HAPPY BIRTHDAY MY BEST FRIEND
Sorry for missing last week, I was away on a writer’s retreat. I was working on a feature film script and had no internet access. Got a lot of work done and really happy with what I wrote.
Now to this week. Today is the birthday of one of the world’s best people and I felt compelled to write a blog about her. So happy birthday to my very best friend in the whole world, the wonderful, Charlene Ramage.
I met Charlene in 2004. My career was still very new. My first show had been in 2000 and the year before I had had my biggest success yet, “Go West”. I had written a play I loved, “The Bridesmaid Must Die!”. As you can tell by the title, it was a very black comedy. I held auditions at the Riverside Theatre in Parramatta, where the show would play. I remember Charlene’s audition vividly. I was immediately struck by her character, she was a wonderful person and I loved chatting with her. The chat before the performing of a scene is just so important for me, to see if it is someone I can get along with. Charlene passed this test with flying colours. Then there was the audition piece, a monologue from the play. Again, nailed it. And this role was important to me, because they would be playing opposite me, as my ex-girlfriend. I cast Charlene and a friendship began immediately. Loved working with her on this show, a consummate professional and a bloody big talent.
Next up, it was time to move into Newtown for a play I wrote called, “The Subtle Art of Flirting”. I was nervous about this play. It was 2005 and there weren’t many rom coms for the stage. I needed a support network around me, so of course cast Charlene (as well as the wonderful Nicole da Silva). I wasn’t prepared for the success that show would have. Three sell out seasons, including a tour of venues. It was great to share that journey with my best friend. Charlene brought a warmth, humour and self deprecating beauty to the role of Anika, a woman who gets rejected a lot. Some of my favourite moments from that season include painting to 3am with Charlene and in the tech rehearsal, I hadn’t played the music for the cast. We were rehearsing and after a particularly heartbreaking scene of rejection for Charlene’s character, she exits and Kasey Chambers’ “Not Pretty Enough” starts playing. Poor Charlene felt that one.
There have been so many shows. Two seasons of “We’ll Always Have Wagga”, one where Charlene was very pregnant and the other when her daughter, Bronte, was tiny. One of my favourite moments from that second season was while we were in Wagga performing the show. Charlene was on tour with her wonderful hubby, Matt, and baby, Bronte. One morning we were about to go for breakfast and they knocked on my door, and the second I opened the door, Bronte nearly leaped out of her father’s arms and into mine. It made me feel such love in that moment and a lifetime connection with Bronte (after all, I did cast her as my daughter in “After Nightfall”).
There was “The Green in Mrs White”, where Charlene played a murderous 50s Housewife who began killing people to win to local bake off and a number of Short and Sweet plays. Charlene, now with three children, has since retired from acting – though I did lure her back to play a Mum in Amber Lawrence’s recent “Heart” music video.
One of the things I love most about Charlene is her unwavering support. I know, no matter what, she is in my corner. This business is hard, it can be soul destroying and you need someone who will always back you up. She’s the kind of friend who would show up with a shovel if I told her I’d “accidentally” killed someone. Whenever I write something, she is the first person I send it to. And whenever I have big news, the order is Mum, and then Charlene. Her family is like mine, we spend every Christmas Eve together and it really is a highlight for me every year. My love carries over to her husband and three children, Bronte, Zak and Ewan.
I love the rare times we have travelled together, always to support my work. She came with me to the Gold Coast to watch a production of my play, “24 Ways To Say I’m Gay”, and last year she joined me in New York for the NYC Web Fest and we had the best time (I will be writing about that trip just before my trip to NJ in 5 weeks time).
Her generosity is second to none (her house became the main location for After Nightfall and According to Otto) and I love her with all my heart. Her health hasn’t been the best the past few years and I hope so much that things improve soon. Anyone deserves to live a happy and healthy life, it is her.
I feel sorry for people who don’t have a friend like me, a friend they can truly depend on. It is rare and I am one lucky man. Thank you, Charlene, for being my constant, for being my drive and being my best friend. I love you with all my heart. Have the BEST birthday. See you for brunch very soon.