Best Actress Houston 2000 - Natalie Maisel
Readers' Choice: Bettye Fitzpatrick
Remember Brandon Teena, the 21-year-old female who was murdered because she tried to live her life as a man? This true-life cautionary tale about a young person's desperation to find herself was brought to passionate life last fall in Leigh Silverman's minimalistic stage play Brandon Teena at The Little Room Downstairs Theater. The one-woman show was caressed into glimmering life by Natalie Maisel's dazzling performance as the angry, naive and ultimately tragic Teena. With intelligence and tender subtlety, Maisel captured the complex paradox that confronted Teena. The young woman had to construct a male identity inside a white-trash world where men beat women, stole cars and barfed up beers in the bushes. Maisel's Teena learned her lessons well. Wearing tight blue jeans and slicked-back hair, she was a sexy snake, the sort of manipulative hoodlum who was willing to take advantage of every woman she took to bed. But Maisel's character also had the heart of an alarming innocent and a damaged child who lived her secret life in true isolation. With grace and an obvious capacity to embrace the sad strangeness of life, Maisel created the ultimate bad-girl-boy character, the sort who'd curl up in your arms and weep as she stole your wallet and your aching heart.