I have a friend who says that there are three realities of who “you” are: the one you project to the world—how you want to be seen; the one projected onto you from the outside—how the world actually sees you; and the one only YOU know and don’t feel any particular need to share with anybody. My question has always been: which is really real? I think that the most necessary and responsible thing a person can do in this life is to know themselves as well as possible. You have to peer deeply into all of the dark, nasty corners of all the rooms in your “house”—including the attic, basement and sub-basement—and embrace what you find there. Keep what’s worth keeping, get rid of the rest and forgive yourself for having kept it there in the first place. I call it “mining” or “plumbing” your own humanity. I figure the better acquainted you are with your own humanity the more likely it is that you might recognize and accept the humanity in someone else. A.K.A. the “other.” And the more likely that how you see yourself, how you want to be seen and how the world sees you would be more in line. I’m not saying give up EVERYTHING! But you feel me, yes?
I see myself as an artist on a life long quest to be the best actor and person that I can find it in myself to be. Yeah, I admit, it’s a little corny. But that’s just me. This quest of mine has led me to Germany, Finland, Romania, Scotland, Canada, the UK, and Sweden. It has placed me on stages all over America from ocean to ocean and border to border and, yes, that does indeed include Broadway. Now, after more than three decades of following my bliss as an actor, it has led me to uncover a completely new facet of this me I see myself to be—that of writer and solo performer. Returning actively to the business after a sixteen-month hiatus, training as a massage therapist, I’d found that I was all but without agency representation—“unavailable for work”—and effectively “off the radar." Eventually sick and tired of going crazy sitting around waiting for the phone to ring I resolved to DO something. Be PROACTIVE. MAKE WORK FOR MYSELF!!! So I picked up a pen and started writing RHAPSODY IN BLACK. The thing is, for YEARS I was just writing, writing, writing, without actually knowing what it was I was writing ABOUT. I wrote a monologue for this play while on my honeymoon in Greece in 2001. In fact, RHAPSODY started out as nine “discrete” monologues, nine different “characters”. But when I let those closest to me read them, to a person, they said that the monologues all sounded like me. So back to the computer I went (by now I had one), cannibalizing the monologues, organizing the stories along the timeline of my life, child to adult. It is impossible for me to unpack here the exact alchemical process of time, training, inspiration, but what made everything gel was a direct product of the self-examination necessary to recall and recount these stories. A consciousness shattering epiphany laying bare the truth of the who I had been, giving an entirely new perspective on the who I am now, and enabling exciting possibilities of the who I can be in the future.
I unveiled RHAPSODY IN BLACK as a Sunday@six reading at the WorkShop Theatre in the Spring of 2013. I subsequently began working on it, putting it on its feet in session at the Actors Studio, April that same year. (Before I showed it to ANYONE I let my wife read it. She LIKED it, a huge exhalation of relief for both of us. And major wind in my sails.) Upon seeing the work in the acting session at the studio, Estelle Parsons, a gift from the gods, came on board as directorial consultant bringing Chris Silva, Stephen LaMarca and the resources of the Bardavon Opera House to the party and we were off and running. My self-produced showcase at the United Solo Festival in the Fall 2014 netted us a couple of awards and agency representation: Best Storyteller for myself, Best Director for Estelle, and Cheryle Hanson of Kids Entertainment out of Toronto, Ontario. To date we have toured New York, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Maine, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Tennessee, Kansas, Nebraska, Canada and Sweden, with Alabama on the calendar for the Fall and more dates booking up even as I write this.The response to this show has been nothing short of phenomenal. From audiences composed of middle school, high school, college students and their faculty, from homogeneous audiences and those dripping with diversity, to audiences young and old, the response is always the same. A light goes on in a neglected room and that old dusty bell of truth is rung, prompting questions that become part of a larger discourse in that moment, and responses that become food for thought for days to come. And REAL CONVERSATIONS about this madness start to happen. RHAPSODY is making a difference.
To look up and see that “I did that” is an incredible feeling. Frankly, I didn’t know that I had it in me. And that’s the beauty of the thing, really. This whole process has been more chrysalis than crucible; opening, revealing ME. To me. I see some interesting roads ahead; writing, acting, human be-ing. How about you?