My One & Only, ATP playRites ‘04
The Weal, SAIT
If one had to define the term ‘glamour’, one could hardly do better than to point to the past century’s ultimate sex symbol, Marilyn Monroe.
Monroe, who died in 1962 of a drug overdose, lived a life that defined public glamour and, sadly, private tragedy. A runaway star on the silver screen, Monroe’s smiling public personal masked a past haunted by a mentally ill mother and a childhood spent in and out of abusive foster homes.
My One & Only, a featured play at Alberta Theatre Projects’ 18th annual playRites Festival, is giving Calgarians a chance next month to explore a Canadian connection to one of cinema’s biggest bombshells.
Written by Calgary playwright Ken Cameron, My One & Only is a fictional account of Scout, a young Banff teen whose awakening sexuality is ignited by a chance encounter with Monroe. Wandering about town together incognito, the play witnesses Monroe forming a complex, touching relationship with the teen, a boy whose own life has unfolded in an equally unsettling manner as hers.
The play was inspired by a visit Monroe paid t Banff
and Jasper in 1953 to shoot The River of No Return, a so-so western that
somehow managed to be average despite the presence of co-star Robert Mitchum
and legendary director Otto Preminger.
“It’s a pretty big brassiere to fill, as
it were,” Hughes laughed.
“The only way I’ve been able to come at it without being overwhelmed is to take it piece by piece.”
Hughes, whose first acting job years ago was, ironically,
impersonating Monroe, said My One and Only succeeds because people never
tire of dissecting the contradictory life of the former Norma Jean Mortenson.
“She was always aware she was selling sex – she knew what she was doing, and she knew how to get ahead in the business.” Hughes said of Monroe’s appeal.
Hughes describes this self-awareness as “groundbreaking”,
but added that Monroe’s conscious exploitation of her image had
its down side. Despite her success, Monroe was neither able to escape
the trauma of her past nor the stigma from a public that remained skeptical
of the actress’ actual talent.
At the end of the day, Hughes said the true tragedy of
Monroe’s life was not in what others thought of her, but rather
what she thought of herself.