The summer after I graduated from Catholic University in Washington D.C. with a degree in drama, I was fortunate enough to study with three company members from Arena Stage: Halo Wines, Mark Hammer and Stanley Anderson at the Arena Stage Summer Acting Workshop. It was a transformative summer with these three exceptional actors who had done so many memorable productions together at Arena and who opened our eyes and hearts, speaking to us about bringing one another to truth and breaking down our mask so that we could be fully open on the stage. One afternoon late in our time together, Stanley sat us all down crosslegged on the floor and solemnly spoke to us about what it means to be an actor. He said that the actor was the Shaman of his society and that it was his responsibility to walk into the volcanoes of the human soul — the places people were afraid to go — and to come back to tell his tribe what he found there. That it was his job to expand the human emotional capacity and that he had the unspoken gratitude of his society for what he did.
My dad had died suddenly of a heart attack when I was just 15 and everything had felt impossibly shattered then. Soon after his death, I became irresistably drawn to the theater — more Holocaust plays than musicals — and I followed where it was pulling me. Stanley’s words that July afternoon broke through my isolation and for the first time since my father died, I knew that my life would have meaning and that I could be safe. Art was a magical kingdom where it wasn’t what you hid that made you safe, but what you exposed. It wasn’t what you kept that made you rich and whole, but what you risked and gave. In the years since, I have witnessed again and again the transformative power of language and storytelling and artistic courage and community, and have come to know intimately that there is no human experience you can undergo that Art cannot hold because Art always says: “Bring it!” Art says: “Everything matters.” And if you let it, it will save your life.
So I moved to New York City at the end of that summer and that’s how my first rodeo* began!
* As to my 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th rodeo, some information may be found within these pages.