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Bryna Paston


I grew up in “Happy Valley”which is another name for State College, PA which is another name for the town attached to Penn State University which is another name for the Middle of Nowhere, PA. But I can explain: My father was a professor at Penn State so my family lived there in a small isolated “company town” called State College, which makes no sense at all but the founding fathers never wanted to change its name so that people coming and going and trying to find it buried behind a couple of monster mountains couldn’t.

But it’s easier to find now, State College, PA grew up too and became charming. i graduated from Penn State in 1959 and off I went to NYC. My father wished me alll good things and my mother took to her bed. My sister, 8 years older than me, had long gone. There were two parental conditions surrounding my escape to NYC: I needed to have a job and I needed to have a roommate. I did.
I went to the BIG APPLE at age 22 and discovered London Broil on a menu, Had no idea what it was. Found out it’s really good. There were people along the way who explained life in the BIG CITY to me as i morphed from a country bumpkin to a City Girl.  I had a job in a large department store as a copywriter. (Journalism was my major). I met my future husband, Alan (never to be called “Al”) a Brooklyn boy grad from NYU who was an industrial engineer until he became a vice president in a couple of cosmetic companies called Revlon and Charles of the Ritz.
We moved to Philly area while Alan worked  for Merck, Sharp & Dohme and we stayed there for 50 odd years while our two kids, Michael and Dina made their way in the world. Both are now grandparents. I can’t explain it - it just happened. 
As for me I pursued two passions - both fraught with rejection - acting and writing. I often drove to Trenton and took the train to New York for auditions and now and then, i actually got a few jobs. Once I was  a little old lady with teensy curls in my already naturally curly hair, wearing a ratty old coat and snooping on the neighbor hottie: actress/model Emily Ratakosky whom the producers flew in from LA to star in a typical NY scene. (Obviously, all the New York actors were busy that day???) Emily was out walking her dog; cab drivers were bumping into telephone poles to gawk (not really… this was make believe!) She, Emily, was advertising a new line of black Donna Karen lingerie which looked damn good on her as she pranced around 14th street. I made a “fed up with my apartment neighbor grimace" as she came by, dog in tow, No lines, just a scowl from me… and I was paid handsomely.
Then there was the gig in a Brooklyn park where the stars (a fake doctor and nurse) pounced on top of my hospital bed - which I was in - to make love. I was supposed to be comatose so I didn’t even flinch. All my gigs were laden with delicious lunches and a lot of laughs. Even Alan enjoyed them, too, especially chatting with Emily in between bites, When he came along with me to these jobs, he ate as well as the cast and crew and nobody ever asked who he was and why he was there. 
Then there was my gig in Philly where my actor husband and I were toasting ourselves and celebrating the fact that we both scored well in our SATs and had been accepted to college. Of course we were in our 80s. We had a pretend group of friends celebrating with us and a fancy dining table set before us along with candles and fake champagne.
As for my writing career, I have written two very popular gift (small) books especially for grandparents: “How to Be the Perfect Grandma” and “How to Be the Perfect Grandpa, Listen to Grandma.” Both published by Sourcebooks, Inc. and still on the market since 2001And I still get royalty checks twice a year. No, not as grand as they used to be but still …. All I do to get them is open the envelopes.
After Alan died almost two years ago, I decided it was time for me to move closer to the kids. Dina lives in Newport, RI; granddaughter Kelsey lives in Hyde Park, MA with an 18 month old little girl named Tessa who goes out for ice cream with me once a week. She’s the light of my life. Granddaughter Amanda lives in Bristol, RI and recently got married. I am lucky enough to have six grandchildren and three greats. Two of the latter I unfortunately had to leave back in Philly along with their mommy, my eldest grandchild, Rachel. And my son Michael is still in the city of Brotherly Love too. I miss them a lot. 
I moved into Orchard Cove in Canton, MA about 9 months ago knowing no one and meeting a lot of Patriot fans who live in this senior community with me, and only one of them indulges me occasionally to talk about the Philadelphia Eagles or the Seventy Sixers. Happily a group of them humored me and watched the Super Bowl with me. Yes, I know, I know, we didn’t win but we had a great first half.
What’s in store for my future? Hopefully lots of good times, good friends and concerts and programs I will love. No, this is not home - yet but it’s as close as I can get. Be well and happy, my friends and find your sunshine today.
Disclaimer: Unedited AI transcript
Bryna (00:00):

Okay. I started acting when I was very little, very young. I did brother come and dance with me. Both my hands, both my hands. I offered well come and, and dance with me. Both my hands. I offered the work for first left with them roundabout and back again. You think I have any idea what that's from? No, but I was, I was young and so was my partner, so that's where it started. And from there I just got consumed with the acting possibilities around just local, just, I wasn't, you know, I had no great grandeur, you know, there was no great ideas of, of future on Broadway, although <laugh>, it's, it's always there. I always think, you know what if, but then you know, you do the what ifs and you can't move. So you gotta just keep going and do things.

