aspiration · dreams · faith · perseverance · theater · trying

Voice of Dreams Past

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When I left South Korea in February 2004, my neighbor and
Canadian co-worker gave me a journal as a parting gift. I didn’t realize til
later on the plane back to America that he’d written inside, “Good Luck on
Broadway.”
I just searched my blog to see if I’d written about this
segment of my life earlier, and I have, but it’s worth revisiting today.
When I left my ESL teaching post in Korea, my first “real”
job post-undergrad, I had the idea I would come back to the States and “break
onto Broadway,” that I would work my way through the underworld of New York,
the clichéd waitress by day, actor by night.
As I was applying for jobs, I went to get my nails
done—because surely that’s a priority to someone looking for food service
work…? I was in the salon, and began to chat with the woman next to me. I
told her about where I’d been, where I thought I’d be going, and she said
something that infiltrated. To paraphrase: You know you have to start in
community theater, right? It takes years to do anything worthy of note. You don’t just
start at the top.
Her words, combined with a moment of clarity about my
ability to cope with life on life’s terms, led me to abandon my dream, drive
west, and set up a new life in California. You can read about that story here.
But.
Last night, I went to my first rehearsal for the new play
I’m in. It’s a staged mock-trial about the Rape of Nanking by the Japanese
during World War II. It’s not a Sam Shepard, or Shakespeare, or Kushner. It’s
not something I’ll actually advertise to my friends to come see, because I
believe there will be more plays, with better scripts and an actual plot that I
will want to encourage you to see me in. But, it’s a start. And, as I wrote
earlier, I’m happy to be in your bad plays. And really, I am.
But, this thing happened while I was waiting for my table-reading rehearsal to begin: I heard voices.
Specifically, I heard a woman, probably a young woman, as
the rehearsals are at SF State, singing operatically, and there was a chorus
behind her. When I heard it, I stopped short, and followed the sound.
I stood on one side of a wall, the theater on the other. It must have been the scenery shop,
with spray-painted borders on the walls and floors, immense pieces of mirror
and wood. The sort of haphazard array of items you think of in any work-shop. I
stood there, and I listened to them sing. To the accompanying pianist, the voice
of the director, telling them something I couldn’t quite hear. She lit up the
whole place, this disembodied voice.
And I remembered that part of this whole thing for me. That
part of the motivation, that part of the dream.
Because, as you may have (or maybe I should have) gathered by now, this theater thing
and this singing thing are related.
I do know enough to know that what that woman in the nail
shop said was correct. That it does take years. But what my 24-year old self
wasn’t able or willing or balanced enough to say was, So what? Yeah, And?
That’s what I’m doing here, lady—I’m beginning.
I could look around the room at the director and my fellow
actors and report that they’re all 10 years younger than me.
I could stand in that hallway listening to the voice of my
own aspiration and wail I should have studied theater in undergrad.
I could comb through my neglected childhood,
and poke a finger into the wound of not being encouraged to pursue my talent
and my dreams.
But, Julia Cameron wrote something very significant to her
naysayers (internal and external) in The Artist’s Way when she began learning to play the piano in her
50s.
“Do you know how old you’ll be by the time you actually get
proficient at this thing?”
Yes, the same age I’d be if I didn’t.
I saw my friend Matt onstage last week. He’s been working in
the theater industry since his 20s, went to school for it. He’s 50 now. He’s not famous. It’s his first SF play. But he’s
working. Always working. And he loves it.
And isn’t that the damned point. 

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