With any part you play, there is a certain amount of yourself in it. There has to be, otherwise it’s just not acting. It’s lying.
~ Johnny Depp
Tonight I open in The Chalk Garden at The Lee Playhouse. It’s my first show of the year and my first time working with Ft. Lee. So far, it’s been a great experience.
I love the theater. I love live theater. There’s just something about it that I can’t quite describe. I’m excited. I’m nervous. It’s all good.
I was thinking earlier this week about how acting, as well as writing, has always been something I wanted to do. So why did it take me until I was in my mid-50s to get back on the boards? Yes, I’ve been part of the Music and Fine Arts ministry at WEAG since my late 30s (barely). But I’ve not been involved in traditional theater. I acted in high school and college and loved the stage then. Why the long pause?
There are many reasons. It boils down mostly to the seasons of life. I’m at a point now where I feel I can spend the time to pursue the stage. And, for now at least, my family is tolerant of my evening absences for rehearsals. So, once I decided to pursue this, it really took off.
Now, of course, I have to encourage play reading committees to look for shows with parts for old, white, men. I am a character actor, best at playing old men. I’ve accepted that. And I’ve accepted the fact that I’ll not be cast as a romantic lead. Unless, of course, you’re doing On Golden Pond, in which case I could rock the part of Norman Thayer. Just sayin’…
Do I regret waiting until I became a senior citizen to pursue this? Only a little bit. Life comes in seasons. Sometimes we have to wait for things. So, instead of regretting not being in traditional theater for much of the last 30 years I look forward to the fact that I’ve got another 20-30 years left.
Waiting for the right season isn’t such a bad thing.
Joseph spent eleven years in Potiphar’s house before being sent to prison. I know these things, a couple of summers ago, I’m the one who sent him there. In prison he waited another two years or so before being called to interpret Pharaoh’s dream.
After Moses fled Egypt, he spent forty years tending sheep before God called him to lead the Hebrews out of captivity. After that he spent forty years wandering in the desert with those same people. In the end, he didn’t even get to see the Promised Land.
Then there are the authors who had one great literary success and never published another work. Among them Margaret Mitchell with Gone with the Wind, J.D. Salinger with Catcher in the Rye, and Harper Lee with To Kill a Mockingbird.
Oh stop. I am not comparing myself to Joseph or Moses or even Margaret Mitchell. What I’m saying is that there’s no reason you have to be young and prolific to have an impact, or to be happy with what you’re doing.
Still, some 35 years after college I admit it would have been helpful to know and to plan accordingly when I was young. I’ll admit that I chickened out when it came to pursuing acting. But with the writing I was merely distracted. So my career took many different paths. Perhaps even some wrong ones.
Don’t get me wrong. I am thankful for my day job. It’s a good job for which I am fairly compensated. And I have the best office view in town. But it’s not what I want to do for the rest of my life. It may be a little harsh to say that the last 20 years has been my time in prison or my time tending sheep. But it has been a time of waiting for the right job. Oh, I got over waiting for the right governor to come along and move me to the “right” position from which to retire. That shipped sailed, or sank, a few election cycles back.
But I’m hitting 20 years of service this summer. I can retire. But,can I retire?
Can I make my exit and spend the rest of my life writing and acting? I don’t know, but maybe it’s worth a try. And, what am I waiting for?
Rob Hatch of Owner Media Group wrote earlier this week in an email, “Later doesn’t provide a ton of incentive for me if I am unhappy right now.”
I’m not (always) unhappy. But I’m rarely happy in the day job.
So earlier this week I wrote in my journal:
Dammit! There’s no reason I’m not writing my ass out of this place!
‘Scuse the language but as Kirk once explained to Spock, sometimes colorful metaphors are appropriate.
Thing is, I know I want to make a change. It may not happen as soon as I want it to. But what I know is that no one is going to make this change for me.
As I said, I am fortunate that my current job, and my family, allow me the time and freedom to write and act. Until such time that I can do that full time, even if that means more years, I need to be content to keep, and do, the day job.
For tonight, it’s on with the show.