Last night I got to tell my story onstage among fellow actors as a fundraiser for the Wounded Warriors Project. This was put on by an old friend of mine, Charlie Halford. He got the idea after a chance meeting with a veteran who's story inspired him and got him thinking about how powerful storytelling is. He gathered up twelve of his closest actor friends, and we made a night of it. When you are asked to "tell your story", the possibilities are endless. It could be about a particular day, year, or role. I listened to my instincts as I wrote my story, and I've got it below for those of you who might be interested and weren't able to make it. The night was diverse. Each performer had a different idea and style of telling their tale, but there were recurring themes without us knowing prior. Once again, we are all more alike than we think. Once again, don't judge a book by it's cover, don't discount what someone has to say, has to offer, or has been through. We are all each other's teachers. I stay in an acting career because of my love of storytelling (it's also why I read, and why I write). So that the audience experiencing it connects, relates, and reminds themselves that they aren't alone. Yet when it's just you, not playing a character, but sharing your heart of hearts in front of people, it's so much more vulnerable. A completely different experience. Everyone was brave last night. As you know, if you follow this blog, I love hearing peoples stories, and words, and learning from them. I wish I could spend a day as everyone, in every career, with every experience. I am endlessly fascinated by people. Thank you all, for teaching me last night.
One last thing. You may also know that I certainly don't define who I am by what I do. So if you want to read a deeper account of who I am, click here.
Thank you. Now, let's get into it!
There is a little girl, an only child, who lives off 6200 s and highland drive. She feels older than she is, and often out of place.
One day it strikes her as particularly profound just how small she is in a space so vast. How rooted to earth and how incredibly human she is. How she’s bound by gravity in the most permanent of ways and how much bigger she feels that what she realizes she is restricted to.
How, if she were to stand in a corner of her room, how small that space that would be. Nobody would know there was a special little girl in a minuscule corner of a room off 6200 s and highland in a city in a state of the world of the earth.
How could she be so much, feel so much, and how would anybody ever know? Weren’t they supposed to know?
I have a crystal ball now that can show me the past. If I could take her at this moment, her first philosophizing, feeling different, feeling full of passion and not knowing what to do with it, and tell her how it would all pan out, it might go something like this.
You’ll find a place for that passion when you decide toward the end of high school that you want to be an actress, this is when you fall in love with the stage. Not only with the thrill of performing, but with the sense of acceptance, family, and community your fellow thespians will give to you. You will be home. You will fall madly in love and you will never waver, or doubt your calling.
You will be anxious to perform outside of school, and you will start to right away. But you will want to climb higher and higher. You will want to train to be the best. You will decide that school here in Utah feels too small and you should go to acting school in New York City. You will get into the school of your dreams, and you will say good riddance to your home town, the one that doesn’t fit you anymore, and you’ll have no intention of ever coming back.
New. York. City. The city that called to you since you were ten. You always knew you’d be here. The day you leave for your new city, you’ll see your dad sob for the first time, and your legs will be shaky as you walk away to board the plane. Halfway through your flight it will really hit you, that you’re leaving the only home you’ve ever known, and there’s no turning around now.
Right before the move, your mom will buy you a purple sweater and you’ll wear it on your first day of school. When your first day is over, as you walk the distance from the bus to where you’re temporarily staying, the sweater will fall from it’s place tied around your waist, and be lost. It will bother you your whole life that this little bit of home and her were gone so quickly. Isn’t it funny? The little details we remember?
On the first day of school you’ll also see a boy that you are sure is the one you’ve been brought all this way to meet. But you’ve got a mission, and you shouldn’t be distracted by things like boys, and life…right?
The time in New York will have the biggest impact on you. It will be one of the hardest things you’ll ever go through. But also, one of the most magical. You’ll have the lead in the school’s final play. But before that cast list is posted, you’ll wish so hard for it you’d make a deal with the devil if you could.
There is NOTHING like the passion of artists, and the passion you have for theatre and performing when it is still all so new. It’s your end all, be all. It is your EVERYTHING. You’ll have a scene chosen to perform for David Mamet. You won’t sleep for three nights leading up to it, because you’ll be so nervous.
You’ll do a show in an Off Broadway theatre, you’ll do readings in buildings just off of time square. You’ll make a fool of yourself when you have too much to drink and try very unsuccessfully to hit on a guy at a bar who’d just given a master class at your school. No big deal, he was just on some little show called Friends.
You’ll begin to see how small of a world you live in when you see the same faces at auditions, and run into a friend from high school smack in the middle of time square.
Life is still happening around the bubble of your world of art, and it will creep in, and sometimes distract you from the tunnel vision you tried to have and thought you needed to give to your art, and to your art alone. To becoming an actress. To being the chosen one.
After graduation, you will be so terribly unsure of what to do next. You have no idea what it means to trust your path, or that all of these events will lead you into exactly where you’re meant to go.
There will be a morning you’ll be lying on a couch in Brooklyn in your pink pajamas, convinced you are going to die right then and there of a broken heart. That boy you’d seen on the first day of school was a part of your New York story after all, after a chance meeting at a party in the NYU dorms…and he has just broken your heart. Shattered, and homeless, there’s really no choice but to go…home…for awhile. Like your grandpa once said, “when you have nowhere to go, you go home.”
You’ll be back and forth for a while, caught in between Salt Lake City and New York City, But strangely enough, Salt Lake will keep giving you work, until there won’t be a need to want to move. Despite your declaration that you’d never be back. You’ll learn over time, that there is more than one city in which to be successful, and that "SUCCESS" has many faces. That in life, as in acting, you’ll know the truth by the way it feels. And eventually you’ll accept that New York hasn’t and won’t ever feel like HOME, and that home had everything you were looking for all along. That your calling was to be a big fish in a small pond. Right in your own backyard.
That maybe you haven’t been a broadway star, but that you’ll never have a moment where you won’t feel satisfied by what you both create, on your own, and with the opportunities you are given in Salt Lake City. You will feel humbled and fortunate and emotional for each coveted role you are given. That eight years later from the first bit of press you are given in town, you’ll still feel a sense of awe that there is an interest, and wonder how long you’ll sustain this. It’s fleeting, you see. That’s what keeps you going. This career is never stagnant, never done. It’s a constant fight. To stay working, relevant, interesting. You must reinvent. You must work to get better, and you will get better. With age, with time, experience.
But…the biggest key of all, is NOT have tunnel vision, but to keep letting LIFE and LOVE in. And that while it may take a decade to process all that happened to you in New York City, you eventually will.
Be open, little one. Stay open. You will look back and smile to yourself knowing you left teardrops behind on the streets of New York . And the city that you think is too small for you will be the one to give you everything. Home will call you The Face of New Utah, Salt Lake City’s Community Celebrity, and SLC Sweetheart within a year. You will have worked hard for it, tirelessly. But will hover somewhere between feeling that it’s deserved after your hard work, and feeling like a fraud. The cross all performers bear.
And. And, and and. The reason why you didn’t die of a broken heart that day in Brooklyn on the couch, is because your REAL love was waiting for you, right here, at home. And the day you walk in to that gym and see HIM, you’ll understand that every heartache was worth it to finally land on this love. Your husband. Your muse. He will make you a better person, and a better actor. You’d live it a thousand times over to get here. home.
Your life will be full. And satisfying. In a different way than you might have thought. In a better way.
One day, a high school friend will ask you to sit on a stage and share your story, and you’ll share a bit of what you have. So far. There is still so much more to go.
So little girl, here is your planet, and your path is laid out, the next chapter about to being, and there’s only one thing you need to know.
Thanks for reading,