Carol Hollenbeck knew one thing. “Ever since I was a little girl I never wanted to be an actress. I wanted to be a movie star.” Confident, powerful, and passionate, Hollenbeck, a 1960s Vegas showgirl turned Hollywood actress turned playwright (with a splash of Broadway usher) dreams it and then manifests it. This Thursday, she is having a reading of her play, Home Town Premiere, which is loosely based on an event in her life. The play has been incubating for the last 12 years but it’s In the last eight months that she has taken major steps towards completing the play. Hollenbeck said she had “…to get back to this play and something is missing.” She collaborated with a dramaturg and a director and also allowed freedom for the artists create.
Hollenbeck’s trajectory is fascinating. In her own words, she was born in Newburgh, New York, just sixty miles from New York City where she had the honor of winning several local beauty pageants. She traveled to Hollywood, California in the nineteen sixties and changed her last name to Holland. In Hollywood, she was truly discovered walking down the famous street of Sunset and Vine. The first week she arrived, she was hired for a television commercial. She filmed a candy commercial, where she played the role of “Miss Vanilla” for SkyBar candy. Soon after, she was picked to be a Las Vegas showgirl, and found herself working at the famous Riveria Hotel in the heart of the desert. There she pranced nightly in the musical IRMA LA DOUCE with the sizzling dance star Miss Juliet Prowse. Returning to Hollywood, she acted in several low budget teeny bopper films, where she wore her bikini well. She played a featured role in another teen movie EDEN CRIED, which premiered in her home town of Newburgh. She flew home in true movie star style to a wonderful and exciting event. She was greeted with open arms and good reviews…then the hard knocks began.
After Hollywood disappointments, she decided to move back to New York.
Hollenbeck shared her experiences as she studied playwriting with Arthur Kopit and John Guare. It was in Kopit’s class that she wrote The Christmas Dinner aka Upstate Mourning. The one thing that stood out in Kopit’s class was the offering of an opening line like “Did you bring it?” She further developed the play with the Women’s Ensemble Group. She also wrote Broadway Baby, a satirical view on her days ushering on Broadway which won awards. Upstate Mourning was produced Off Broadway a few times and adapted to screenplay with Monteserrat Montez. The boom of theatres in Hell’s Kitchen gave her the opportunity to continue getting her work done. The Lifters was a part of a short film festival as well as nominated for Samuel French One Act Play. Hollenbeck created the Hell’s Kitchen Film Festival, Hell’s Kitchen Writers Group, and works with Heidi Russell and the International Women Artist’s Salon.
As with her other pieces, she sees a life beyond the pages and a reading. She is open to the those next steps. I asked her what advice she has for any one at any age who wants to take a chance. “Do it.” That’s my favorite advice too.
Hometown Premiere: It’s the tumultuous nineteen sixties in a small town in upstate New York. When a young girl returns home from Hollywood to attend her local hometown movie premiere, what should have been a joyous occasion, slowly turns into a traumatic event. When certain family secrets are revealed chaos erupts, along with a sudden twist of fate that quickly turns into an obsession.
Starring: Mary Ann Gibson (Crazy For You); Nick Moss (Gossip Girl); JJ Pyle (Boardwalk Empire, Criminal Minds); Rita Rehn (The Allergist’s Wife, Law & Order) and Pheonix Vaughn (A Piece of My Heart)
Directed by Andrea Andresakis
Thursday, Oct. 15th
6:30 Reception, 7:00 Showing
The Ellington Room, 400 W. 43rd St @ 9th Ave,