She struts her stuff. And, struts it well! Catherine Hickland (Lindsay, OLTL), pictured at right in a scene from OLTL's Valentine's Day episode, has got what it takes to stand up on stage and tell her touching, funny, poignant, and ultimately triumphant story nightly at New York’s Dodger Stages in PIECES (of ass). As the guest "centerpiece," she’s one of 12 beautiful women who try to explain that “being beautiful” has its own set of challenges.
Now, you may say to yourself, whoa, how can I feel sorry for her, but Catherine Hickland doesn’t expect that of the audience. What she gives us is the person behind the façade. She does it beautifully, perhaps better than any of the other women alone up on that stage. Hickland’s monologue is insightful, as well as a confessional.
There is an ease and confidence she projects, a polish in her performance that makes you feel as though she’s been doing this particular play for years. She hasn’t -- and that’s what makes her 15 minutes on stage all the more special. A multi-media show that punctuates her story with pictures of her life, the men in her life, and the life in her men, Hickland makes sure the audience identifies with her life. Whether it’s her encounter with Evil Knievel as a young girl growing up in Florida or the moment of shame she’s lived with, in silence, until the premiere of the play, Hickland knows how to tell a story. One moment you’re laughing, the next you’re crying. She looks great and moves almost catlike in her striking black outfit. Think a spider’s web and that’s what she looks like from behind. But from any angle, Hickland’s take on her life is well worth more than 15 minutes.
After the show, SOAPDOM caught up with Hickland in the lobby of Dodger Stages, but we had to wait a few minutes. Some very enthusiastic fans had been in the audience and they wanted to tell her how much they liked the show. She couldn’t have been more gracious. If someone wanted a picture, Hickland was more than happy to oblige. As the crowds started to thin out, she finally took a breath and sat down with SOAPDOM for a brief conversation about PIECES (of ass), OLTL, and her husband, All My Children’s Michael E. Knight.
Brian Howie, the producer, creator, and director of PIECES (of ass) wanted Hickland to join his show. But how it happened she’s not sure. “He came to me, I don’t know how or why? They came to my agents and my agents called me, and I said, ‘Pieces of Ass,' what kind of show is that?” They said, come see it, and they gave me two tickets to go see it, and I honestly did not expect, really, much, you know what I mean? I don’t know why. Maybe, it was because the title. By the time the show was over I was looking for him in the lobby to tell him that I wanted in because I was so blown away by the concept. His vision of it, what it is. I just loved it. I knew right away I wanted to be in the show. Right away.”
PIECES has always had celebrity centerpieces, but Hickland explained, “I’m the first in New York. To what extent they’ve had short monologues –“ Right in the middle of our chat, a fan approached her, and Hickland took a moment to sign his program and thank him for coming to the show. Than, without missing a beat, she picked up right where she left off – “I think that mine will definitely will hold a record.”
At 15 minutes, Hickland's monologue is the longest, but it feels more like five to seven. “My biggest concern of my monologue, being as long as it is, is that it would be interesting enough to hold people’s attention. It has to be way that for all. This is a theatre and you can’t count on people knowing who you are. That was my concern. That it would be interesting enough to capture people for 15 minutes, whether they knew me or not.”
The moment Hickland decided to get in on the action, she became a woman with a mission. “Brian told me to sit and write. We met for about three hours and talked. Then he said, just write your life, streaming thoughts and this and that. Well, I’m a writer so I just can’t write streaming thoughts. So, it was eight hours at my computer and I was so sick of myself. And I handed him something like 15 pages, and I said, ‘Do with it what you will, you know, good luck. Because sort through it and whatever you like.’" The final result is the Cliff notes version. "But he streamlined it in a way that only a writer and a director would be able to streamline it to a place where it has a flow, where it has a through line. And, hopefully capture people’s imagination and attention. Then he wrote me that beautiful ending.” But, SOAPDOM won’t give it away.
