My girlfriend, Cassi, and I have a thing we say that began pretty much when we started dating. We fell for each other almost instantly. Typical lesbians. “I love you” didn’t happen on the first date but it was in the first handful of dates that we shared THE words, eyes gleaming at a friend’s summer rooftop party with a live band playing. (What can I say, sometimes it is like the movies…)
But this thing we say, it happened shortly after “I love you” when there was a need to describe something even greater for one another. We say it when we’re particularly excessively oozing, overcome, with emotion for one another. When it goes beyond the three little words and becomes the only, and slightly shorter, way we can describe the biggest feeling in our lives: “I’m overflowing.”
One night last week I started overflowing but it wasn’t with Cassi. Don’t worry – I’ve confessed and she’s okay with it. I was lucky enough to attend a conversation between Roger Rees and Rick Elice presented by the SAG Foundation, which among other things provides services to educate and inspire actors. The focus at these conversations is usually intended to be on the actor’s career, however sometimes the moderator is someone close enough to the subject that the conversation becomes a dialogue between two extremely interesting people about life in the arts, all for the benefit of those who have gathered that night. I knew I would love it and brought along my best friend, also an actress. I had seen Roger and Rick in a talk back at Peter and the Starcatcher on Broadway and was completely enchanted.
The event begins and there is a brief introduction of what is to come, a reminder to turn off cell phones is given, and the audience applauds as the people they’ve come to see step into the light. It isn’t a play, but the storytelling that occurs between these two artists, begins to pull you in, so that you forget that your inbox is silently flooding with background casting emails, and you forget that you don’t have a job lined up for tomorrow, and you suddenly remember what it truly means to be moved. Inspired. Tears flowed into laughter from myself and the rest of the audience with the stories of successes, tribulations, and the awkward insanity that we all relate to as artists in a world that fluctuates so drastically. In response to my question about career roadblocks and moving past them, Roger talked about being fired from his role as the leading man in The Red Shoes just days prior to the musical’s opening night on Broadway… and just hours before he was expected at the theater that evening. As he was was trying to recover from the shock moments after his notice was given, a friend who happened by told him that it was probably for the best. And if you look up the history of The Red Shoes it seems it was. The anecdotes from pros to just pick yourself up again and carry on are some of the most important lessons that I’ve been able to gather about the key to a successful career in the arts. It’s an obvious tip for any career, or life in general, but it seems so much more difficult in a world where your work is tied to your emotions and creativity, and so directly to you.
An hour after the event, after my transfer from the subway to the bus which would soon drop me off near my one-bedroom outer-borough apartment, I was still revisiting the evening in my mind and the amazing stories Roger Rees and Rick Elice shared. I realized that I was overflowing… the same feeling Cassi and I share for one another. A feeling I had for the first time when I was 15 and saw my first Broadway play – Indiscretions – starring a certain Mr. Rees, Eileen Atkins, Kathleen Turner, Cynthia Nixon, and Jude Law. Those people moved molecules without moving a muscle. Made the outside go away and the present moment the most important thing. I was overflowing with the witnessing of that miracle. It is that feeling that made me want to be someone like them when I grew up, and keeps me working to achieve my goals.
It is usually at the theater, live musical performances, and watching films that I’ve been extraordinarily moved in my life. It could happen anywhere I suppose. I’d love to hear from anyone who would like to share a profoundly moving experience that might be akin to the feeling of overflowing. What does it feel like to you?