For the first time in a long time, I just sat still for a good five minutes and did absolutely nothing.
The problem is – I didn’t like the feeling. You’d think that with the long 2 & 1/2 month production process for The Lost World (and the entire litany of tasks that run hand-in-hand with that mammoth project) – that I would relish a few moments of R & R but it’s quite the contrary. Sure, I need to rest. I need to recharge the batteries. I need to give the old noggin’ time to chillax. BUT much like last winter, when The Monkeybar Mafia shuttered its run and the holidays had come and gone in typical breakneck fashion, I find when my home grows quiet it grows a LITTLE too quiet.
I don’t like that feeling.
In the midst of a festive, warm and familial cast party last night – one dominated with such great cheer that I chased with good beer – I revealed something personal to my cast… something that I don’t mind sharing with the lot of you.
In The Lost World I found much needed rescue from a life that in the last two years has sometimes ambled down paths I never dreamed I’d travel. In short, I’ve found myself lost. Me? A guy with a pretty decent sense of self. It’s not a feeling I covet. Not something I’d ever get used to.
I’m 41 years old. I’m a professional with a decent job at a major financial services company. While no Average Joe in this day and age can truly hold firm to the faded concept of job security – I feel safe enough in my status to wake each morning without too much worry. And this is coming from a guy who turned his one year bout of unemployment into last year’s Monkeybar Mafia. Lemons to lemonade!!! 🙂
But – two years ago this coming February – my so-called safe and secure life took a major detour. As I was on the precipice of 40 – feeling like for once in my life I finally had everything right where I wanted it (awesome kids, stable marriage, warm home, yellow lab, amazing friends and family AND of course, Netflix) – I suddenly found myself giving as much as I took in a marathon midnight “We need to talk about us” discussion that could only lead down one dark alley. Within a few weeks, my marriage – which from the outside seemed so picture perfect – had splintered and realistic, mature preparations were being made for an amicable divorce.
That process dominated the majority of 2012 – culminating in the court room in late October; mere days before Monkeybar opened wide.
When I turned the page from 2011, I had looked ahead to the next year with such potent promise. I was turning 40 in June and was about midway through my ambitious Blog project – Forty for Forty – and feeling real good with every article I posted. I was building a digital scrapbook for my ages and I felt a charge knowing that someday, Colin and Aria might unearth these little treasures and get a deeper understanding for what made their Dad tick.
In addition, I had The Monkeybar Mafia on the docket at the Gateway Players theater – set to debut in the Fall of 2012. In January of that year – that date seemed so far in the distance… just a little speck of light – but like a sailor’s favorite star – one I would spy the second the sky granted me even the briefest of glimpses. I could not wait!!!
Then ~ my world changed forever ~ and Monkeybar became the furthest thing from my mind for a very long time.
The divorce was one that was a longtime coming – even if I go to my dying day claiming there are no villains here. And with children – and two rational adults at the helm – we made sure to steer this thing through treacherous waters as carefully as possible – trying our best to clamp down our sadness and despair at not being able to see this journey through to its final destination; that wonderful port of call all couples hope to reach when they first cross the threshold on their wedding day.
In the end – we just had drifted too far away to ever find a way back. It’s as simple as that really.
And as sad ~ as ever ~ a thing can be.
When The Monkeybar Mafia started production, it came on the heels of a very emotional, turbulent summer that saw me packing up and moving on out; on my own for the first time in basically forever. Fortunately, I had the kids coming to stay with me for 1/2 of each week which helped to ease the transition – and on the front end, I had Monkeybar rehearsals which provided a nice, creative distraction.
That’s the way things went for the next 2 & 1/2 months – and by the time we struck the set on the last of six great shows – it was time to toss up the turkeys… and soon after, the tinsel – and make way for The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.
So, it really wasn’t until New Years Eve – when I looked ahead to a brand new year (2013) and resolved that if there was a thing I needed correcting in 2013, it was this palpable sense of loneliness and incompleteness that had totally settled in for a long winter’s spell. I needed to shatter its effect. I may not have been destined to be in that marriage for a lifetime BUT I am certainly not built for the bachelor’s life either. I’m just too damned social for that damnation.
So this past winter, on those lonely days and nights when I grew weary of talking to that bald-headed bastard I often spy in the mirror – I decided to crib a page from The Shawshank Redemption. “Get busy living… and get busy writing.” OK, so that’s paraphrasing a little but I have no intention to get busy DYING!!!
I made it my mission to get The Lost World set up somewhere. I needed to find it more than ever.
