2011, I mean. By any measure, that was a strange year. A damn strange year.
On the surface it doesn’t seem so weird: did a bunch of shows, moved to Denver, wrote some reviews, carved a new script (almost done) out of a weird kernel of an idea.
I'm working on 'The Othello Project' with Visionbox, a sort of hybrid Sakespearean show inter-cut with interviews and court documents of domestic violence victims and perpetrators.
I just auditioned for Terry Dodd's original show, 'Amateur Night at the Big Heart,' and the week after next I'm reading for Creede Rep, Paragon's production of Conor McPherson's 'The Seafarer,' and for the Colorado Shakespeare Festival(!!!!) Wish me many broken things, as I'm going to need it. :-)
Other than that?
Blogged. Reddited (strictly a lurker; I don’t handle rejection well, haha.)
Fell in love, fell out of love. Both of which were against my will, haha. Which is the weirdest thing of all, in some ways. Because I really, honestly didn’t think I had that in me anymore. But no, I (foolishly, awesomely, retardedly, joyfully) remembered for a brief moment what it’s like to feel real emotions--not just the stage kind--and as usual I got burned.
I think that’s largely my fault; a pattern emerges for he who has eyes to see. I have a tendency to put too many eggs in the proverbial basket. And that is only if and when I discover in my clunky way that a basket might potentially exist at all, haha. No, I tend toward either complete misanthropy, complete separation from other humans, or, conversely, a naïve hope that on some level, there is, there MUST be some perfect, complete understanding.
As I always say, I believe the biggest cynics are actually the biggest romantics, because we envision something infinitely greater than the shite world that's in front of us.
But in my naiveté, I seek an erasure of self--of selves--that would mean total understanding, total connection with another, but which is, of course, impossible.
We are born alone, and we die alone. Although we like to imagine it to be otherwise in between, we are always alone.
No person can ever truly know another.
But I think this feeling that comes around from time to time for me, the feeling that I want and need to connect with someone on that level--or that it is even possible for me to connect on that level--is so strange and leads to such vulnerability that when these things end it can’t help but lead to trouble for me. When you strive to--or perhaps naturally--feel nothing or less than nothing for others much of the time (off-stage that is, haha. I’m really good, I like to think, at feeling other people’s feelings--just put a script in my hands. :-) those moments when real emotions flood in can be overwhelming. Probably not only for me, haha.
Whatever. I’m okay. I always am; I always end up okay, eventually. Making oneself emotionally available is a bitch, at least for me. But I always come around, afterward, when I come back down to earth. I think, long-term, it’s just wiser to keep my distance, however awful that sounds.
Feel things on stage; leave them there.
Rubbing of parts aside, I think this should be my mantra. :-)
(Or maybe my mantra should be 'Rubbing of parts aside...'
At any rate, I have learned a lot this year, about myself and about how the world works. And really, can anyone ask for anything more than that? I am delighted to--even at my grizzled age--still be learning. I think one of my favorite things about doing shows is meeting other actors and learning from them.
Especially younger actors. I’m speaking not necessarily of the ‘rubbing of parts’ :-) or learning technical things--acting things or theatre school wisdom or anything like that, although all of that happens too, when I’m lucky--but more of learning about life and myself. There’s an energy and enthusiasm that I leech off of younger actors, and often a simple joy, a sheer, blind, dim-witted happiness at simply being alive that younger people often have, whether they know it or not, and it feeds me. It saves me, however briefly, from my natural gloom.
And this is the first year that I finally came to the realization--or acceptance--that I am someone people look up to, as an actor at the very least, and perhaps in the larger world too.
Trust me when I say this isn’t braggadocio. I am insecure to the point where it takes some convincing for me to believe that I have anything at all to offer others. I am at my core a selfish, self-conscious, doubtful person who spends a great deal of time worrying about how fucked up I am and/or appear to other people.
But this year, especially in Pagosa Springs, I finally copped to the notion that people like and perhaps even admire me. And as vain as that sounds, I swear it isn’t meant to indicate a one-way street.
They watch me, I watch them.
And each of us learn from it.
Somehow, seeing yourself through another’s eyes teaches you way more than you might ever hope to learn through quiet reflection or yoga or meditation or booze or classes. To me, anyway. It's like a photograph: you can peer at yourself in the mirror as long as you like, but you will never truly see yourself there like you will when you look at a picture of yourself. this is because the picture is looking at you through someone else's eyes, even if that someone else is just a camera lens.
