One of the things I’ve mentioned in my bio and here at the web site is that I’ve been a performer for four decades. Actually, I’ve been performing in front of folks doing all sorts of things for years. I’ve ever doubted I could perform. Doesn’t mean others have always believed in me, though. I’ve been an iffy proposition at times,
In my first school play, I played Santa Claus – in a cheap, plastic trash-bag type Santa Claus suit, with all of two lines, in the back of the stage, because everyone HAD to have a role, and the teacher figured I’d be out-of-the-way. The fact I played Santa is as an ironic twist of fate if there ever was one, considering where my life led me all these years later (you’ll see in a little bit).
On the other hand, in third grade at Our Lady of Good Counsel catholic school, the nuns appreciated my voice in choir so much that they made me part of a barbershop quartet, singing “I’m Looking Over a Four Leaf Clover” (My solo line? “The second is rain’).
In eighth grade, I borrowed my brother’s snare drum so I could play for a performance of “The Little Drummer Boy” for the church choir. Of course, the fact I didn’t know how to play the drum never even crossed my mind. I figured it out, did it passably within two weeks and accompanied the choir. Even earned extra credit for an A.
I jumped into theater in high school and never gave it up. It’s been a passion for me. When I wasn’t on stage I was back stage. And I wanted to direct, with a passion. But I also fell in love. Madly in love. And at a juncture in my life when I could have turned left and pursued a career as a performer, I chose to turn right, and follow my new wife to a life on the opposite coast, and a different set of adventures.
But for decades, as I did amateur theater and the occasional minor professional or dinner theater gig, I always wondered about the decision point and the what if moment.
In 2000 I had a chance to rethink that choice. After some success in some regional theater in the Seattle area I asked some friends I knew in the Seattle acting community for recommendations about training and enrolled in a rather prestigious training conservatory. After three months, the lead instructor told me I was being dropped from the program, saying that I was “too old and too intellectual” to succeed as an actor, as a performer, as an artist.
Basically, I was told I had no talent. I sat there. These people who were professionals had passed judgment on me and said, nope you never were good enough all along.
I thought about that, and realized if I could still keep a dream, and a spark, and passion alive despite everything else happening in my life, no person telling me I was too old was going to push me away, And certainly nobody telling me I thought about it too much.
So I set out again to work and prove them wrong. I found work both on and back stage, became a staff member at an Everett theater, and worked harder and longer for years to make myself a success. And in 2006, when I starred as Kris Kringle in “Miracle on 34th Street”, I left the director of that conservatory a pair of comp tickets for every performance, just in case. Opening night’s tickets were front row center. For some strange reason he never showed.
His loss. I was pretty good, although it was a little ironic, considering it wasn’t the first time I’d played the part.
I guess the point is, never let anyone but you define you…and even then, be careful how YOU define you. Are you defining you to be the best potential you? Because if you’re not, you’re doing you a true disservice. I know I have on so many occasions, and I have trouble forgiving me at times too. Vicious cycle, that.
But do you want to know a secret? My real first performance was when I was two years old. Growing up in New York City, I would toddle into the living room whenever the television was on, and a certain commercial would come on. I’d be in the room like a shot, and start singing and dancing, every single time. To this day, all my relatives remind me of this. The commercial? Well all I know is the tagline:
“MOTT’S APPLE JUICE IS SOOOOOOOO GOOD!”
And you know what? To this day, to me, it still is.