did i? i don’t know but i seem to have always enjoyed it. performing —
my first big break, it came in the 1st grade. mrs ponds class. we were doing a stage production of sleeping beauty i was cast as vine. seriously. you know how the princess goes to sleep for a hundred years and the vines and brambles grow and entwine the castle walls. i was to make my stage debut as that. no small parts only small actors. i don’t recall being thoughtful or emotional about it either way. i remember pillowcase, green, snaking and serpentining on the stage in our auditorium,
i galloped might have had a line, but i think the whole play was done more in vignettes sans dialogue. i leaned in for the kiss, i knew the girl. girls were not on my radar AT all. i recall kissing the air a good 6 inches from her face. i don’t have much more than that in my memory.
my first laugh it was at a family penny poker night, hats required. mid-late 70’s and for what ever reason i had a impersonation of nixon. arms raised with ‘V’ for victory sign on both hands, shoulders hunched i blurted out, ‘i am not a crook’. at the table they laughed, my ego swelled and i was bit. bit by that bug. i didn’t have much more of a routine than that. i kinda hung it all there. but i liked that feeling, that quickening of the heart, the adrenaline rush, the heat in the cheeks. the nervous giddy bolts of electricity through the veins.
i engaged in sports baseball, basketball and soccer being the big three. i found the joy of learning skills, playing with a team. in soccer i would attain some success and hits of those thrills but it never came close to scratch that itch. at the time i don’t think i knew i was seeking it out. i played sports through middle school but the athletic fire soon dwindled as i entered high school. distractions, friends, girls, being cool all became very important in my life. much more important than sports. and then my new high school had a performing arts lean. which i found as a new haven. a place to revel in. to explore. we had a fantastically engaged teacher. she connected with me and i felt a place where that performance high could find a release. i had successes and failures. it was a wonderful environment to learn. there was indescribable freedom on stage. you practiced, improved your craft, had blocking and lines, exercises and games. to some it may seem stifling but under all of that technic was where true freedom could be found.
there was the conference of the birds and as you like it. in the former we constructed puppets and developed focus of intent, in the latter, set in the roaring 20’s, sharing the role of touchstone i improvised in iambic pentameter as the entrance of an actress was delayed due to a costume change failure. i pushed my boundaries and found myself in yet another production of Sleeping Beauty, ballet. One of the highlights of my high school career for sure. The demands and rewards from working on that production still live with me to this day. such a cast and crew. towards culmination, our teacher went on sabbatical and we put on a production of solid gold cadillac, one of my worst failures. i cannot even begin a recollection of that show with out the utmost regret for letting my castmates down. i was the lead and the ultimate source of absolutely what not to do in theatre. and then we graduated and there was the world at our doorstep.
Syliva Martinez molded this time of my theatrical experience. her thoughtful, inviting, critical eye helped me see the demands of the craft. i recall in a senior year culmination review, she invited me to look at all my skills and joys and how i could best pursue my dreams and make the best of my life and possibly avoid disappointments that are so common any creative endeavor. i listened but did not heed. i was going to be a superstar.
i was terrified
i tried college. for a year. i was in a band and tried to make that work. it didn’t. or maybe it did and i didn’t. i collapsed under necessity for survival. i lost faith in myself and my ideas. i broke. i was not fit to live on a wing and prayer with no concrete goals much less the conviction to steer them, i disappointed many, myself included.
i matriculated into university. slightly bruised. deflated. but it was involvement and rediscovery of the world of performing arts, the theatre that re-ignited the flame, the grasping of that flame, the embrace, the dance. i had missed it, i had lost it. during these undergrad years i found a new focus and determination. i was dying striving clinging to being. i was told i was good. it felt right. i believe in myself and my convictions were strong, undeterred.
i became involved in a theatre troupe outside of the university and had 2 of the most challenging and enjoyable roles of my life. mr. merrick and mr. sloane. both roles challenged me in new and provocative ways. i was late coming to the role for elephant man, and with a crash course physicalization and line memorization, carrying the tender soul buried in the complications of the flesh. it was a journey of amazing depth. then sloane, ah sloane. what a devious young man, with wild at heart self-inflated absorption, open sexuality and a penchant for violence, it was a whirl-wind production that was over before i even got a chance to enjoy it. i was flying high and feeling self-fufilled. i was seeing a possible path of embracing a craft that i could maybe make something of myself.
then i was not accepted into the graduate program. that hurt. i was bitter. i saw promise for the theater community around me. i wanted to be a part of it. so did my partner. but it was not to be. it is sad the betrayal i felt, it seemed there was an energy emerging in the unassuming fields of our upbringing. it seemed electric and intoxicating i wanted in. i wanted it bad. but i was told no. so we auditioned and showcased around the country. my wife is good, very good, great even. schools were climbing over themselves to give her money to attend their school. i was not as fortunate. and then fate came calling.
there was one school that took an interest in the both of us. we enrolled in the same school for graduate studies in the performing arts. she in costume design and i as an actor. to attend a prestigious school together, was an elation, our new adventure on the horizon and the prospects. 3 years in the mid-west, battling the hawk, testing our endurance and going further. bitter sweet memories. i got an agent. i was in a commercial. i got in the union. i did shepard and shakespeare, yoga and meisner, grotowski, gestures and isolation, movement to music and explored the pelvic clock. i played percival and john arable and wanted more. the blackstone theatre was a space like no other. to hit those boards.. to feel the heat from the lights, the silence that filled the void as words from your mouth were digested by the crowd. but school ended as it does and then we move on.