There’s a joy I vampirically take in hanging out with people younger than I am. I suck their energy and enthusiasm and hopefully return something to them in the way of knowledge and smarts, or perhaps just my own goofiness and immaturity. :)
As an insecure person, I am always floored when I perceive people looking up to me, whether as an actor or as a person (meaning: an actual PERSON, a non-actor...a human, haha). Frankly, it’s even weirder when they think I know something about acting, or even more strangely, life; I may know a little, in strictly my own way, my nonsensical, non-structured, purely organic, instinctual thing...funny how educated theatre people always say something like, ‘you have good instincts!’ haha...)
SIDEBAR: Interestingly, I seem to approach both life and theatre in much the same disjointed, haphazard, seat-of-the-pants way...
But as little as I know about acting, it’s possible I know even less about life. I often feel like I don’t know a damn thing about living and what it takes to be a human in this world.
Surely, whatever dubious knowledge I may have is not anything that should be passed on.
My bad decisions are legion. I must echo Hunter Thompson when I say, ‘I hate to advocate drugs, alcohol, violence, or insanity to anyone, but they've always worked for me.’
A good craftsman always blames his tools. Or in my case, his tool. :-)
With regard to acting, my bad decisions have led me down a twisting, kooky path that has reaped great rewards. (Until people catch on and realize how full of shit I am, how much of a faker and charlatan I am, I’m going to ride it out. :-)
I’ve been lucky to work with directors and actors who were patient and had a lot to give. But this path is strictly my own; bashing your head against a wall over and over is something I inevitably do, but it isn’t for everyone.
I’m not going to do the year-end tally of things I’ve done. If you read this blog, or even if it’s your first time here, there are plenty of entries about the shows I was in last year. (Search for ‘theatre.’ Yes, the snobby spelling. Screw you, John M. :-)
In brief, highlights include ‘Equus,’ (where I learned a great deal about horses and repressed emotions) ‘Little Shop of Horrors,’ (my first musical since high school; musical theatre actors are freaks, haha :-) ‘The Grapes of Wrath’ (in which I got to play a ‘nice guy,’ for once, although he was a broken-priest-turned-atheist, alcoholic, womanizer...hmmm...type-casting?) And my greatest show of the year, and perhaps of my career thus far, ‘The Lion in Winter.’
My dad didn't recognize me in this pic when I showed it to him over Christmas. True Story.
I have gone on ad infinitum about Pat Payne, the director of ‘Lion,’ and Tim and Laura, the proprietors of Thingamajig Theatre and the Pagosa Springs Center for the Arts, so I won’t belabor the point. I will just say that, like the best directors, Pat brought things out of me that I wasn’t even aware were there; he took me to new levels of emotion and expression such that I surely owe him an ongoing debt as I continue acting. And considering we did all that in just seven days of rehearsal, it’s even more miraculous.
And Tim and Laura are the best theatre-running couple that could ever exist. They, atop the heap--as the hosts of this mad thing we tried to pull off in a week in a tiny mountain town under a blanket of winter--made the experience a trickle-down of good spirits, joy, and love.
No bullshit, no egos, no negativity, no doom-saying--which is the way theatre ought to be.
We're all on the same team, after all, aren't we? We all want to put up the best show we can and connect with people, don't we? So why does it always seem like there has to be someone in the cast or crew or production team that seems hell-bent on predicting and/or creating failure?
In short, while I don’t believe in God or blessings, I do believe in luck.
And I am lucky. And grateful to all the people I have met in my life: you have made me who I am. I am grateful to life, the universe, and everything to have been one lucky motherfucker this year.
Big thanks to everyone who I brushed against (not RUBBED UP against...although...come to think of it, thanks to you too! :-)
In all seriousness, you all have made an impact on me, even if it’s in a way I can’t express. You know who you are, or even if you didn’t before, know now that you move and motivate me.
I am a better person for having met you, for having you in my life.
Peace, and much love as we approach the end of days,
(thanks SO much for that, Mayans...)
I'm not getting all mopey or emo, I swear. This is just what came up when I googled 'We are born alone, and we die alone.' :-)