I don't remember why, in high school, I lost the part I'd auditioned for and gotten in the school play. Attitude, perhaps? or some difficulty with walking and talking at the same time? Who knows? I do know that my only other foray into drama (official on-the-stage drama, as opposed to teenage angst drama) back then was when I was cast in Our Town as The Choir, and sang several verses of Blessed be the tie that binds. Somewhere in there I got the message that I could sing, but not act. And there I stayed for decades, even when people said, "But you act in the songs you sing!"
But that's not the same thing, I'd think. I can't act, I'd think. Or in wildly optimistic moments, I'd think, I don't know if I can act.
A theater director and dear friend dodged all that thinking, and cast me in a reading of The Madwoman of Chaillot. As the Street Singer. OK, said I, because I trust my friend, and, of course, there was singing involved. And a line or two. This was my introduction to Project Rushmore, a nascent theater company that is starting out by doing monthly "paired readings" – two plays that address the same issue. Then I was cast as the older Kitty in a lightly-staged reading of A.R. Gurney's The Snow Ball. A little dancing was involved. just a step or two, or not even really dancing, but knowing that you can (thank you Ashokan family, for every time one of you has asked me to dance in the Pavilion!). Most recently, this past Monday night I was Lenny in Beth Henley's Crimes of the Heart. Oh my, it's a wonderful play. The words feel true in your mouth, just like great lyrics do, and so maybe it's not so different from singing. That's part of the magic for me.
The other part is the being-with. I live alone, I sing alone most of the time. When I am going to gigs, I usually am driving alone; in fact, for several years I sang without accompaniment which is really alone. But I love group endeavors. Manhattan Transfer, Moxie, and now JaLaLa all witness to that. As did being part of Team Training Dog Obedience at Mahogany Ridge in Saratoga and the Volhard camps. And teaching with fellow artists at The Cabaret Conference at Yale, and most of all, being part of the community that is Ashokan. I love the shared passion. I love harmony in every sense of the word. And I really really love being part of something good. The excellence and the generosity of the other actors in Rushmore is extraordinary, and it's just like jazz. Yes. It's just like the Basie Band. Group sections. Solo riffs supported by the whole. Intensity and dynamics. And always, always swingin' for the fence. The stakes are high, and the groove is irresistible, and the whole band is with you.
I feel blessed beyond measure.