Bryna (01:02):

And I did a lot of stuff locally at the university and I did stuff in the town in state college and that was good. And just local, you know, little, little performances, little, little theater actually is what it was. And there were a few groups around not connected with the university. They were just private groups that people, you know, just started. And and I loved it. Of course, what's not to love? Everybody's, everybody loves the theater. And I did. I fell in love. I had a crush on the theater and it stayed, it stayed my whole life. And so when I grew up and got to be a person I decided, well I could go to New York to live because I have to get outta State College. This is a one one horse town and I'm not getting anywhere. And my mother said, you should take, you should go back to school and, and, and take nursing.

Bryna (02:05):

I had, oh my God, get me outta here. So I did. I left. I didn't know anybody in New York. I didn't know anybody anywhere. And I said, I just have to do this. I mean, I just have to do this. So I went to New York and and that's when I started signing up. I actually, I guess you might know of them actors access and the other one, which is something, and I, I pay them, used to be $50, $60 a year, I think it went up. But who cares? I get promotional pieces from them on, on jobs, on auditions and otherwise, how would I ever know what's going on? And it's tailored to me. So I'm not looking at jobs for 20 year olds. I'm looking at jobs for old, ancient, old people like me. And, and they've been pretty

Speaker 2 (02:58):

Steady. It's been all you have to do is pay the fee and they come and then you have to follow up. And, and I did and do. So I continued to do that all through college. And I did a lot of theater in college to, I did, I guess my I'm trying to think what was the, the best one was Annie, get Your Gun. Cause there were like about 200 girls who tried out for Annie and they were magnificent and they had voices and I didn't, I was just loud and forceful and pushy. And I, I got it. I got the part. And that's what they wanted. It was an exquisite performance. I'm never off stage. I'm sure you know, Annie Oakley, she never, she never leaves the scene. And it was a, it was a good production. They did very, I thought, very good productions.

Speaker 2 (03:56):

And once you're, once you're in that mode and you're in the, you're in that theater scene, you can't get out y you know, cuz it's there, it's there, it's in your heart, it's in your mind. And you keep thinking what's gonna be the next job? What's gonna be the next choice? So I kept trying and doing and occasionally I would get something in New York and audition. And I always say the audition is three times as hard as the performance always. And the pressure of the audition is. But then it's so quick. You're in and out in two minutes and then you spend, I spent the rest of the time walking in the streets of New York to get back to the to the train and talking to myself and redoing the audition because it wasn't good enough for me. And in some cases it wasn't good enough for them.

Speaker 2 (04:45):

So, you know, that's funny how that works out. So I just kept doing it and doing it. I never had any delusions of grand jury. I always thought this is what I wanna do. And the parts were interesting. There were a lot of old lady parts, old men, old lady parts. I would walk into the audition office as big as this room and hundreds of women sitting around, hundreds of mes sitting around. And I would size it all up. And I would say, I don't have a, I don't have a chance, but some, sometimes I did. So it works itself out enough. You get enough good gigs that it offsets the stuff you don't get. And that's what keeps you going. And it did. And it would, and I keep thinking about it here cuz I had a I had an agent at home and I could maybe get an agent here, but I, I don't know, you know, I don't know the, I don't have a car, so that's a big factor.

Speaker 2 (05:49):

However, what do I wanna do? Do I wanna do the same thing? Yeah. I don't know if, if the phone rang and there was an audition for me to go to, I'd run. Cuz that's how I feel about it. It's right up there with the top three most important things in my life. And that was theater and writing. And and I feel good cuz I feel like I've accomplished something. And in, in, in the art, in the arts, it's not easy. And the competition is very, very, very keen. Very keen. Met a lot of people. Once in a while I would see the same people auditioning over and over like I was. And I never, it never got to the point of I have to do this. I just said, you know, I got I was writing my books and I was involved in that and, you know, just x amount of hours.

