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We are absolutely thrilled to present excerpts from Teresa Tyler-Hayes upcoming book Actress! Broad on the Boards The Memoirs of Teresa Tyler-Hayes - Actress.
In this installment Teresa touches on her early years and her climb to the top.
Actress! Broad on the Boards The Memoirs of Teresa Tyler-Hayes - Actress
By Teresa Tyler-Hayes
I'm often asked "Teresa, would you do it all over again if you had the chance?"
And I always laugh and laugh and laugh until tears form, drop from my eyes run down my cheeks over to my chin drip off my chin and land on my passionate breast.
Would I do this all over again? Could the sun stop shining? Could a leopard change his spots?
An emphatic YES!* (Just to clarify: Yes to the first but no to the other two.)
Acting is my life. Without acting, I would cease to be.
That is why I am Teresa Tyler-Hayes.
The Early Years
I was born as a great many others were on a dreary March day sometime in the not too long ago faraway past.
My first show stopping appearance was at the Fort Harold Maternity hospital (unfortunately recorded as 'Fart Horald" on my birth certificate) where the SRO crowd welcomed me with open arms and the Doctor pronounced me sound of health and lusty of lung. My parents Joseph and Sylvia Oleskewicz, thrilled to be blessed with such an outstanding mass of cells vowed to cherish and love me all my days. A promise they didn't keep as I outlived them, but I'm not bitter.
When I was but two years of age while watching the Wizard of Oz with my parents, I pointed to the television screen and yelled "Me too!" so my mother promptly set us upon the pageant circuit.
The early 60's was a turbulent time in the pageant world. Toothy blonde blue eyed little girls were all the rage back then and my exotic good looks were not appreciated so I had to put an extra 75% into my 110%. I tapped harder, twirled longer and sang louder than all of the vanilla cuties but still no sashes bedraped me nor did crowns adorn me.
It is all rather blurry looking back, but like bubbles in champagne the occasional memory will burst through the surface and go right up my nose.
I remember the Little Miss Hooks & Fasteners Western Regional Division Semi-final where I caught Angela Carson playing with a balloon--a balloon that served as a centerpiece for my Tribute to Gypsy Rose Lee. I remember how hard my mother tried --without success-- to have Angela disqualified, I remember how I cried for days and days and days. I remember meeting her two years later at the Miss Apple Rhubarb Junior Festival and I remember how I held her down, cut off all her hair, burned her costume and set her rabbit free.
I still have that impish sense of humour today.
When I turned 21 my mother and father sold our house to raise money for me to pursue my career in New York. I remember the excitement as we drove to the train station and I can still recall the look of pride and love in my father's face as he told me how much he loved me and believed in me.
Little did I know that would be the last time I would see him alive. (He didn't die for another 21 years, I just got really busy.)
Once I arrived in New York I made my way, suitcases and all to Broadway, the Great White Way. I can't even express what I felt as I stood on that magical street of dreams. I put down my suitcases, fell to my knees, kissed the sidewalk, raised my fist and yelled "Someday you will belong to me!"
And then my hat blew under a bus.
The Early New York Years
Through my classes with the renowned Ella Stadler I met, liked and decided to share an apartment with two fellow artistes. Genevieve Reckold and Janeanne Cabon. We lived breathed ate theatre until it was clear that we might need money as well.
I took a job at a Zayers, a coffee shop which others might have considered beneath me, but I never did. I would treat my customers like regular people and rarely did I explain how demeaning it was to serve them. My days were spent haunting the agents and casting director's offices and my evenings were spent working and dreaming.
The early 70's was a turbulent time on Broadway with the success of African Amercing productions like Raisin, The Wiz, Bubblin' Brown Sugar, Ain't Misbehavin', and Porgy and Bess I cursed my fair and fragile beauty as it kept me on the fringe.
After living in New York for three years, good fortune smiled upon me through the eyes of Sammy Hyphitz.
It had been a quiet evening at Zayers due to a massive thunderstorm and I was practicing facial exercises into the dessert spoons when Sammy entered the coffee shop. He laughed and I feigned embarrassment because it became me. I told him I was an actress and he said "Well that's a coinky-dink because I'm an agent."
Sammy usually only handled specialty acts like Dottie and Her Dancing Doggies and Ranger the Counting Palomino but he decided to take me on because he saw something in me. He told the the first thing I had to lose was the name "Oleskewicz has got to go, you need something shorter and pronounceable, how about Cable-Car?"
"Tyler-Hayes." I said surprising even myself with my promptness. To this day I swear God spoke to me in those hyphenated words. Sammy didn't believe in going the conventional route, he had lots and lots of connections in the business and before long I was going on auditions all over the trade-show circuit because as Sammy often said "Dottie didn't hit the big time rotting away in a Pepsodent Commercial."
Before long I was travelling all over the boroughs displaying everything from Fords to Patty Stackers.
Life at home was difficult. Genevieve was impossible to live with "The rent is due the FIRST of the month, Terry!", "If you don't buy it, don't EAT it Terry!", "Why did you wear my peddle pushers?" Little did I realize that this sort of jealousy would be something I'd have to deal with for the rest of my life.
Some friends from class and I decided to take things into our own hands and we formed the Thespian Theatre Collective. A local Christian charity donated a small theatre on the promise that we would donate the proceeds from our show to a worthwhile local charity.
We chose the Thespian Theatre Collective as our charity. Our first show was Oliver! In retrospect it might have been a poor choice with an all-adult cast of seven, but we thought it would showcase our range. We worked long and hard hours rehearsing our little passionate souls out there was hardly time for breathing let alone romance but leave it to me.
I found it - in the body of one Don Grady.
©Sharon Grehan -Howes