Acting with Bette Midler
By Behn Cervantes
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 18:47:00 01/07/2011
Art work: Barbara A.
Filed Under: Americas – United States, Entertainment (general)
THE UNIVERSITY of Hawaiiâ€™s Department of Theater used to stage different productions regularly at the Kennedy Theatre.
As an East West Center scholar in theater, I auditioned for some of those productions and was cast in â€œOedipus Rex,â€ â€œThe Threepenny Operaâ€ and Moliereâ€™s â€œThe Misanthrope.â€ The Greek classic was directed by Dr. Earle Ernst.
Ernst believed in the â€œuber marionetteâ€ concept of theater, which has actors as directorsâ€™ puppets. Certainly, this was contradictory to the Stanislavski methodâ€”but, hey, he was the chairman of the department. Therefore, actors learned their lines by memorizing a taped delivery as interpreted (and recorded) by Ernst himself!
One avid theater fan was Jean King, an attractive Japanese-American who, years later, became the Lieutenant Governor of the state of Hawaii.
One of the most talented and best-reviewed performers was a high school student named Bette Middler, who dropped the extra â€œdâ€ in her name when she became famous. In the â€œThe Misanthrope,â€ I sang a song composed especially for the production. I was the only Asian in the cast.
The actor Iâ€™m pointing to is named Chris. He and Bette were cast in another production as the original missionaries who went to the Hawaiian islands to convert inhabitants to Christianity.
Later, Bette went to New York to follow the advice of a critic, who wrote, â€œThis girl belongs on the Broadway stage!â€ After working as a waitress in Greenwich Village, Bette was eventually cast as one of the daughters in â€œFiddler On The Roof.â€
Midlerâ€™s unique talent and sense of humor made her the star of New Yorkâ€™s gay baths. She altered her singing style, which was then too similar to Barbra Streisandâ€™s. Thereafter, her star started to shine on its own!