Speaker 2 (06:51):

But if a call came in or I applied, if I saw something and in one of the web on one of the websites for acting and it looked good and I would say, they want me, so I'm gonna, I'm gonna, I'm gonna answer it. And I would say half the time nobody replies or half the time it's thanks for no thanks. And then the other half the time, that's three halves. That's the other half the time <laugh>. I get it. And so, you know, that's all I need. I just, I just need that applause. Once in a while it was a Donna Karen commercial for a new line of black lingerie for women and obviously, and it was filmed in New York in an apartment, an old dilapidated apartment building on, it's like 1430 around their street. And it was empty of course because they, they borrowed the, the property and or they buy or they rent the property.

Speaker 2 (07:52):

And so I went up to find out what I had to do. And it was only, they don't tell you a lot in the beginning. They never wanna give you too much information too fast cuz they think you're gonna check around or they think you're gonna look elsewhere or I don't know what they think, but they're very cautious about that. So you don't know a lot when you're going in and that's okay. So I went in for the audition and I had no lines. And I always say, thank you, God, it's okay. I'll be fine. I don't need them. And so and they dressed me up and they put on a ratty old, a really ratty old fur coat where the fur had died twice. And and they put, they put curlers in my hair. Well, look at my hair. Does it need curlers? Absolutely not. It's very curly. But they put the curls in the curls and I, and they were so tight and I thought, this is so crazy. Why are they doing this? I have curls.

Speaker 3 (08:54):

Anyway so it, it was a, it was the rat for a coat and it was, and they curled my hair and they didn't do a whole lot anywhere else because all I had to do was, I lived in the apartment next door to Emily Rakowski, who was they? They imported from LA to play the lead here. And all I kept thinking was, are there aren't any actors in New York? I mean, why, why, why? Because they love to spend money. I don't know why. So, and she was lovely and charming and my husband was with me. He often came along, nobody noticed. He got in line for the, the catered lunches. He talked to everybody on the set. He had a wonderful time. Nobody ever asked who he was or what he was. It was just another person, you know, meandering around. I was just good.

Speaker 3 (09:47):

It worked. And he tried to stay out, out outta sight most of the time. And he did. But he when they weren't on set, some people like Emily Rakowski, she sat down on the sofa next to him. So he had a wonderful time because she was very, very sexy. So anyway, that was, that was, that was a lot of fun. And all I had to do was go to my apartment door from the inside open at a crack as she is prancing down the steps because she's gonna walk her dog and she is prancing down the steps. And my timing is such that I just open the door and I go, cuz I'm so disgusted with what I see this little tramp. I mean I am so disgusted and that's it. Close the door, I'm done. And $2,500 later they paid me. It's outrageous to pay me that much money to open the door and look disgusted is outrageous.

Speaker 3 (10:51):

That's why I did commercials cuz they paid better than anything else. I did the couple, the old, old, old old old couple who are celebrating, that was the other one. Yeah. That they got, they, they just, they just passed their SATs. They just got to notice that they passed their SATs and they are old. And the one who's playing my husband was about your height. And you know that I'm not even close to that. So we look comical to get, we're supposed to be a funny thing. No lines. Again, we were toasting each other with fake champagne and we had a whole table set in front of us and we were having a party to celebrate. All our imaginary friends were there. And it was, it was really, it was funny. It was a hoot. Lot of good funny stuff, which I really seen in it was Brooklyn Park and there were several groups of actors involved. And the person, the lead was a very short little actor. I know who she is, woman. And she has two brothers who are writers. And she was, and she's very funny. And they put me in a hospital bed, in a park in Brooklyn, and I mean, in a park. The hospital bed was there and I was in it and I was supposed to be dying.

Speaker 3 (12:24):

So I was dying. And then the doctor and the nurse came in to see me and they picked up one arm and they picked up another and I was dying. And then they jumped on top of me because they were making love. And I was under all that. I was under all that. But I didn't flinch. I was perfectly straight and, and, and calm and I, I couldn't make a move because I was dying. And I did a few of those, actually the dying ones because they look at you and they say, oh, we could do her, you know, in the dying scenes. And so there were, there were a few of those that were okay. They were, that one was fun because we were in a park and a whole lot of people were there and it was who were actually in the scene with me.

Speaker 3 (13:12):

But on that particular scene, it was just me, the bed and the medical people. And that was, that was the whole thing there. So from time to time, I, I, I went to New York fairly often and then dry, you know, dry spot, dry dry time when things weren't happening. And then things started happening again. It was exceedingly good in that I didn't have to do anything except get there. And that was great. And then they sometimes when it was, when I had lines and I did get parts with lines, they sent me the scripts, you know, so I couldn't, I could learn 'em. And there was never anything really involved in terms of the script. It was pretty cuz they were commercials, you know, so in and out quickly. But those, those two that I just told you were really a lot of fun. Goodbye folks.