When the coronavirus pandemic dealt what seemed like a death blow to the theater, Eleanor Moseley Pollnow ’84 thought her time on the stage might be over. Pollnow has performed as an actress for decades both on film and in theater productions, but says the latter is her true passion.
“I love the engagement of a live audience in a space,” Pollnow says. At a time when it was impossible to perform in a theater, she found a new creative outlet: writing and producing short films of her own.
Her latest online piece is a hoot — a rap music video inspired by turning 60 this year. “As you march through time you get a lot of interesting Latin words that you hear from your doctor that are now yours,” Pollnow says. The song, called “Maintain (Don’t Bemoan It),” pokes fun at these medical conditions and other quirks of growing older.
“The truth is kinda funny when you say it right,” Pollnow says.
In the video, which she mostly created for the enjoyment of friends and family, Pollnow does Zoom yoga and busts some dance moves around her home city, Seattle. The song riffs on contemporary music, replacing references like the “Uptown Funk” verses “If you’re sexy then flaunt it/If you’re freaky then own it” with “If you’re 60 just own it/If you’re creaky, jump on it.”
Pollnow has been acting since before her time at Princeton. On campus, she participated in Theatre Intime, which she describes as “a place that developed my skills and my confidence.” Immediately after graduating, she spent several years pursuing theater in New York City. She’s now lived in Seattle for 30 years.
When the pandemic began, Pollnow quickly grew disheartened by virtual performances. Theater, she says, “lives with real people inhabiting the same space.”
As she was standing in line at Trader Joe’s one day, masked up and socially distanced, an idea dawned on Pollnow: How would Cassandra, the mythical Greek doomsayer, feel about society actually heeding her warnings? From this inspiration blossomed a short film called Cassie. Filmed as a Zoom call between Cassandra (Pollnow) and her therapist and set during the early pandemic, it depicts Cassandra reveling in her vindication.
“The slowdown was an opportunity for a more contemplative time and for more creative thought to burble and invent weird new things,” Pollnow says. She wrote several other short films during the pandemic, which she either stitched together on iMovie or produced with the help of friends and shared on YouTube.
“The need for artistic engagement and creation, when that’s something you value as part of your regular life, that doesn’t go away in a time of isolation,” Pollnow says. And now, as the pandemic eases up, she has discovered that her time on stage is not over after all: She is currently in rehearsals for Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors.