Saturday, June 26, 2010

You Can't Go Home Again...unless you're a different person.

Backstage West in the house last night.  This is the industry paper for actors, directors, writers, etc. in Los Angeles.  Tonight another of the big three, The L.A. Weekly, a weekly (obviously) paper here devoted to arts, culture and music.  Both should be out next Thursday.

I'm told by the ever-vigilant, critic-watchers that the Backstage reviewer was "stoic" although he seemed to enjoy it and concentrated silently throughout.

A vocal house last night.  One lone, jubilant standing ovation participant at the end.  No doubt a program person.

This morning I've got a class to teach and then an audition for a "documentary pilot" at noon.  Not sure what that entails but it's good money and they contacted me about coming in to read today.  It's in Beverly Hills.  So I'll trek over that way after finishing my teaching and see what happens with that.

Thomas Wolfe famously wrote the all-encompassing line, "You can't go home again."  I think it was in Look Homeward, Angel.  He was talking about a lot of things with that line, not of course, simply going home.  He was talking about our human tendency to try and recapture a moment, a place, a time in our life that has past, that we cannot revisit no matter how hard we try.  Maybe rekindling a love affair, or trying to pick up a feeling, a specific moment, that has disappeared.  It is one of the saddest lines in all of literature.

Since beginning this journey with Praying Small and the press its received I've had a few emails from the past. Got one last night, in fact.  People I haven't seen or heard from for thirty years or more.

Got an email from an old high school teacher last night that left me a bit perplexed.  Said he wanted to "pick up where we left off."  Personally, I didn't know there was anything to "pick up" to begin with.  He said, "I think this writing thing is something good for you, good for your future."  Hm.  Having been writing plays successfully for nearly twenty years, I wasn't quite sure what to think of that.

But I was, in fact, transported back to a time in my life, my late teens, growing up in central Missouri, miserable without actually knowing that I was miserable.  Not even knowing why.  Now, of course, I know why.  I was living with a raging, abusive, out-of-control alcoholic family.  But I didn't know that then.  In fact, quite the opposite.  I honestly believed, because I didn't have anything to compare it to, that EVERY family drank to paralyzing excess every night of their lives.

But this is not going to be a therapy session today.  I was simply intrigued because I actually use that line of Wolfe's in the play.  You can't go home again.  And God knows I have tried so many times in my life.  So many times I've tried to recapture something that was fleeting, both good and bad.

But then I began to think further on the line and I came to the conclusion that it DID actually work once in my life...when I moved to Los Angeles and began seeing Angela.  We had been seeing each other many years ago in college and when I moved here and "picked up" where we had left off, lo and behold, it worked.  It absolutely worked.  Never before or since.  Naturally, there were lots of changes, lots of things that were different, one being our age.  But hard compromises were made and now we're engaged to be married in November.

We are two completely different people than we were then, both of us with quite literally a lifetime between seeing each other, or in my case, several lifetimes.  But it was perfect timing for us.  Perfect kismet.  And now, against the laws of nature itself, we are both incredibly happy with the outcome.

I don't usually dwell on the extreme personal in this blog, some references, an occasional nod in that direction...mostly I save that kind of writing for the stage which, oddly, is far safer.  Behind the veil of drama and characterization it seems somehow less intrusive to speak openly of a complicated past.  And of course, in my case, the specter of addiction was always a hard and true factor in nearly every relationship I've had, be it with a lover or with a teacher or, for that matter, the local mailman.  Everything was colored by that truth in my life.  And acceptance being the answer to all our problems, I've accepted it.  And moved on.  Not wanting to change the past, but hopefully learning from it and not spending an eternity 'doing the same things over and over and expecting different results.'

A nebulous blog today, but that's okay.  I just wanted to touch on that.  That hopeless moment we've all experienced it seems at some point in our life when we've made the vain attempt to 'go home again.'

Last night after the show I had a flurry of texts back and forth with my dear friend, Jimmy Barbour, who is in NYC recording his newest CD.  We have both reached a time in our lives where changes have to be made.  He's having a tough go of it in NY right now.  He doesn't care for that city, the metropolis where, in the past, he has had so many professional victories.  These days, for Jim anyway, NY holds some tough memories.  And I completely and unashamedly understand.  I, too, have felt the same way.  It is one of the reasons I shall never, under any circumstances, set foot in Chicago again.  There's just too much blood under the bridge.

Jim and I are joining forces this September to teach a workshop here in Los Angeles.  He'll be teaching the interpretation of musical theatre and I'll be doing my naked face scene work.  And both of us will be teaching a new way to look at performing Shakespeare.  We have a slew of folks already verbally signed on for the workshop and I'm sure we'll have many more.  I look forward to it.

Jim is another strange case in my life where I was, to a certain extent, able to 'go home again.'  We never tried to pick up and relive our halcyon days of working together in regional theatre all those years ago.  But we have revived a friendship based on trust and unconditional support.  Regardless of our trials and tribulations over the past two decades, we have always been friends.  We have been since the moment we met in a parking lot in Kentucky, of all places, back in May of 1988.

The same is true of my buddy, John Bader, who is currently in Iowa carefully monitoring his mother's delicate health.  When John moved to LA many years ago, I was still in NYC plugging away at a career in tatters because of excessive behavior.  But John and I remained friends regardless of my own irresponsible choices over the years.  He has never been less than encouraging.  And now we speak daily as he anxiously awaits a moment of sadness with his family in the midwest.  He is incredibly supportive of everything I do here on the West Coast.  Always giving advice and being gentle and honest with me.  His companionship since moving to this new and strange land has been unswerving and completely uncompromising.  Not sure I could have done it without him.

Thomas Wolfe had so, so many things on his mind when he wrote that sentence, you can't go home again.  But I've discovered that sometimes you CAN actually go home again.  You just can't go back to the same neighborhood.  You can't ride the same bike.  You can't stand in the same yard.  You can't sneak in the same backdoor.  You can't lay awake at night and listen to the same grown-up, far-away, drunken, senseless chatter.  You can't dwell on the same doors being slammed.  And you can't be the same person.

See you tomorrow.