- OnStage New York Columnist
- Twitter: @timmingto
"the end is in the beginning and yet you go on." - Samuel Beckett
I almost didn't go on the date. Seven months ago I nearly turned back toward home as I was steps away from the bar to go back to my local and the young neighborhood lad I'd been flirting with (to distract myself from bad heartache months earlier). Instead I sighed, silenced my phone, walked in and up to the guy I'd met on a dating app (to distract myself from the bad heartache months earlier).
I almost didn't go on the audition. Months after this first date, I was asked, along with another actress (who happened to be a dear friend) to audition for an upcoming play festival--one I participated in and enjoyed a year earlier. However, I'd recently stopped acting because of debilitating stage fright and was only entertaining this audition because I held the director in such high regard.
I met the guy. I went on the date. I knew with 99% certainty that as charming, interesting and interested this guy appeared to be that I wasn't going to accept a second date with him. But I did. I accepted date after date after date until six months had passed and I was suddenly forced to face the fact that I'd fallen pretty hard. For the first time since my marriage, I was in love. I was in love with this guy that I didn't think I'd ever see again and had nearly written off for superficial reasons and an overwhelming fear of intimacy.
I read the script. I went on the audition.While interesting, it was one-dimensional and I didn't hold high hopes for how it'd translate onstage. The fact that it called for a German accent was enough to make me want to throw the audition altogether, and I joked with the guy that I was half-considering it. (He strongly encouraged me not to). I was 99% sure if cast, I wouldn't invite anyone to this production.
I got and accepted the part. It seemed foolish to turn to down the role or any role in a field this competitive. Also, a very quiet voice in the back of my head told me I needed this part, this show. I began rehearsals. Over the course of a few weeks I battled actor insecurities--includingk zat damn German accent, but found myself enjoying the hell out of the rehearsal process. A dynamite director and talented co-actor will do that.
Then one day in the midst of rehearsals, I was blindsided by a breakup. The guy I nearly walked away from months earlier, walked away from me and the "us" we'd spent months building. In a moment, I was forced to face the intensity of feelings I'd kept at a comfortable distance. Rehearsals for the show quickly turned from something I had to do, to a respite and distraction from my heartbreak. The time I spent in rehearsal, a guaranteed two hours where my mind refused to wander to the breakup and I found that the more I focused on the play, the less I focused on him.
A strange thing happened in that time. As I was trying to heal my heart from the pain I'd felt after falling in love and having it yanked away--after convincing myself that I was going to wall up my heart entirely in order to avoid this kind of bullshit again, I began to fall in love, little by little with the strange and fascinating little play that I'd been ready to walk away from.
It was not lost on me that I'd nearly done the same with him months earlier. Theatre has always been an escape for me as an audience member, acting has always been a terrifying necessity in my artistic life, writing an expression of myself I'm not always comfortable voicing aloud and all three fulfilled needs that nothing else could. This little play was suddenly bigger than I ever anticipated it would be.
Our first tech rehearsal was the night of the Tony Awards. After rehearsal as I raced home, I spotted the broadcast in a bar and ducked in in time to hear Frank Langella give his acceptance speech. I fought back tears as I heard him talk first about finding success late in his career and later honor the victims from the Orlando Pulse shooting just a night before. In one overwhelming moment, it hit me: I had been so willing to dismiss a script based on my snobbish snap judgement (a judgement that as a playwright, actor, director and artist makes me cringe) that I nearly missed out on something that was proving to save me from the myself.
As I struggled with nerves the closer we got to opening, the more I thought of the 49 people who'd never get to do what I was given the opportunity to do. I repeated a variation of a theme that everyone seems to repeat in the wake of a tragedy but it was no less true. In one tragic moment, an insane number of young lives had been taken. I still had mine. I had the opportunity to get onstage and act. To connect. To love. To lose. To live my life. Suddenly my insecurities and idiosyncrasies and habitual ways of thinking seemed really unimportant. Every night after that, I hit the stage with a belly full of nerves but an need to act that I hadn't felt in years.
As I left the theatre opening night you could have knocked me over with the praise and congratulations our show received. On my walk to the train I tried to figure out how I could have so quickly misjudged this thing that was turning out to be an extraordinary event in my life. The play restored my faith in myself as an actress. It helped me quit the debilitating stage fright I'd experienced for two years, which prevented me from pursuing gigs, and ignited a new drive to be onstage. It allowed me space to breathe deeply in a time when tears came easier than breath.
As the euphoria and adrenaline from the show faded away during my trip home, my thoughts returned to him. It occurred to me that while I used the play to distract myself from him, I'd unintentionally found new footing as an actress. While I used him to distract me from myself I refused to acknowledge that this thing that I'd called casual for so long, was anything but.
As heartbreaking as the end of the play was, as I moped through days of post-show blues I discovered that cracking yourself open to be the most truthful representation of yourself as an artist touches euphoria. It is as satisfying and fulfilling as finding your character and zat damn German accent.
As heartbreaking as the end of the relationship was, I discovered that I did, I do have the ability to be vulnerable, to open up and to love. Romantic intimacy had been nearly as terrifying as walking onstage, but not anymore.
Falling into a show is not unlike falling in love. Both require you to close your eyes and just jump. To be vulnerable, honest and open to whatever comes next. To trust that it will work out. Or not. Both are equally valuable. And maybe when these things end-be it a play or a relationship- they're the best kind of endings because they mean you've lived some monumental moments. And we should all be so lucky to keep getting chance to love, to lose and to live.