NO DAY BUT TODAY
There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening, that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique. And if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium and will be lost. ~ Martha Graham
Tonight I saw the long-awaited film version of RENT. While flawed in places, it was thrilling for me to see the original cast perform and it reminded me again of why I chose an artist’s life. I first heard the music of RENT sitting in my friend Shaana’s dorm room at college. She’d seen the original Broadway cast and came back from New York bursting to tell me about it. I didn’t get to see it for myself until I moved to Boston. That first year was tough. I’d left the dearest friends I had and was living in a confusing city where I knew no one and was working a job I loathed. I took my parents with me to see the tour and spent the rest of the year listening to the soundtrack every day for encouragement. It urged me not to sink into depression or isolation but to work on the film I wanted to make, to find plays to direct and to write. A couple of years later I took my sister to see another Boston tour and last year I finally saw it on Broadway with my husband. But perhaps my most meaningful encounter with RENT was my introduction to Jonathan Larson’s sister, Julie. She was friends with the director of the last film I worked on and she’d heard I was a fan. So one day she came to visit our production office and brought me a crew hat from the film. She was sweet and sincere. She thanked me for my support of the project and told me how much she hoped I would like the film.
I’ve had two weeks off from Hamlet and Othello rehearsals and I’ve been struggling. My last rehearsal wasn’t so hot. I had to tackle Ophelia’s mad scene with little advance warning and I felt my confidence take a nose-dive. I felt that while I understood and resonated with what the director wanted, I couldn’t let myself do it. So I left rehearsal beating myself up and headed to the nearest bar for a drink with my friend. Since then the old demons have come to visit every day and they are loud and pushy. They tell me I have no business trying to act, that I should leave it to those with real talent who know how to do it. They tell me I’m bucking against my true calling as a director and that I should go back to doing what I know best. Every day I write these fears out on the page and every night I lie awake for hours wondering if I’m making a huge mistake. It’s not just my money that’s on the line as a producer- it’s my self-worth as an artist and as a human being. I don’t know what the hell I’m doing. All I know is that there is something inside of me that refuses to pipe down and go away. It insists that I acknowledge it and then do something about that knowledge.
Tonight I finally felt a release from the past weeks of torment. Listening to those familiar lyrics, watching the passion and the creativity of Jonathan Larson’s genius, I remembered why I am here. I came to Los Angeles with thousands of other people to live in a studio apartment with no furniture and to struggle from job to job and to question everything about myself because I have to. I have to find out what I’m made of. There is an expression unique to me that only I can channel. And if I ignore it, if I choose safety over the unknown, not only will that life force be lost- but I will be too.