I had written it the year before – while waiting for Monkeybar to get up and running – and it proved to be good therapy for the day-to-day divorce discussions that were constantly wearing on a slowly stressing heart and mind. Where I saw my own relationship beyond repair, I saw in those six characters thrown together at a reunion, the opportunity to set right what once went wrong. So, I went to town throwing them through the wringer knowing that in the end – I was going to bring them beauty birthed from tragedy. The hopeful ending I gifted to Parker, Danielle, Haley, Michael and Jamie gave me the chance to dream a little dream that maybe somewhere, out there… something good would come my way once again.
This past winter – when I was away from my former home in Dudley – now living a town away in Webster… a beautiful country home exchanged for an apartment less than a mile away from the downtown cityscape – and feeling so alone in my life – I decided to seek out The Lost World. I dove back in and freshened up the place and then set forth trying to plant it somewhere on the map. While I had tried to get it set-up at Gateway the year before, they wisely wanted to see how Monkeybar performed first. I get that. It wasn’t personal – just business. That essentially put me back one year – meaning if I was going to go with Gateway, I would likely have to wait until 2014 at the earliest.
But where I sat in mid-Winter 2013, I don’t think my heart could take the wait. I’m not so sure absence would have made this heart grow fonder. I NEEDED to get this story out. As it is, when I finished writing it while waiting for Monkeybar to premiere – I wanted to kick the Mafia to the curb and just move forward with The Lost World. They say you can’t choose a favorite among children. That’s true of flesh and blood but in ink & paper, sometimes it’s a no-brainer. I really like Monkeybar. It taught me a lot about myself.
BUT I love The Lost World. It makes me want to be a better person.
So, now I write this after having spent 2 & 1/2 months working with some amazing people who put their all into taking my mere words and injecting them with soul – not just between the curtains… but back-stage too. Jared, Krishna, Michael, Scott, Nikki, Rebecca, Corey, Debi, Angela, Leo, Melanie, Chelsea, Tucker, Alex, Sabrina and Nicole brought Reilly, Hannah, Parker, Michael, Danielle, Haley, Jamie, Millie, Alyson, Teen Parker, Teen Haley, Teen Michael, Teen Jamie, Teen Reilly, Teen Hannah and Teen Danielle to such vibrant life. When I first cast them – on a random Monday night on a warm August day in that cavernous Town Hall auditorium – I had no idea what to expect. I could never have foreseen how swiftly this group would bond.
My amazing stage manager (and better friend) John joined the chorus my co-director Gina and I sang: Not one of us has ever seen a group this large form such a tight bond on-stage and off. It was a true pleasure to behold.
And that extends further – to people who added such depth and texture to the performance beyond the spoken word. Tanya and her daughter Mikalya, and Leo’s mom Kim did some amazing work teasing the hair, making up the cast and making them look damned good – and being part of our crazy off-stage shenanigans.
When Meagan came to me – begrudging the fact that she couldn’t audition due to work conflicts and then threw the out: “If you ever need a choreographer”… little did she know how quickly the light bulb flicks on in my big, bald head. Of course I needed one – and she was just the girl for the job. She took my brief character notes and song titles and delivered little one minute lyrical moments that added such lovely texture to the play.
To think it all began with that first read-through at my producer Mary’s lakeside home- where a bunch of strangers came together to read their parts for the first time and dove into my tale. I’m sure the lot of them wondering just what the Hell they had signed up for in the first place, upon that first read-through.
Little did they know – they had all signed a pact to help ease my weary heart through another year.
One more year down and I’m in the same place I was the year before. Believe me – I don’t look back upon my past. Almost two years ago now, I look ahead with some hope at this awesome second chapter brimming with hope. I wasn’t happy before. Not in every phase of the game that you hope for. I cling onto the belief that with one life to live, you owe it to yourself to make it the best one. That’s what I aspire to do now.
What I didn’t count on was the stinging yearning that fills the gap when you know you don’t want what you had but you’re not quite sure what you want ~ only that you want something other than what you currently have. Still with me? 😉 That settled in for far too long last winter before I found in The Lost World hope for something beautiful in the end… something mined from tragedy.
Today is bittersweet. Another show as come and gone. I woke this morning with heavy heart. But i’ve transformed in the last year. I don’t look back. I look forward. I realize I have so many years to come and so many more stories I want to tell. Stories inspired by memory. I’ve found that two plays in, I lean on my real life experiences for about 20% of the story and then go-to-town building upon that foundation with pure imagination. Hey, it works for me.
But if there is a constant theme in The Lost World ~ it’s to treasure those experiences life throws your way. To covet them as the greatest currency. The only one worth trading in.
“It’s good memories. That’s what makes a life worth living. You should collect them and hold them tight.”
~ Hannah Belle
I wrote that… once upon a time.
It’s good advice I intend to keep… and let guide me to my next great discovery.