Like many when she turned 40, she hit a crossroad.
“You’re at a certain age and you think, ‘I’m not ever going to be able to do these things again,’ but I’ve realized you can,” she says of following her passion after spending 18 years working in visual arts. “In my mind I was just really unhappy. I just made a choice to … change my life and do the things I enjoy.”
She made the leap and now the 44-year-old has landed her biggest character yet, the female lead role in CAST’s current production of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.”
Now she’s four productions in with the company, Long is stepping into her first dramatic — and lead — role.
“This is the part of a lifetime for me, to be honest,” she said. “There’s a lot more meat to this play than any one that CAST has done.”
On her quest to pursue a different career, get in shape and spend more time with her son, Long moved into a full-time position at Camp Mac that included teaching drama, but it didn’t quite turn into the opportunity she pictured.
“(Working) seven days a week in the summer is not spending more time with him,” Long said. She realized of missing her son, and after a few years she decided to leave work and concentrate on acting, which led to her first role with CAST in “Miracle on 34th Street” in 2010, where she performed alongside her son in what was his first role as well.
“It’s been a good thing for us to connect together,” she says of their experience, which won her a local Randy Award for her role as Miss Adams.
To prepare for this role, Long watched numerous versions of the play, and said she thinks her performance falls in between the depictions of her character as played by Natalie Wood and Elizabeth Taylor.
“The part is completely opposite of me,” she says. “The way (Maggie) is — she may appear to be conniving and mysterious … (but) I think she genuinely cares about people in her own little selfish way.”
There have been a few hoops to jump through while undertaking the transformation. “Tennessee Williams uses a lot of alliteration, and he repeats the same lines over and over throughout the script, so you don’t know where you are a lot of times,” Long laments. “But he tells the story so nicely, that some of the lines just have come naturally — you feel like you’re actually that person.”
Becoming Maggie has only presented one other real challenge — that of the costumed variety.
“I don’t have the bosoms for the part,” she says with a laugh. “But we’ve made that work!”
While the play does have some adult moments, the overall message is one of family relationships, Long said.
“Even though it’s (set) in the 1950’s, all those subjects are still brought up today,” she said. “What’s interesting about this play is that it touches on really deep family issues and controversy …
“We all have problems and challenges that we go through with family, but it works out in the end.”
Life for the mother and wife has definitely become sunnier since she decided to follow her heart.
“I’m happy, I’m doing things I love, and I’m being with my son — it’s just unbelievable the difference in the quality of life I’m living.”
As far as the future is concerned, Long, who is vice president of the Anniston Runners Club — and has lost 30 pounds, to boot — is taking the summer to concentrate on training for the 10K AJC Peachtree Road Race in Georgia.
“I’ve been in four straight plays … I need a little sabbatical!” she said.
Even so, Long is pleased with the way that things have turned out, and can attribute her upswing to one simple philosophy: “Just take little steps that can turn into big steps … one day at a time.”
“Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”
When: April 27, 28 and May 3, 4, 5 at 7:30 p.m. and April 29 and May 6 at 2:30 p.m.
Cost: General admission is $20 per show; $10 per show for students and children ages 4 and up. Thursday is “pay what you can” night.
Contact: Call 256-820-CAST or visit castalabama.com.