Saturday, July 25, 2015

Finding Missouri. Finding Myself.

I fall in love easily. Chicago. New York. Missouri. South Pacific. Les Mis. La Mancha. Cast after cast after cast. But my heart usually heals after each break, after each show closes and casts part ways. We all move on to other projects, to new casts, and new auditions. This time however, has been different.

I think my heart has permanently moved to Arrow Rock, Missouri. Who would have ever thought I'd say that? The middle of nowhere, where the closest Wal-mart is a twenty minute drive away. This summer I spent six weeks with the single-most loving and talented group of people I've ever had the chance to work with in my life. I don't know or understand how I could ever have been this lucky; what kind of stars aligned to bring me to this place at just the right time that I needed it. Every single person there impacted me in ways that are inexplicable, and none of them even know.

The last year brought me immense pain and loss. A year ago, I sat in an airport having just finished another South Pacific; this time in West Virginia, where I met another terrific group of singers and actors who became fast and steady friends. But that day, one year ago, I sat in a terminal just minutes before boarding, with my cellphone in hand, having just gotten the news that we had lost Goog, one of my most steadfast friends of all.

An hour later, I touched down in New York a different person. I had no idea what to do. I had no next contract, no group of people to get lost in. I laid in bed and stared at the wall for days, weeks even. My mind could not wrap around the fact that she was just gone. And so, I did nothing.

I finally found solace in an unexpected place, Trader Joe's. I found a group of people who were just like me; who worked hard and took pride in what they did, who laughed as much as they could, and supported each other to the best of their ability. I lost myself in the wet-pro case where the vegetables are kept, and in the freezing temperatures of the dairy box. But I was faltering. My auditions were a mess. I sang like shit from the physical exhaustion; but in my mind, I thought I was happy. How couldn't I be? I was surrounded by people that I loved at a job that I adored.

So I kept trying, working till two or three in the morning and then heading to audition after audition just a few hours later. I couldn't understand what I was doing wrong, why I wasn't getting another singing gig. I got to the final callback of the Ragtime national tour. And I completely bombed it. Twice. I felt as though I couldn't show my face after that. We all make mistakes as singers. But that isn't something that I had been used to in a very long time. Auditions had become second nature to me and I could sing my music cuts in my sleep. But I faltered. My nerves got the best of me. The usual self-confidence was nowhere to be found.

But then everything changed as I walked into an audition room where the faces that stared back at me were filled with warmth and smiles, where we were able to laugh when I winked at the pianist to start my cue for Bali Ha'i, and someone in the room whispered I love her. It's a moment I'll never forget.

And then I got a contract. And then I left Trader Joe's. And then I finally found myself.

I came to Arrow Rock, and was surrounded by the most caring group of people I've ever worked with. Every single person was committed 100% to telling the story we needed to on that stage. Every single person was an equal. There was no weak link. And for the first time ever in my life, there was zero drama in huge cast of people. I was able to fully be myself without any kind of judgement from anyone. And when things became stressful, we supported each other even more than I thought could be possible. We watched out for each other, and in turn, formed a bond that will never break.

But just a few short weeks ago, I sat in an airport alone at the end of that contract. And I was again terrified that I would have the same type of phone call just before boarding. I stared at my phone while waiting for my flight to Chicago, and luckily, no call came. But it was all I could think about. The fact that Goog has been gone for a year numbs me. And it's been one exact year, to the day, that I was first able to write about it, on her birthday.

And now, here I am, in the same place again, but such a completely different person.

I think of Arrow Rock daily; the small town of 58 people, the corn fields that surrounded us like some kind of protective wall from the outside world, the cows I never got to pet. We, as a cast, are still posting to each other on a constant basis on Facebook. Pictures float around like candy I can't taste. I have texted and messaged my love and adoration to a few. And we are still wishing the casts who came after us happy openings/closings. The love we have for each other is palpable. And I am so grateful.

I have never in my life been more happy or more depressed at the same time.

I am now living in Chicago for two months, singing another South Pacific with yet another fantastic group of people, at the same place with some of the same people where I had my first run of Bloody Mary nine years ago. And I keep trying to figure out just what I'm supposed to do next. Do I return to New York? Do I stay in Chicago for a little while longer? I have nothing keeping me in any one city, but love each for so many different reasons.

So I have some decisions to make. A plan is forming in my head and to be honest, there will be some people who will be unhappy. But the fact is that I'm not a person who stays in one place for long. I never have been. So maybe the only way that I will be happy is to spend the time in the places I love in whatever way I can. No more planting roots. I'm giving away most of the things I own. I don't need them anyway. I've lived without them for almost three years. I will spend time in Chicago during the off-peak audition seasons. I will spend winters in New York. And my summers are for singing. And for Arrow Rock whenever they will have me.

And some day, I will retire, as all singers eventually do. And that's when I'll gladly plant myself firmly in the Missouri soil to finish off my days. I'll open a writer's retreat and help those who are just like me, who need the wide-open spaces to clear their heads in order to be able to return to the big city and to the work that calls. And to give back as much love and support as I've gotten these last few months. It is immeasurable. And I am so lucky.

Thank you to all of you. You know who you are.

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