who don’t like theatre as here in LA. They just don’t take stage seriously, while in NY it’s a whole other beast and the theatre is still highly respected. She says that she was lucky to have had a long run and a successful one at that, now what Born to be Alive needs is a producer. The goal is to get it on the road. While this is a difficult goal, it can be accomplished and a producer is the key. Considering that in a month and a half her only bad weekend was during LA’s annual Gay Pride event, I think she’s got a solid chance.

A considerate performer who realizes that you have to take your audience into account. Selene worked closely with her director Derick LaSalla to bring the piece to life. What originally started out as something she had written and forgotten about two years ago, turned into an intense labor of love. Together they would sit up nights going through rewrites until it spoke to her again. It was a painful process and one that Selene never wants to repeat. But it wasn’t her first one-woman show, it is actually her third and her first two sucked ass, all yammering and no gimmick. So even though she’s kind of over burlesque it just seemed the perfect anchor. After all in her words, “As an audience member you’re putting on a show, fucking entertain me.” And that she did.

When asked why she’s done so many one woman shows she first admitted to being insane. Acceptance is the first step to recovery, so I was proud of her for that. Plus she needs someplace to express herself; a way to perform because you can’t count on Hollywood to provide that. Auditions are not fulfilling, they are just work, or a chance to get work. She keeps putting on shows because she gets an idea and just has to make it come to life. Here again I was hit with another freaking lightening bolt. Why do I keep waiting on the big H to put me to work? I know better. I also have far better ideas for shows than anything I have read for in the last few years. Damn I need to get moving.

I got many details about Selene and her life in our 45 minute phone conversation, like how though there is a renaissance of shows about little people on TV right now, she still has total strangers yelling at her on the street. Of course the smug Hollywood folks are still smugly asking ridiculous questions, but she’s able to laugh it off. She seems able to laugh many things off. In fact she is grateful for her life difficulties and all. She is blessed to have the chance to work in showbiz and feel like a pretty show pony in her makeup, gowns, wigs and pasties. After dealing with all the challenges that life has thrown at her, the search for entertainment work feels like a fucking joke to her. It makes her angry to hear people bitch about what they aren’t getting in this industry and how tough it is. She sees it as a commitment and your commitment to your career will be the thing that makes your career. DAMN! Another lightening bolt.

Through it all Selene Luna has learned to work very hard and laugh her way through it. And since she finds these little and big things in life to be so damn funny she loves the chance to share it with an audience. It’s her privilege to be a performer and at 3’10” with great tits she’s got one hell of a gimmick going.

Want to see her live? Selene Luna is performing July 2 & 3 at the Downtown Comedy Club in LA. July 8 & 9 at the Laughing Skull Lounge in Atlanta, GA. July 19 & 20 with Dita Von Tease at the House of Blues in New Orleans. You can get tickets to the shows at her website: www.seleneluna.com

Top Photo Credit: Mark Berry

Second Photo Credit: Ed Barnas