There are a lot of funny memes surfing the internet as of late in regards to “Me at the beginning of 2016 vs. Me at the end of 2016.” You get the sense that people are not only referring to their own personal lives but commenting on the state of the country in general, the implication being that 2016 is not going to go down in the books as a super awesome year overall. As I do my own end-of-the-year assessment, I'm discovering that my 2016 is actually ending on a pretty wonderful note, even though it started off in a much darker and more desolate place and it took quite a bit of strength and effort to turn it around. And I'm overwhelmed with an immense amount of gratitude.
At a time when the tide was just starting to turn, I found myself walking through Central Park one late afternoon with a dear friend of mine; a brilliant soprano who was yapping away one of her marvelous conspiracy theories in my ear. I had just seen The Taming of the Shrew at Shakespeare in the Park a couple of days prior to this, and where she and I were walking just happened to be in the vicinity of the Delacorte Theatre. Suddenly, I noticed two women walking up the path in our direction. Recognizing the blonde bob of the woman on the left, it occurred to me: ‘Oh my God. That’s…. I think that’s Phyllida Lloyd.’ (She directed Shrew as well as countless other productions that have made me inspired and excited to do what I do!) As our two parties passed each other (in what seemed like slow motion), I felt my breath stop as I listened closely for the accent so that I could be absolutely certain that it was her. And sure enough, I realized ‘Yes. Yes! It is, it’s totally her!’ I felt my heart and artistic soul start to dance being so close to greatness! But then… I choked. And when my friend saw me frozen in time as they walked away, she asked me what was wrong. To which I whispered, “That’s one of my favorite directors on the planet right now.” “Well go talk to her!” she exclaimed. “No,” I said, “the show is still in previews and they’re probably talking shop. I don’t want to interrupt. Let’s go. Let’s just go.” So, we continued on, but by the time we were outside of the park, I sat down on a bench and just started to sob. When my friend tried to console me, I said “I’m chicken sh**! This is what’s wrong with my life! I don’t speak up, I don’t grab opportunities with enough gusto. I’m just, I suck!” Yeah…. I was having a little bit of a moment. The soprano talked me through it and I calmed down, and eventually we marched on. And as someone who tries to make it a habit of searching for the positive, I thought ‘Ok, well… what have I learned from this moment? What I’ve learned is how deep the pain of regret feels when I suppress such a deep desire to speak up; when I don’t grab an opportunity or don’t share with someone who inspires me so much that I’m grateful for them. So, next time, no matter how afraid I am of sounding like a wide-eyed doofus, I will speak up.'
Eventually, 2016 afforded me with a new agent, a new apartment, new friends, and new freelance work opportunities. It also saw some exciting acting gigs and a play almost two years in the making that is finally near completion. None of it happened quickly, and none of it happened without breaking a sweat (or, as you’ve just read, shedding a few tears).
What it also afforded me was a marvelous trip to England the first week of December. Among my many adventures across the pond, the heart of the trip was seeing the Shakespeare Trilogy at the Donmar’s new theatre near King’s Cross. It was a day full of 3 plays that starred Harriet Walter and a marvelous ensemble, and all directed by the wonderful Ms. Phyllida Lloyd. After having spent time with Ms. Walter on the Sonnet film last year, I decided to send her a thank you note backstage along with a copy of the piece I wrote in regards to that day; again, seizing an opportunity to share with someone that they inspired me, they helped, they made a difference. Low and behold… in between the first and second shows Ms. Walter sent me an email thanking me for what I had written and insisted that I not run off (as I said I had planned to do as her day would be long), but she asked instead that I meet her in the bar after the show. Well, ok Harriet Walter, I will do that. As I people-watched in the lobby waiting for the Dame to change, my eyes eventually made their way over to the bar AND… would you look at that; there was Phyllida Lloyd, almost six months to the day after I choked in the park. Inspired by the amazing work I’d just seen and recognizing the rarity of being given a second chance like that, I refused to let the opportunity slip away again. Doofus or not, I trotted on over and tapped her on the shoulder. “Ms. Lloyd?” She turned and smiled, perhaps a little surprised at being recognized. “I have to tell you… you and I passed each other in Central Park several months ago, and I have regretted ever since not telling you that I think your work is amazing. So… you’re amazing! Ha. And thank you for today. It was so inspiring and incredible.” She giggled and said “Oh my goodness, that is amazing. And thank you so much! I’m so thrilled you enjoyed it.” “I did, thank you. Have a wonderful evening.” “Thank you. You as well.” That was it! That was all I wanted. Redemption achieved. #micdrop
Harriet Walter has a lovely quote at the end of Other People’s Shoes where she differentiates between this idea of faith vs. wishful thinking. “Wishful thinking,” she says, “is of no use to anyone, but faith can make a difference. At any rate, we may as well act as if it might, just in case it does.” It was that time with her on Pomander Walk last year when I started to find my sense of faith and trust again, and which gave me the strength to jumpstart a new beginning which has brought me so many things that I’m grateful for. And my redemption with Ms. Lloyd at King’s Cross has confirmed my belief that nothing is ever your last chance; it only becomes that when you decide to stop taking chances.
Thank you to these ladies. And thank you to everyone who made 2016 a year that I will forever be grateful for.