Taunton woman writes, stars in play about Mae West
Mar. 23, 2013
TAUNTON, Mass. (AP) — Sitting in her Brooklyn apartment, Taunton native Darlene Violette awaits for a call from her agent, hoping that another audition is on the horizon.
"Every actor has moments when you think your career's going good, you're making progress, and then when it dries up, you say, 'Oh, no,'" said Violette, a comedian, actress and writer who has appeared in shows like "30 Rock," ''Louie" and "Law & Order." ''Then 10 seconds later your agent calls with an audition and you say, 'Oh great, I'm glad I'm an actor.' When you are working again, you feel great. I'm glad I stuck with this."
Violette, who moved to New York in 1996 to pursue a career in the entertainment industry, has appeared on television alongside Kate Winslet in the HBO miniseries "Mildred Pierce," with "Saturday Night Live" star Tina Fey on the hit show "30 Rock" and with Louis C.K. in his eponymous FX comedy.
She also appeared in Michael Imperioli's film "The Hungry Ghosts," and also studied acting under him at his Studio Dante for four years.
"You can only get to where you want by working extremely hard," said Violette, a Taunton High School graduate and Bridgewater State alum. "Of course, there is talent and skills. But everything is refined by working hard and keeping attuned. . You can't rest on your laurels and take everything for granted. That's because there is always someone working twice as hard as you, who will work when they are sick, they will miss a meal. It's true in every industry, but certainly entertainment. If you don't have a good work ethic, stay home."
While Violette has carved out a career as a character actress, what the bubbly brunette is most proud of his her work as a writer. She is now starring in her own vaudeville show called "Oooo!" that pays tribute to 1930s actress Mae West and the Golden Age of Hollywood.
"It's my favorite role that I've done," said Violette, 47, adding that she strongly identifies with West, who was also a controversial playwright, screenwriter, comedian and sex symbol. "She was a character, not a classical beauty. She was chubby, but funny, with a great business sense. I share that with her. She was so driven. People said unkind things about her. But she said 'I'll show you.' And she did. She became the biggest star of her day."
The first production of "Oooo!" took place in November, and then Hurricane Sandy happened. Violette, who co-wrote the show along with friend Jeffrey H. Johns, said that while all other Broadway shows shut down, the Mae West show went on and attracted packed crowds of stranded tourists and theatre lovers who were looking for something to do.
"At first, we didn't know for sure if people were going to come and whether we should cancel the show," she said. "We didn't get to do any rehearsal the week before. People lined up around the block to see it. There were a lot of young women in the crowd. They went crazy. They loved it. They said they had no idea who Mae West was. They were fascinated and inspired."
Violette's husband, Barrington native Brian McInnis, is the music director for the production.
Violette said she understands the allure of Marilyn Monroe as a classic movie actress and sex symbol. But she wishes more young women were exposed to Mae West, and what she did as a sensational revolutionary in the entertainment industry, insisting on writing her own movies while pushing social boundaries.
"Oooo!" will be showing at 6 p.m. on Sundays in April at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe in the East Village of New York (236 East 3rd Street Between Ave B & C). Tickets are $15. For more information go to www.nuyorican.org.
Violette said she is grateful for going through a theatre program at Bridgewater State that also included classes on the business side of the entertainment world. She decided she wanted to become an actor at age 17, with the support of her mother, an art teacher who insisted that Violette first get her education.
"At age 17, I was like, 'God, I have to do classes,'" said Violette, who also got experience at Trinity Repertory in Providence and at Massasoit State College, working part-time while taking classes. "But in hindsight it was the best thing that happened to me to have that full theatre program. It's important to understand the full business of theatre."
Violette also performed as a stand-up comedian for 12 years, writing all her own material. She said that experience allows her to appreciate comedians who go out and write their own shows, like Fey and Louis C.K.
"Writing and creating my own work always kept me really balanced," Violette said. "It keeps me artistically fulfilled and I don't feel so desperate about getting an acting job. . I'd like to make Taunton proud."