That “Kid” Up there

There isn’t a kid alive who, having performed in a school play, dance recital, or garage band, hasn’t fantasized about his or her future Emmy/Grammy/Oscar/Tony acceptance speech. It’s the stuff dreams are made of. Literally. Somewhere, metaphorically waiting in the wings, is that director who’s going to take us by the shoulders and say, “You’re going out there a kid, but you’re coming back a Star!”
dancingBut then things happen. Kids grow up. Real life supplants reel life. And that’s OK, because those performance kids become the life’s blood of every great audience, living vicariously and appreciating wholeheartedly their alter-egos onstage. We become Ultimate Fans, memorizing dialogue on the sly and softly singing whole Broadway scores whenever we do the dishes. Although the only reviews we get come from HR at work, and the only speeches we’re asked to make involve holiday dinners or wedding toasts, we never completely forget our doppelgangers. In our hearts, we’re always secretly expecting to hear that mystery director’s “kid/star” speech (well, maybe not the “kid” part so much, anymore), despite the fact that we’d long ago made peace with life on the other side of the curtain.
And then life surprises you.
Sometimes, you DO get that second—or third or fourth—act. And that’s when the dreams begin anew. Building a performance resume rooted in community theater and regional entertainment has been the post-academic career I never dreamed possible. When my beloved Marymount Manhattan College closed my Education Department (where I was an Assistant Professor), I was bereft. I literally did not know where to turn. No one was hiring. I literally had nowhere to be and nothing to do.  And then it came to me. The Dream. Not of winning an Oscar or a Tony, but of performing again, as I had in high school all those years ago. And, while it’s true that most teachers, administrators or professors perform daily for a captive (if not always receptive) audience, doing it for real is a whole ‘nuther thing. But it all came back, and before I knew it, I was auditioning in a world I never knew existed, and it fascinated me.
armoirI suddenly found myself cast as everything from a singing/dancing armoire (Madame de la Grande Bouche in Disney’s “Beauty and the Beast”) to a psychotic alcoholic (Martha in Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”). What followed was a natural (and inevitable) connection to other performance troupes (the Step Sistas, a division of The Red Hot Mamas, and Island Hills Chorus, a chapter of Sweet Adelines International).  I found myself singing, dancing, and screaming my way all across Long Island, and it was exhilarating.
Since then, I’ve branched out to television and movies, doing extra work on a variety of projects from small indie projects to more mainstream TV series (“Blue Bloods,”  “Elementary”) and network movies (“Madoff”). For a TCM junkie who can’t pass a local shoot without lingering, this was a dream come true.
Whatever comes next, I’m good with it. Even if it’s just watching other actors collect their Emmy/Grammy/Oscar/Tony. Just being a part of the family (however extended) is more than I ever dreamed possible.