These posts have become a sort of check-in, reflect and documentation of my journey of being broke, moving back home, and trying to survive while still moving my career forward. It’s not really what I thought I would be writing about when the incredible Jennie Webb asked if I would be interested- I had high hopes of theatrical and playwriting insights and dissections, but these were quickly ousted by the avalanche of upheaval I experienced and my own inability to do anything but focus on it. I’m grateful for that and as hard as some of these days are to live and to document, I hope at some point and in some way it can be read as an encouragement of sorts for others in similar positions of trial and teeth sharpening.
I can’t know how much longer my Missourian exile will last, other than to say it will be much longer than I thought and hoped. And I can’t know what highs may be on the horizon for me here, but feel I can say with some confidence that one of the highest of those peaks has already come. Last month I got to take a few weeks off from my cubical prison to be a part of Tent Theatre’s You Can’t Take it with You. Instead of sitting in a cubical 8-5 Monday through Friday calling, emailing, doing math, collecting, making spreadsheets, getting headaches and giving credit meetings, I got to go to rehearsal. I got to play with incredibly talented people from all over the United States. I got work on my Russian accent. I got to pretend to be drunk and sing “I Wanna Be Loved By You” while fellating my cast-mate’s nose. I got to laugh and make other people laugh. And, I got paid for it. Let me say the obvious here: THERE IS NOTHING GREATER THAN THIS ON EARTH.
One day some of the cast and myself went up to Branson to go zip lining. I had never been before but thought it looked fun. It was fun. Then, it wasn’t. After you zip line you reach this 100 foot tower and the only way off is to jump/fall straight down. I was trying very hard to maintain a head-space of fun and adventure and when the other woman with me began panicking at the edge. I was able to confidently summon up, “You got this! It’s gonna be so much fun! You can do it! Whoo!” And over she went along with four screams of “Oh my God!”
But then it was my turn and as I stepped the 6 inches forward to the edge, I suddenly saw what she’d seen. Imminent death. There was no way to survive. And to call it “fun” was psychotic. All the brakes inside my body locked down and I looked back at the one remaining cast mate to go after me and said, “I can’t do this.” The guide kept saying, “Let go of the edge. Take a step forward. Let go of the edge. Take a step forward.” You are still attached to this line that is supposedly going to slow your fall as your reach the ground, where a man stands yelling at you to “Land on your feet!” There is no resistance felt at the top, though, so it just feels like you decided to jump off a tower and commit suicide.
I have no idea how or when the switch occurred in my brain from red light to green, but at some point, squatting into almost a fetal position I managed to teeter myself over the edge, losing all control of my body on the way down. “Land on your feet! Get your feet out!” the man at the bottom screamed, but it was futile. For all practical purposes, I had resigned myself to death. Then, my butt hit the ground and I realized I was still alive. “Did you have fun?” He asked. I looked at him and laughed maniacally, “NO!”
I thought about that moment, looking down, every night during the show while I waited under the hot blanket for my cue to jump up, the forgotten Gay suddenly animated and locked in on the rigid guest Mr. Kirby, “Now, listen! Big boy….” It’s not in the script, but it was an improvisation they let me keep. Every night from the first rehearsal to the last performance I worried they wouldn’t laugh. It felt like jumping off that tower. It would either be a fun adventure or the stupidest way to die. I am happy to report that every night was a fun adventure.
And I think about that moment today and how moving back here felt that way too. While there have been moments of fun, if the whole of my experience were a summary I was forced to answer about, I feel my answer would also be, “NO.” I’m exhausted. I work constantly and still am no where close to being financially able to move back to a land of greater opportunity for my career and living my own independent life. I have not been writing as much as I want/need/expect myself to because after working all day and night on a computer, my eyes/head/hand/neck/shoulders/will are knotted with tension. I see friends getting together, going places, having adventures and I wish I could be out having fun with them, but I have to work and I don’t have money. I dream about love, romance, partnership, and sex- and that’s about as close as I get to a dating life. There’s no time.
It’s hard to move at the pace life hands you. I’ve been behind schedule since I was about 8, but then I’ve always had pretty big expectations for my life. All I can do right now is focus on one moment at a time, because the big picture is too overwhelming. I am grateful for acting for many reasons but in particular because it taught me about moments- living in them and appreciating the hell out of them. I remember playing Emily in Our Town at 16 and listing all the things she was saying goodbye to and realizing the grand depth of comfort and beauty in the little things. It’s overwhelming in it’s own way- the simple beauty of a bath, a look, a touch, a flower, a breeze, coffee.
On the horizon is a series of one-acts I’m acting in, some sketches for a local TV station, lots of work work and hopefully some pen to paper story development because goddammit I’m itching to make something and I’ve got about a million story’s sketched down waiting to be fleshed out. Right now, however, I want to take a small moment to be grateful for this moment:
12 years after playing Emily in Our Town at the Avenue Theatre in West Plains, MO, 7 years after graduating from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City, after 5 years and 4 plays and three days worth of sitting at Equity Open Calls for plays I never got seen for because I was non-union in Los Angeles, and 7 months after arriving back in Springfield, MO… I got my Equity Membership Candidacy card. It’s a small step, that took many years. It’s a piece of paper that takes me one step closer to doors of bigger opportunities. One step at a time.