Monday, September 22, 2008

"This is for you."








I think that my blog could be called "The Theatre and Homage to my Dad Write-up". It does seem those two topics are reoccurring themes. This summer has been eye-opening, validating, and life-altering. Returning to musicals was necessary and doing my most professional work to date in "Les Mis" brings me unparalleled peace. It reminds me of one of my favourite quotes:

"Your profession is NOT what brings home your paycheck. Your profession is what you're put here on earth to do, with such passion and such intensity that it becomes spiritual in calling." (Vincent Van Gogh)

The frame of reference was set between retail/waitering vs. musical storytelling. There is simply no comparison. When one is doing what one is called to do, peace ensues. It is that simple.

I have learned to let things go on stage. Our Madame Thenardier said something quite astute, simple, and profound the other night. It was in reference to she and Mike (Thenardier) lagging a bit behind in the music of "One Day More". She said, "It's live theatre. That's what it is all about." That stuck with me as a concept to apply to my stage work and my life. How many times have I berated myself for a slight mess-up on stage and brooded about it??? It is live. Little hiccups make the audience aware that it is not a television program. We are alive entities creating in front of you and we are sometimes tired or -- oops -- not perfect. And you know what? That is okay... and there is no need dwelling on it. I know that the artistry I present would far out-weight any mistake I could make. (And let me tell you today I was in no man's land for the final show of the week for no other reason than I am tired. It was little bitty things like forgetting a lyric in an ensemble beggar number, almost being late for a couple of things, and getting tickled by onstage antics, but I let it go and said "Job well done. Get some sleep." Aside on an aside -- I am typing this at a ludicrously late/early hour and need to get some slumbering time.)

As for my Dad, I have been trying to simply go wherever my heart lead me in terms of dealing with the grief. I mistakingly thought "the hard stuff" would be over in a few months. I now equate it more to the ocean. It comes in waves, sometimes it is calm, others it is rough, and occasionally, and seemingly out of the blue, there is a tsunami. I never knew that I would feel his presence so implicitly when I performed. It is both beautiful and, at times, painful because it is just NOT enough... and I want more.

I am grateful that we bonded before his death and I hope he knows how much I think of him and deeply miss him. Interestingly, I never thought it would be like this partly because my role-playing on this matter was so far off the mark it is laughable but also because my Dad and I had a tumultuous relationship for most of my life. It does just go to show you that it is NEVER too late to forge a bond and learn to respect and love one another.... NEVER.

In some miraculous way that transcends my Father, me, and our bond, his "appearances" in my musicals have validated that this is indeed a calling. I am so attuned to emotions and who I am (or who the character is) that there is a communication on another level. These "encounters" have reawakened my spirituality. I never saw that coming.

So since my Dad's death (I almost typed "demise" because I wanted to use another word, but that bothers me. Funny which words trigger that response. I don't like "lost" because it sounds like I can simply go and find him... the finality is not in that word, yet "demise" sounds too final.) he has helped me... in finally coming out to all my family (at the funeral in a letter), in building believable characters by drawing on him and his death, in validating my career path, and in making me look at life anew.

I do not feel as though I am alone on stage anymore. I could not possibly begin to articulate how my Dad is there, but I KNOW certain moments that he is. I wholeheartedly believe that when we die, it is not an END.... I do not know what it is, but there is still a communication and more so than mere memories. If you believe in it, it can happen... and even when you are not thinking about it or in that emotional place.

Case and point:
(This is actually not easy to write) In "Les Mis" Valjean sings "Bring Him Home". It is one of my favourite moments in the show and our Valjean (Doug Webster) is incredible performing it. My student character is sleeping right upstage of him leaning against the barricade. Normally, I just listen attentively and try not to look as though I am transfixed Dustin, but rather the sleeping student I am paid to be. On Saturday's performance that changed abruptly. He was a few measures in when I heard my Dad SAY:

"This is for you."

It was as if he was kneeling down and whispering in my ear. It was the only time I have heard him as though he were talking to me. I was overwhelmed to such an extent I wanted to leave the stage immediately and cry... that was not a possibility obviously. Instead, I tried to breathe and a single tear formed in my right eye and gently slid down my cheek. It was the most surprising moment of my entire life. Really. I listened to those lyrics like I had never heard that song and fought to control an onslaught of tears.

Here is the lyric to that song:

God on high
Hear my prayer
In my need
You have always been there

He is young
He's afraid
Let him rest
Heaven blessed.
Bring him home
Bring him home
Bring him home.

He's like the son I might have known
If God had granted me a son.
The summers die
One by one
How soon they fly
On and on
And I am old
And will be gone.

Bring him peace
Bring him joy
He is young
He is only a boy

You can take
You can give
Let him be
Let him live
If I die, let me die
Let him live
Bring him home
Bring him home
Bring him home.

I cannot tell you why my Dad chose to communicate with me in that moment, but the meaning of the song is clear. He talked to me.... and on a stage no less when I had to be quiet and still. Perhaps, after all, that would be the best time to communicate with me. I will never forget that moment. I will treasure it always. Thank you Dad. I heard you. I did.

I walked off stage and cried a bit, but had to focus to be the dead student in the sewer. (Only theatre can aid in writing sentences like that. Ha.) During that time I discovered that our Thenardier reminds me of my Dad. He smokes, he cusses, he is crass with his comedy, but is a nice, nice man. I became comforted by the thought of this and realized there was joy in the fact that my Dad was somehow near me through this man... what an unexpected gift. I will have to tell Mike about that.

I look forward to my day off from the show. Doing "Les Mis" eight times a week.... whew.... it is engaging and exhausting. It is always nice to have a day off to be human and be Dustin, no hitting women, no dying, no barricade. Inevitably, by the beginning of Tuesday I will miss these things again. That is the magic cycle of it all.

I am thankful that I am open to these experiences. If there is anything my parents did spot-on right it was that they empowered us to be ourselves and be open to new experiences. It seems that for the past couple of years all I am encountering are new things and, although that can be unsettling sometimes, at least I am really living and learning.

I love my Dad. I love theatre. I guess that is why I have to write about them often. I think that they both like it and delight in the blog homages.

If you read this.... please tell those you love that you love them, period. The connections we make here are joyous and one of the reasons we are here. I am grateful that my Father knew I loved him and I shared that with him.

Through these times, I have finally found who I am and it is transcendent.

More grateful than words allow.... Overflowing,

Dustin

1 comment:

Patrick the Angry, Angry Viewer said...

I guess I am supposed to tell the people I care about that I love them so.....I love you, DAB!