Sharon Breslau, whose one woman play Gloriously Naked & Flailing opens in a fresh new version at the Byrdcliffe Theatre Thursday for two weekends of Friday and Saturday evening performances following a July 18 pay-what-you-will preview, fills a room. Coming into Sunfrost’s brightly-lit but well-cooled juice bar on a recent morning, she’s got everyone buzzing and meeting each other in moments. And simultaneously keeping up conversations on her Bluetooth…confusing some by seemingly breaking into the occasional non sequiter before folks realize they’re just one of at least two conversations in progress.
Breslau, who is also one of the region’s top realtors, and a very busy mom and wife, is one of those sorts. She doesn’t do anything half-cocked or part-time.
Her new play is partly a reconfiguration of an older work she started putting together in the 1990s, and put on for Performing Arts of Woodstock in 2007. But it’s also largely new, having been workshopped into a fresh narrative form, from a writerly as well as an actor’s perspective, with a longtime writer friend during a North Carolina creative retreat Breslau took last winter. It follows the 30 year journey of a woman named Gloria and the people she encounters. Autobiographical? Totally…
But so is the way that Breslau has shaped her life so each of its parts makes sense for the rest.
“Both of my parents were in real estate; I was going to closings from the age of eight. And I started doing theater when I was very little,” she confides about her upbringing in rural Connecticut. “Then I went to study with Stella Adler in New York for three years, after which I worked improv and comedy clubs for years. I worked regional theater in Albany and Portland, did network pilots, had big bouquets of flowers delivered to my hotel rooms…and yet I never really played the game.”
In her 30s she married, then noticed how loudly her biological clock was ticking. She became a mom at 39…
“I said theater shmeater, I want to be with my children. I took six years off and we moved to Rutherford, NJ,” she recalls. “I had to be with my mother, who had Alzheimers, but then my husband Chuck and I realized we wanted our children to grow up in someplace fantastic. Maybe I could do some theater on the side…”
Years earlier, Breslau had tried keeping a second home in Fleischmanns. This time she wanted something with the sort of community she could really jump into and enjoy…and a decent real estate market she could ply her natural talents within.
Voila, Woodstock. And, very shortly after moving in, she auditioned at Performing Arts of Woodstock after Chuck showed her an ad for talent in Woodstock Times.
“I got a part, but then I tried out for another part as well, in disguise,” Breslau notes with a deep laugh. “I have no idea what gave me the balls for that.”
She ended up getting both and playing them as she auditioned for them…not revealing what she was doing each evening until curtain call, when she’d take off her wig and reveal the fullness of her talents.
In the years since, Breslau has directed four productions at PAW, including that first run of Naked & Flailing, and has appeared in countless roles. Performing Arts of Woodstock is presenting this completely new version of the one-woman show, with outside backing, she adds.
So what of the other sides of her life?
Real estate-wise, Breslau started by telling Chuck she’d need two years to get up to speed before letting him follow his own dream as a musician.
“True to word, I’ve now been a top producer at Century 21 and now Westwood, Metes and Bounds for years, rated number eight of all agents in the county last year,” she said. “How’d I do it? I feel the thing I’m selling is part of who I am; I love this area, its beauty, its diversity. And although when I started I was somewhat secretive about my being an actress, too — knowing how some look on actors as sort of stupid — I ended up realizing it’s part of who I am and what I’m selling about this area.”
So is she content enough now to simply follow the various strands of her current life, without further ambition?
“If someone comes along and asks me to be in their movie, I’ll be in their movie,” she answers quickly. “And I do have a new play I wrote in North Carolina while working this one into its present shape.”
She pauses, reflectively, for a moment.
“In the end, though, I‘m happy with all I have…this place, my family, my life. I’m a lucky girl,” Breslau continues. “I guess, like a newborn baby, I am gloriously naked and flailing.”
Performing Arts of Woodstock presents Sharon Breslau’s one woman show, Gloriously Naked & Flailing, at 8 p.m. on Friday, July 19, Saturday, July 20, and Friday and Saturday July 26 and 27. There’s a preview performance on Thursday, July 18, plus a Sunday, July 28 matinee at 5 p.m., all at The Byrdcliffe Theatre. For further information call 679-7900 or visit www.performingartsofwoodstock.org.