My cousins from South Carolina came into town this weekend. Tami and Tony are very fun people, and while it’s a challenge to show folks around a town you are barely learning to navigate, Craig and I managed. We didn’t even get lost this time, but I must admit we avoided the terrible tangle of freeways and tollways that hunker down on the southern side of Dallas waiting to swallow newbies whole, spitting them out to arrive in places like Waco where they don’t wish to go. We opted for the more prosaic but reliable side streets that took us through a multiplicity of interesting neighborhoods. Side note; lots of the side streets in Dallas need their potholes filled.
My cousins were in town for a program that will advance Tony towards his dream of acting for television and film. Already an accomplished singer and musician, he is adding new skills to his resume at an age when many are simply looking towards retirement and uninterrupted stints of binge watching JAG. I admire that. He knew that I coach actors and asked for my help in preparing.
We took Tami and Tony to Deep Ellum, which seems to be our go-to interesting spot in Dallas. After a tasty lunch at a Falafel place, we stumbled upon Emporium Pie, and it was fantastic. All they do is pie. I have a genetic weakness for pie, and when the baking matches my expectations, it’s a memorable event. Craig and I split a piece of The Lord of the Pies which is a delightful deep dish apple with brown sugar streusel on top. There had to have been at least 2 whole apples thinly sliced in our piece alone. As we had dessert on the cute patio, I coached Tony through his performance pieces for the showcase.
In the space between moving from Johnson City, TN to Dallas and the aftermath of The Fire, I’d forgotten that I love to coach actors to be better, to encourage them and give them tools so they can be confident in their craft. I’m not sure how one forgets about a thing they are passionate about and good at, but I had. The loss of so much in The Fire has created dents in my emotion and memory like little psychic concussions. It’s an ongoing battle combating negativity and pointless what-if mental gyrations and it is terribly distracting. This weekend, helping Tony hone his craft, a most remarkable feeling overtook me. I was happy. It felt so strange. Maybe some of that joy can be chalked up to the intense sugar rush from The Lord of the Pies, but it went deeper than that. I truly love coaching actors, and directing them. The collaboration, and that willingness to be “other”. The trust that is created between teacher and student. Creating art.
“Find your passion and the money will follow,” is a phrase I’ve heard for a long time but am a tad leery of, as if making money at something automatically robs it of passion. It’s crazy when you think about it. Why shouldn’t happiness and solid income inhabit the same space? Most of us yearn for a sense of belonging, of being wanted and needed. I found that “belonging” to some degree in performing myself, but coaching and directing others to be the best version of themselves – adding value to them — feels even better. Writing feels pretty good too, but there is more pain involved in writing. I love my Blog on Thursdays when I have completed an entry, but don’t like it AT ALL on Tuesdays as I rummage around in my psyche, running after loose thoughts with a butterfly net. Just like the tricky freeways that surround Dallas, I am apt to blunder onto a thought thread that takes me to a place I decidedly do not want to be.
Perhaps adding in acting coaching and directing to the other things in my life is exactly what I have been searching for since The Fire. The risk of adding on another thing is of course becoming too widely scattered and overbooked. Becoming paralyzed by Overwhelm lurks like a grungy Troll under the bridge to a happy, fulfilled life and it’s likely to grab your ankles as you attempt the crossing. There is a gritty, stubborn side of myself that is sure I can do all of it though, and just for today that’s who I am going to listen to. The photo that tops this entry will be my lucky talisman for this journey. These are a few of the Masters actors* I had the privilege to coach during my final days in Johnson City. I’m glad this photo was living in the phone I grabbed as we ran out the door that night of The Fire. It reminds me that touching lives, adding value, and helping folks be a better version of themselves is a wonderful job. One that is worth navigating unknown terrain for, even if it takes me into that daunting knot of freeways squatting to the south of me waiting to spin me off to some hinterland of Texas.
*From L-R: Matthew Kilby, Faith Rader, Matt Quick, Josh Cassels, Lorri Anderson, Gus Darden, Corey Tickles and Mike Lilley – honored that I am going to get to say “I knew them when”, as they continue their remarkable careers.