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He gets a thrill from performance: “It can be truly scary sometimes, but when you channel it, fear can become energy you can bank on.”

Giving up a teaching career’s been difficult. Marcinowski struggles with his decision to become an actor every day. “But it’s a fire I can’t put out. If your path is unclear before you, then create it as you go. So I struggle. But you know what? Screw it! I’m a dreamer that can’t see myself doing anything else. Acting is my redemption, my crowd noise, my feeling of whole. It scares me to death, but damn, it’s exciting!”

JO-DARLENE REARDON. “I was an extremely quiet and shy young girl,” says Reardon, now 65. She stayed home and watched Bette Davis movies. When she was 13, in the late 1950s, her parents sent Reardon to Junior Theatre to overcome her shyness. “Petrified and excited,” she sat in a corner, wanting to audition but “scared to death.” She went several times “but just sat there.” Eventually she landed a part as a dancer in Aladdin, and it changed her life.

“I still hold my emotions close,” she says, but when she’s onstage the shyness goes away. “A very good friend used to say I had two personalities.

“Actors get labeled, but I’ve never met such a variety anywhere else —all walks of life — and theater accepts them no matter what. I can’t think of many other fields that do that.”

An SDSU grad who taught speech therapy and special education in the schools for 30 years, Reardon learned the piano for Holy Ghosts. On opening night, she played five traditional hymns like a pro.

During the fourth week of rehearsals, tests revealed a tumor in her bladder. “I have cancer,” she told the assembled cast, “but I’m not quitting the show.”

She had an operation on April 29 — and will require another. Holy Ghosts opened May 3 (and closes this weekend). Reardon never missed a rehearsal or a performance.

“When I heard I had a tumor, rather than mope, I said to myself: ‘I don’t care what it is. I won’t stop living or doing what I love.’ ”

The day she got the biopsy results, Reardon decided to audition for a bit part in Vanguard’s Annie Get Your Gun. The tryout called for singing and dancing. She did both, with all her heart.

[***]

Oakley Hall, San Diego-born novelist, died Monday, May 12, in Nevada City. He was 87. He wrote Warlock (which Thomas Pynchon ranks “among the finest of American novels”), he founded the Squaw Valley Community of Writers, and, for 20 years, he directed the nationally ranked creative writing program at U.C. Irvine. When I was a grad student in literature at Irvine, Oakley had an office across from mine. He became a great friend and mentor. I learned two things fast: never play poker with him (he had a novelist’s eye for “tells”), and heed every word he says about writing. For years, as we headed off to classes, he gave me an ongoing, off-the-cuff master class on the “delightful drudgery” of writing. He wrote two books on the subject: The Art and Craft of Novel Writing and How Fiction Works. I can’t recommend them enough — and couldn’t miss him more.

To read Justin Wolff’s 1991 interview with Hall, click here. You can hear the writer and the teacher: he knew the craft like few others.

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