Going back on stage

I recently auditioned for the part of Will in a play called, A Bright New Boise by Samuel D. Hunter.  The play is being produced in May by Mill City Productions  and directed by Kari Daly in Berkshire County, Massachusetts. 

I got the part.

The very thought of auditioning, at first experienced as terrifying, turned out to be joyful – once I was underway. I’ll explain in a moment.

Mr. Hunter’s play won the 2011 Obie Award for playwriting.  The play is about a man (Will) who takes a job in a Hobby Lobby in part to distance himself from a tragedy linked to an evangelical church he’d attended as well as reconnect with a teenaged son who’d been placed for adoption years earlier. I’d say he’s got himself a full plate.

Over the past few years I’ve been doing the best I can to break down, or, better explained, break through what I call fear walls. Fear walls being the anxiety and panic producers resulting from the brain injury and PTSD I live with. I was held up and shot in the head in 1984.

The very idea of auditioning for a part late in the day frightened. While I believe I would’ve broken through the fear and auditioned without help, there is no doubt the words of my friend of 40 years, Michael Sulsona, helped immeasurably. In an email addressing my fears he said: “I think it’s important that you do it.  Not only for you but for others to see you up there on the stage.” 

As usual, his words helped immensely. Not only that, he’s seen me on stage and, it is well worth noting, he is an extraordinary playwright and screenwriter with something in the neighborhood of 23 plays – many produced on off-Broadway – and 15 screenplays under his belt. There are more reasons than friendship to trust his judgment.

When I got in the car to drive to the audition I was astonished to find myself feeling overjoyed, celebratory, in fact. It occurred to me that returning to the theater was, in its way, returning home. I was on stage as a dancer at age seven and dancing a lead role with the Joffrey Ballet when I was 13. Later I was involved with the Quena Acting Company, an offshoot of Joe Chaikin’s, The Open Theater. Years earlier I’d performed a one-man play I wrote called, The Bum and, over the years, I’ve done quite a few poetry readings and God knows how many speeches and seminars. Once a performer, always a performer, I suppose. 

By the time I reached the site of the audition I was utterly relaxed and at peace. The audition was a wonderful experience. I went home wanting more of the experience. The next day I called Michael and jokingly told him I’d been cast in the role of Cleopatra.

Now, the reason for writing about this:

Over the years it has helped me when others, through act or word, have reminded me that what feels impossible may not be impossible at all. In other words, the feeling doesn’t define any fact other than accurately reflecting the emotional experience you’re in at the moment.

As for navigating your way through the fear, here is a phrase that helps me. It’s okay to be afraid, don’t let it scare you.

4 thoughts on “Going back on stage

  1. Do you recall Gary Chryst at Joffrey? I performed with him in Betty Grable’s “Guys & Dolls”/Guber circuit. Look forward to seeing the play. I know Michael since Goddard.


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