Featured “Couplets” Poet: Mary Rose Betten

April 15th, 2012

Today as part of the Couplets poetry blog tour, I’m featuring Mary Rose Betten here on my blog.

Sketch by Pat Gillin

About Mary Rose
Mary Rose Betten  is a retired character actress, essayist, playwright and Pushcart prize nominee for her first book of poetry, Finding Your Best Angle (Give This To An Actor).  Her chapbook, The Prodigal Son’s Mother, was selected book of the month for Finishing Line Press. She won Women’s Artistic Network’s 2010 Carol E. Doering Prize, and serves as reading coach on the faculty of “A Room Of Her Own” and will direct “The Pepper Lane Review,” poetry reading at Center Stage Theatre, Santa Barbara, April 27, 2012. Her poem and essay appear in Wompo’s anthology: Letters To The World, from Red Hen Press her first chapbook was Hanging Out With Loose Words, from Foothills Publishing, New York and her interview with host David Starkey on TV’s The Creative Community, won first place nationally.

Here are two of her poems:

FINAL CALLBACK
It’s your room mate’s yelp when you walk in
Your agent’s shout before you’ve said hello
Your name paged at your temporary job
It follows these three words: you  have  a
Where ever you hear it
Who ever says it
You believe one more time in magic

FINDING YOUR MARK IN A SMALL THEATRE
Pieces of duct tape on chair or table edge
Indicate where elbows, feet or shoulders
find their destination
Never stare at them
Navigate as bird finds blossom
While the house is dark
Start at your mark and walk backward
To your entrance
Opening night of “Madwoman”
Walking backwards to my entrance
I met my future husband
Searching for the men’s room

In her own words:

Why write a book of poems on acting? Nobody’s done it before, why not? Actors spend their life on the road to stardom yet nobody sees the hitchhiking between auditions. An actor booking a job depends on who is looking, listening, or phoning you, so you live by two words: be ready. I had to get old enough to pull in my thumb and sit down to capture the experience in words and so the first book of poems ever written about acting came to be from somebody who started out at the Playboy Club, except they paid me to keep my clothes on and tell jokes on the circuit. I started in Boston and from there got on the Tonight Show, Merv Griffin and MIke Douglas shows. Now all three of them are dead, I have liver spots and can’t remember punch lines.

Boston is the smallest club so I had to dress with the bunnies. I have one favorite story form there: Gina, an Italian bunny was pulling up her fishnet hose talking to nobody in particular … “I’ve been at this club for two and a half years and what do I have to show for it? Two #$%^&* ears and a tail.”

In New York I won three Clios (that’s the Oscar in the commercial world) and just happened to hit the commercial world when pretty was out and character roared in. I had a face like someone who owns a chicken farm in Idaho and looked just like everybody’s neighbor, so by the time I came to Hollywood I had filmed 200 commercials and had 36 on the air (that’s counting regional and national spots).

I became a working character actor here in Hollywood and never went back to New York. When you audition for commercials in Manhattan you see all your friends because “Madison Avenue” is a concentrated area and you are so close you could stab or shoot your competition and be the only one at final callback. You chat on the elevators and sometimes are asked to wait until there are only three of you and you know somebody of the three will not be asked to leave. You stop by the ladies room and have a cry if you are asked to leave and know there is always tomorrow.

You can never audition for Broadway if you do commercials because you would never be free to make curtain call. You begin early on commercials and shot late. The longest commercial I ever shot was for Simmons mattress it lasted four days because they had to shoot it from the ceiling to show us wrestling like professional wrestlers on the mattress. Too bad the guy playing my husband was married.

A character actor comes on the set and you don’t know anybody. Like, every Halloween I’m the witch on reruns of “Happy Days”. Fonzie had to lead me around because I wore an eye patch and Henry Winkler is as funnier off screen than on and that cast was the most fun group you can imagine. Soap operas aren’t as much fun to do even when you are a running character because there is no “table reading” you just get the script delivered, memorize it and go in, only see the people you are in the scene with, shoot it, and go home.

I think the most exciting job I ever had was two years on a hidden camera show, “Totally Hidden Video,” very similar to “Candid Camera” but a different title. I crashed in a hot air balloon, found an elephant in my swimming pool and …you get the idea. It has been a glorious time being an actress. If you’d like to know more about me, my guest essays appear on The Spirited Woman and The Last Sunday Writers Blog.

5 Responses to “Featured “Couplets” Poet: Mary Rose Betten”

  1. Lynne Lemon says:

    What a fascinating interview.  Interesting anectdotes, beautifully told.  Nice to read of Mary Rose's adventures and enjoy the end result: lively, interesting poetry!

  2. [...] Featured “Couplets” Poet: Mary Rose Betten (at Christina Nguyen’s A wish for the sky…) [...]

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  3. [...] April 2012: Featured “Couplets” Poet: Mary Rose Betten (at Christina Nguyen’s A wish for the [...]

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  4. Nancy Mills says:

    Mary Rose Betten is a genius. So very talented, her words literally rock the universe. Thank you Mary Rose for being you. Nancy Mills, Publisher of The Spirited Woman. 

  5. Mindee Gonzalez says:

    Mary Rose’s writing and poetry enables the reader to step into her shoes. So incredibly honest and heartfelt are her writings.

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