Friday, February 27, 2009

Silently Screaming Out Loud

My voice has been quiet of late – quieter than I intended it to be. I’ve realized a truth about myself recently, and that’s when things aren’t going well, I grow silent. I don’t like to report bad news, and I don’t like to trouble others with my problems if I can avoid it. If you haven’t heard from me in a while, there’s probably something very wrong indeed.

There are three things that I want, and each calls to me with its siren’s song. Contemplation of each aspiration causes a palpable sense of exquisite torture; for I’ve tasted of genuine rapture when, for a too-brief while, each of these things was nearly within my reach. Fingertips brushed ever so lightly across a facet and translated to me such a transcendent joy, absorbing a fraction of my soul. My failures tore me away from the objects of my desire, but my soul stayed behind each time. Lying on the ground, ripped open and bleeding, my agony sought a distraction to ease the loss, each time finding one. Thrice have I found my ultimate reward, and more than thrice has my objective been
removed from my longing grasp. I suffer also with the knowledge that I have had for some time the ability to earn each of these things in full, but my own failures and weaknesses are what caused me to lose them each in turn, time and again. That makes it all

The treasures sit at the end of long and winding roads. Each failed attempt to traverse them makes the next trip more difficult; by now I see naught but craggy, treacherous paths which threaten to rend flesh from bone at the slightest misstep. The rewards, however, are so great I’d gladly make each journey a hundred, hundred times if I believed there were ever a hope of reaching the end.

And there is hope, for there is always hope. And I believe, because to do anything but believe is to fail before I take the first step.

Yet the paths do not converge. Nothing is ever simple.

The first of these paths I’ve been on for many years, falling off for vast stretches of time, gaining ground and backsliding in a repetitive set of tumbles. The second path includes a precipice across which I’ve leapt more than once, and currently I await the knowledge of whether or not I’m going to land safely. And the final path continually shifts directions before my eyes, an ever-altering labyrinth which threatens to vanish entirely; constantly I pray it doesn’t disappear with me inside, before I reach either the end or an exit.

I’m being quite intentionally vague. I’m not the only person involved in the actions I take, and I won’t risk my words causing undue influence within the worlds affected by what can be read here.

From time to time I ask myself, “Do I have a chance?” This is always followed by, “Do I have a choice?” My answer to the latter is an unqualified “No.” I think of the shape of my life when I just let things be; it is worse than a formless, meaningless void. It’s remembering a snatch of a song so wondrous it made you cry, but you’ll never recapture that feeling unless you hear it once more and you can’t remember what it’s called or where you heard it. It’s forgetting the punch line to a joke so funny it once brightened your mood for a week, and the feeling is replaced with the dread that you’ll never feel that good again. It’s the gathering you chose not to attend where you would have seen someone you dearly love, but you didn’t and now they’ve died and you never said goodbye.

The only guarantee is the knowledge that if I quit while there’s still breath in my body, my remaining existence will be so shallow that nothing will ever have true meaning again. Even failure will allow me to retain self-respect and the ability to try again in a way that quitting wouldn’t. I know to have all three things I want is impossible unless my life is influenced beyond my control. Two victories would sustain me for years, incomplete though it would be. A single gain would leave me cynical, but not so terribly that I wouldn’t be able to continue to try. But if I truly lose all three, I will surely lapse into the sleep of despair from which I will never awaken without help.

"I came up with a new game-show idea recently. It's called The Old Game. You got three old guys with loaded guns onstage. They look back at their lives, see who they were, what they accomplished, how close they came to realizing their dreams. The winner is the one who doesn't blow his brains out. He gets a refrigerator."

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Season of Mists

“To absent friends, lost loves, old gods, and the season of mists; and may each and every one of us always give the devil his due.” —Hob Gadling

It’s been an interesting month.

It was a month ago this evening that my girlfriend and I broke up. I couldn’t speak about our relationship due to circumstances beyond my influence, but none of that matters now. It was mutual – for about twelve hours. I’m loath to let out the details, because no words I could use here and now would do justice to her importance to me; and perhaps the last chapter of that story is not yet written.

I spent that next week rehearsing for grad school auditions. That first Saturday morning I had my audition with The New School; the moment I ended my Shakespearean monologue, the director infused my pride with the statement, “I’d like you see you play that role!” Instead of a dismissal or a quick question, he asked me to sit and we chatted for fifteen minutes or so. He asked about my experience, what I’ve been doing since college, how I approached the role and reconciled the conflicting goals/tactics of the character and how I’d approached and deconstructed him. We talked about my goals and desires for graduate school, what I hope to gain; this from the school who wanted to review my application before deciding to let me audition. I left, and my partner and I had a more than a few celebratory beers before I went home for a 13 hour “nap”. I thought to myself, “I could be living in New York in six months.” A bold, assuming statement to be sure, but not impossible and not undesirable. A very dear friend of mine is wrapping up her first year at the very same school, so I’d have an ally and confidant in town from the moment I arrived.

Next was the UCLA audition on Tuesday. Just like last time (four years ago, you can dig the details out of a previous blog), a dozen or so of us spent an hour in the room doing actor exercises and playing actor games. Just like last time, the instructor held back myself and a few others to stay behind to request us to attend a callback audition that very afternoon. I accepted.

The second round was much the same as the first; we played the same games and exercises in front of a more important audience, one who worked with us privately, individually, and chatted me up for a few minutes. He gave me several ways to rework my Shakespeare piece and had me carry them out before having another fifteen minute conversation, which was interesting, and fun. When I left the room, the first man chased me out into the hallway and spoke to me urgently. “I haven’t seen him spend that much time with somebody in years,” he told me. “You’ve excited a man who does not get excited.” He then went on to praise me for how well I take direction and talk up the school for a bit. And I thought to myself, “I could be living in L.A. in six months.”

I auditioned for A.R.T. that day and CalArts the next, but if they were similarly impressed with my performance, they kept it to themselves.

I’ve been having a battle trying to get letters of recommendation for nearly three months now; my latest promise is they’ve finally been signed, and now need only to be dropped in the mail – but to get them here from Moscow before decisions go out is going to take a chunk out of my wallet I didn’t expect to lose for the sake of a letter. When I expressed to the instructor from UCLA the troubles I was having with this, he said simply, “Do you have a job?” Until that moment, I had thought my letters would have to come from the last theatre professionals I’d worked with. I asked a few folks I work with, and had four letters (two in hand, two in assurances) within a week. If those letters ever appear from Moscow, perhaps I’ll be forgiven for turning them in more than a month late.

Tomorrow is my final audition, with DePaul here in Chicago. Their conservatory program promises everything I could hope for – a sharpening of my skills, working closely with current professionals to help transition me directly into employment past graduation, and I wouldn’t have to move. I love Chicago dearly, and I feel I haven’t spent near enough time here. I love my apartment, too; I’ve had more than a dozen addresses in the last eight years, and as of this weekend I will have lived at my current one for longer than I’ve lived in any place since I first moved out of my parents’ home.

There’s a change on the wind. I spent so many years rooted in Dallas, and now with only 18 months in Chicago, I’m planning and preparing to leave it, or possibly to remain, yet on an entirely new path. The mists of change swirl around me as the ground becomes soft clay beneath my feet. I wonder absently, as I have before, what will I be doing next year? What challenges will I have overcome? What pitfalls not yet imagined await me?

What will be the color of my sky?