The show is more than a tell-all. It’s a catharsis, not only for Hickland, but for the audience as well. “I’ve been through so much, and not all of it’s good. And that’s a life to me. We don’t really learn anything from the good things that happen to us. We just know they feel good. So, when the bad things or the hard things happen, you get through it. And then you think, okay, if I talk about this maybe it’ll help somebody understand that might be going through it now, or when they do get to that point, because we’re all going to go through it. I see a lot of women in the audience and I see it in their faces.” Yes, she can actually see beyond the footlights, almost halfway up the house. That emotional connection only feeds her performance that much more.
And Hickland’s having a ball doing the play. “I love it. It’s possible, I may be absorbed, and stay with the show, a while now.” You heard it here, first!
Another first is a very difficult moment in the show when Hickland divulges the most painful experience of her life. When she decided to do PIECES, she gathered up her courage and decided to tell it all. And that “all” was a secret she’d buried deep inside for many years. So deep, she never even told her husband. The first time he heard it was opening night. “He was really surprised, I think. Really amazed, by all the things he may have never known. It was such a source of incredible shame. You always think it’s your fault. And, it’s not. Because people are going to think you’re lying. So, no, I never told anybody about it. Michael was not in shock. He was…he felt bad. But it’s good for me because I’m able to get it out now and to get rid of it.”
If you want to know about this portion of Cat’s life, you’re going to have to get yourself to New York and Dodger Stages.
She adores the challenge of appearing on stage, “It’s really, really awesome. And, it’s so fun to be a on a stage by yourself.” Hickland loves it so much that she’s already cooking up another idea, “I’d like to do the Doris Day story. She doesn’t know about it, but I could play her life for sure and I know everything about her.” Another first, you’ve heard here!
But how does Hickland juggle her day job, her personal life, and the very successful world of Cat Cosmetics? “There’s no Wednesday matinee on this show so I don’t have to put anybody out. I’ve done it for so many people over the years on our show. I’ve had to bend my life around other people’s schedules for six years. I don’t care. I’m happy to do it. The only thing that would be required is that I get out by 6:30 so I can get to the theatre by seven. That’s not all that hard.”
One Life to Live is her home away from home, “I love working with Tim Stickney (RJ). I’m loving this storyline. I think these two characters are so interesting together. I always loved working with him and I never imagined we’d ever be moving into any kind of romance. It looks as though that’s where it’s headed. He’s so unbelievably talented. Right now, we’re moving along with it and I think that it’s working and from the way the fans are responding to it -- they want us to have this relationship and I’m like ‘Wow, you know maybe, wow, maybe we’re going to get some backlash because of the interracial relationship aspect of it. You know I’ve been there for seven years and he’s been there for a lot longer than that and these characters are so rich and full-bodied that they become colorless. You fall in love with people!”
Unlike Lindsay, Hickland doesn’t worry about tomorrow. She takes her life and her storyline on One Life as it comes, “I never think about it. I wait ‘til I get my script, and I open it. I never ever give it a thought. Isn’t that amazing?” She doesn’t want to know the storyline, “It’s not my life. It is my job. And I love it. And I’m so grateful for it. But I think when you’re an actor, if you start looking for things, than you set yourself up to be disappointed in a way.”
SOAPDOM was curious and asked if she gets to know anything down the line? She doesn’t. “Nor do we in life," she said. "So you don’t need to know what’s going to happen. You don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow and neither do these characters and I know actors and actresses who are desperate to know what’s going on and I’m like, whatever! I just know that whatever they give me I’m going to make it as entertaining as I can and have fun for sure.”
Hickland’s appearance on stage in PIECES (of ass) gives us a glimpse into a life, and like all lives, it's a work in progress.
See Catherine Hickland in PIECES (of ass) as the Centerpiece now through March 31, 2005 at NY's Dodger Stages on West 50th Street. Tickets are available through telecharge.com or by calling 212 239-6200. For more info on PIECES visit piecesofass.com
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