From the Vehicle of… Grace Eboigbe

by Sara Israel

Grace Eboigbe is an actress who thoughtfully and meticulously builds her characters.  As both a writer and a director, I have worked with her on numerous occasions.  They are all joyful experiences, because Grace expects collaboration in the best, and healthiest, and most artistically value-added of ways.

Something I’ve learned when I write these intros:  What I admire about my subjects as writers and as actors is so often what I doubly admire about them as people.  Grace is no exception.  I have known her since she was 18, and in addition to being a thoughtful and meticulous actress, she is a thoughtful and meticulous friend.

I have been in her car many times, and I’m honored she’s letting me in once more for these purposes. . .  

Me:  I was with you on the “journey” that led to the purchase of this car.  How many years ago was that now?  And how do you feel about this car now?

Grace:  I bought this car in October 2009, so about a year and a half ago.  I still adore it.  My previous car, a gift from my uncle, didn’t have A/C and was manual everything, so it made going to auditions a little tough, especially in the summer.  After a car accident, I needed to get a new one and I’m really grateful that I was, a) in a position to afford a new one; and, b) have an amazing friend/fairy godmother, Betty McMicken, who was able to help me get a good deal.  It sounds so silly to gush about a car, but it’s really where you spend a lot of your time in L.A.

Me:  It doesn’t sound silly at all!  It’s the whole thesis of this series after all.

Grace:  My car is something I never, ever, cared about before.  But, after living here for such a long time without A/C in the sweltering heat, your priorities shift a little.

Me:  Exactly!  So, I’m going to start at the back of your car and work my way front:  Your trunk!  This is where the mega-action is.  When I scan the contents, it looks like a healthy mix of “every day life receptacle”—books, some stray clothes, discarded sides. . . Plus “lingering show items”—a program from Theatre of NOTE and a makeup bag, for instance. . . Plus “go-to resources” like your stapler and a spray bottle of laundry detergent. . . Which I guess is just a very long way of asking, what ends up in your trunk?  And why?  And how?

Grace:  I like to think of my trunk as that closet you stuff everything into when company visits.  I always intend to do a thorough cleaning of it and then I get my car washed and everything that was in the backseat or front seat ends up in the trunk.  There’s no real rhyme or reason to it.  However, looking at it, there are a couple pairs of jeans I need to get hemmed, and it looks like you found my makeup bag that I thought I lost.

Me:  Oh goodie!  Glad I could help!  And what about those red pumps?  The ones peeking out of that shopping bag. . . I love what I see of them, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen you wear them before!  Is that possible?

Grace:  I bought those shoes for a screening of “Before I Forget,” a one-man show that I produced starring Kirk Douglas.

Me:  A great piece of work, first starting on the stage at the Kirk Douglas Theatre itself before you captured it on film.  I just wanted to interject that and toot your horn, because you did amazing work on it.

Grace:  Thank you.

Me:  But, sorry, back to the red shoes!

Grace:  For the film screening of it, I needed shoes that were fun and comfortable.  I’ve never owned a pair of red shoes before so I decided to take the plunge.  Now I wear them to every fancy event I go to.  I think it just says how laid back our friendship is that you’ve never seen them.

Me:  I think “laid back” is a kind way of saying that we’re often slobs when we’re together.  But moving forward. . . Your back seat.  First of all, it’s very clear back there.  On a scale of 1 to 10, how much did you clean up your car before taking these photos for me?

Grace:  Only about a 2.

Me:  I see your box of headshots on the floor in the back.  The other standard question:  How often—and in what contexts—do you use those hard copies these days?

Grace:  More often than you would think.

Me:  I actually have no “go-to” thought about it anymore.  Everyone I’ve interviewed seems to have a very different answer!

Grace:  For me, every time I go to an audition, audition for a play, or take a casting workshop I bring a hardcopy.  Like a girl scout, I’m always prepared!

Me:  So the front of your car. . . First off:  Sanitizer alert! Hand disinfectant and—are those wet naps?

Grace:  Yes and yes.  I’m a germphobe.

Me:  You’re the second person I’ve interviewed this month who is very hand-centric.  Though for Will it seems to be more cosmetic.  Okay, well, I’ve held the shameless plug until the end here, which I like to think shows my classiness and restraint.  Then again, since the entire production run is already sold-out, maybe it isn’t even a shameless plug?  I don’t know.  The point is, I see a script on that front passenger seat. . . Care to explain what that’s all about?

Grace:  Why yes! [jokingly clears her throat]  It’s funny you should mention that.  I’m in an amazing play called “Tommy Got His Gun”—

Me:  “Amazing?”  Well now!—

Grace:  . . . Written by a fabulous playwright, Sara Israel, and directed by Reena Dutt.  I’ll be performing it with Wilson Bethel in “The Car Plays,” which is part of RADAR L.A., and takes place in the parking lot of the REDCAT theater.  It’s an interesting concept.  The audience sits in the backseat of our car as we perform in the front seat.  It promises to be a very intimate evening.

Me:  Indeed it does!  When I asked Reena if she would consider directing it, she was completely flummoxed that the production was truly going to happen in a car.  She kept on asking me, “Really?  Are you sure?”  Once I assured her, she was completely delighted and has really run with it.  But from an actor’s point of view, how has working on a play that literally takes place in and is being performed in a car changed your thoughts on or relationship with being in a car?

Grace:  Performing in a car makes me appreciate more that everyone’s vehicle contains their own little world with their own problems or joy.  Which is what I think makes “The Car Plays” so interesting.  We all have our little routines in our car, life events that happen in our car, that no one ever really knows about unless they are in it with us.  It’s a very contained little world that is constantly in flux.

Me:  That is such a lovely thought, and so beautifully stated.  It makes me feel badly to even question you, but still, I have to. . . Because I also see a French Verb Workbook on the floor of the front seat.  And I’m pretty sure it has nothing to do with you guys translating my play and performing it in French instead?  But I want to make sure. . .

Grace:  [laughs] No, there’s no mention of that. . . Yet.  I started seriously studying French about a year ago.  My mom taught French and Italian before she retired and I always wanted to learn it.  We moved to New York when I was in middle school and they didn’t have my first choice—Latin—

Me:  Uh. . .

Grace:  I know.  I really wanted to learn it for my SATs—Yes, I was always a nerd.  Since they didn’t have Latin, my second choice was French.  But a clerical error in the administration office gave me Spanish instead, and because I was new and didn’t want to make waves, I stuck with it.

Me:  I never knew that part of it, Grace.  That honestly makes me sad.

Grace:  So, when my friend, Juliana Dever, mentioned that she wanted to learn French and had a private tutor, I jumped on the opportunity to study with her.  Our tutor has since moved to Manhattan but we still take classes via Skype once a week at Julie’s house.

Me:  I’m very, very glad your middle school angst story has such a happy ending.  You know what will make it even happier?  If we end our interview by saying something in French.

Grace:  Honestly, I don’t think my French is good enough.

Me:  Okay, I’ve got something. “Tout le monde c’est une estrade, et tout les hommes et les femmes simplement les joueurs.”  Did I just butcher that?

Grace:  You got me.

Me:  Well, it’s the thought that counts!  Shakespeare:  Please forgive us.

Sara Israel is a writer and director living in Los Angeles.
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