Covering the Tribeca Film Festival, you find out that there are many different kinds of red carpets. There are long, winding ones that allow for plenty of reporters and photographers; there are carpets so small that they can barely accommodate five press folks, let alone the multitudes hoping to get in for, say, the Palo Alto opening with James Franco and Emma Roberts. And then there’s the one for My Depression: The Up and Down and Up of It, an HBO animated short narrated by our beloved Sigourney Weaver. It’s comprised of a white backdrop and some makeshift stantions, with nary a red carpet in sight. To reach it, I have to descend to the basement, not unlike Ripley’s elevator ride down to the alien queen’s lair. There, I’m placed near the fine people from Dread Central—“look out for C.H.U.D.,” one of them cracks as we head downstairs—with a glam looking Life & Style Magazine correspondent sandwiched between us. She’s probably wondering who these carnival freaks are she’s been stuck with. But sister, this is our icon, and we’ve come to pay our respects.
Weaver arrives shortly afterward in a smart pantsuit, her shoulder length auburn hair framing her distinctive face. There’s a light in her eyes that burns as strongly now as it did thirty five years ago in Alien. She approaches me first, and I stammer my way through a question. After mentioning her icon status with gay geeks—heck, with geeks in general—to which she responds, “Well, I’m flattered,” I ask what advice she has for those seeking a career in the arts today.
She takes just a moment to consider the question. “Well, I always feel that it’s important to get a really good education because you really have to be confident in how you express yourself,” she begins. “I feel that . . . one of the main things is to get [an] education, at least in English, so that you can read and write like a madman.”
“Communicate,” I add.
Weaver nods. “So that you’re just faster on your feet,” she says. “Because I feel like more and more of the work is, like improvisational theater, about being present. And being articulate. And it’s also what’s fun. There’s so much kind of stupid stuff in the business now . . . but I don’t think you can worry about any of that. I think you just have to go for what you believe in and what you have a connection to and the rest it will kind of tell you what to do, you know? You’ve just got to get out there.”
Weaver mentions her own haven for aspiring actors, Tribeca’s Flea Theater, for which she serves on the board of directors. She touches my hands gently, and I melt just a bit. “[W]e have The Mysteries, which is a five hour show based on the Bible and it’s on the New York Times critical picks,” she explains. “We have about a hundred actors who are non-Equity and they come [and] spend a year or two at our theater and they’re in all of our productions, and we have eighteen young directors. We wanted to create something that would honor young talent, help it develop, that wasn’t a school. And you know, that’s sort of our answer, but there’s no easy answer.”
Is there an “easy” answer? “Experience, time up in front of people is so important,” Weaver declares. “But if you work hard and you love it, you’re gonna make it.” She smiles. “Sorry that’s such a long answer,” she adds.
“No, it’s a great answer,” I say, still not quite believing I’m standing here talking to the goddess who is Sigourney Weaver.
“I don’t know about that,” Weaver laughs. “Blah blah blah…”
One star like her is enough for three premieres, but there’s a surprise guest at this event: Mx. Justin Vivian Bond, performance artist, singer, writer, and painter. V’s tall and striking as always, flaxen hair tied up and a long scarf draped around the neck. Most of the other reporters don’t even seem to recognize Bond, but I eagerly approach the gender queer diva to ask some questions. Depression is a familiar subject for many queer people; what are Mx. Bond’s thoughts on the topic?
“I think when we’re LGBT kids, of course we have a difficult time,” Bond muses. “[B]ut then we think that we get older and all the sort of trauma that we struggled with when we were young is behind us because we’re free. And I think for a certain period of time that does happen but I think [it] sort of stays with you, you can’t just say, ‘Oh that’s the past.’” Bond continues: “You eventually find that you do have to deal with it and I think it’s good in a way . . . you work your way through it and deal with things, the struggle that you had, with a child’s mind and deal with them with an adult’s mind. That’s one way, I think, of overcoming it. But you have to deal with it both ways.”
I ask if Bond thinks there’s still a lot of stigma around mental health issues and depression. “I think so because you don’t want to be lonely and so you say things to make yourself more appealing, not things that make you seem like somebody people don’t want to spend time with!” Bond responds, laughing a bit. “So I think people have a tendency to try and hide depression. And it’s sort of a self-perpetuating thing because the more you try to hide it, the more you’re afraid of being alone, the more you’re probably alone and isolated. So I think it’s brave that [My Depression co-writer-director] Liz [Swados] talks about it.”
Mx. Bond discussed some of these issues in v’s book Tango: My Childhood, Backwards and in High Heels.” Might v be planning a follow-up? “I would like to,” Mx. Bond answers. “I haven’t started thinking about when but I have definitely thought about what.” The multi-talent has a number of things in the pipeline, though. “I like being an artist and I like writing and I’m enjoying singing and performing and that takes a lot of time, but I will do it,” v declares.
“Well, it’s always fun to see you perform so whatever you decide to do I’m sure it will be engaging and interesting,” I suggest.
“Well I hope so!” Bond smiles. Then v goes off to join the other artists and beauties inside the theater.
My Depression plays in the City Limits shorts program as part of the Tribeca Film Festival, Sunday, April 27 at 2:30pm at the Tribeca Cinemas.
Follow me on Twitter: @JustinLockwood2. Drop me a line at Justin.firstname.lastname@example.org
(My Depression co-writer-director Elizabeth Swados with Justin Vivian Bond)