And now, a year and a half later, I am to say that I am a bit calmer in my feelings described below, but also following them! Writing out my dreams allows them to manifest, and it's important to recognize that.
I have slightly edited the below since its initial draft:
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I have seen acting as a sacred, almost holy ritual. Mass is a performance, like a play. Seeking enlightenment, nirvana, or the Holy Spirit (whatever your fancy) is the pursuit of God, or truth, or oneness with the Universe (again, whatever your fancy). Not only as a practitioner, but as an audience member, I have zero patience for theatre executed on autopilot or without any thought or service to truth, mindfulness, commitment, and imagination.
Two of my greatest artistic successes (which had what I think were my WORST artistic attempts squashed between them: a very cowardly and surface-level performance as Tuzenbach in a dreadful Three Sisters and a downright crappy audition in London) happened in Winter 2012. I played Ned Blunt in The Rover at drama school and then sang the Meditation Song at Christmas Eve Mass a month later near my hometown. I will discuss the latter.
I flew into RI a day earlier than originally planned, and it so happened that I would make it to my aunts' choir rehearsal. They've been choir directors since long before my birth. One of them, Jo-Ann, called aunt by choice not by blood, was my voice teacher until I was 18. She called me up, and asked me be the soloist during the reflection time after Communion- "Oh, Holy Night." I said yes immediately, and got myself to rehearsal.
This was the year the Sandy Hook shootings happened in neighboring Connecticut. The country was really shaken by the death of so many little ones. And, in general, folks seemed on edge in our community. I had drifted from following strict Catholic doctrine, but still believed in something greater than ourselves. Like the reason we hang ornaments (to reflect), this moment of meditation is was meant to open up the heart and mind to peace.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining... the lyrics declared, and surprisingly topically.
The soul felt its worth...
Fall on your knees, Hear the angel voices...
At the mass itself, I stepped forward once everyone had received the Body of Christ. Annie on percussion, the full choir behind me, and Jo-Ann on piano and conducting, we collaborated to pray- to really tap into our souls and be mindful about the world around us. Using the skills I'd learned at drama school, like using language by luxuriating in its sounds, filling the space, and driving it all with intent.
When singing the song, all the self consciousness and tension I often felt when auditioning with a song was gone- there was a purpose greater than myself that night. The purpose was to SERVE the people in attendance, to inspire them to pray. To reflect. To meditate. I remember every moment because I was being mindful of communication and presence, but I didn't comment or force anything. The words, the intent- it all flowed through me. And when it ended, the church burst into the most thunderous applause that had, up to that point, followed something I took part in. I did not bow, nor did I smile. I breathed it in and tilted my head to thank them, and to share in what they were feeling.
After the mass, about ten different grown men walked up to me, weeping. Each of them shook my hand, quivering. They could not form words other than breathy "thank yous." I felt like one of the actors I have reached out to at the stage door, post performance My grandmother asked if I loved the applause. I said, "I do not love the applause. I appreciate its spontaneity as a signal I have fulfilled my artistic (aka spiritual) duty."
I mean this. And THIS is the only thing worth pursuing.
Though I do mourn that my current path makes it difficult to get an appointment audition to something I do believe in, like The Phantom of the Opera, I recognize that THIS humble, slow-moving path I am carving is MINE, and truest to myself. And one day, I will stand on a stage, whether it be in London's West End or a humbler stage in the regional scene, and share my soul and search for mindful revelation through that uplifting score.