Last night at Symphony Space in Manhattan. The Santa Monica High School Symphony Orchestra playing Bernstein, Elgar, Tchaikovsky, with all their heart. The strings were on fire. I wept. Not just because my father played the violin, practicing in the garage to build up his callouses. Not just because it was Joy and Brock’s daughter Lucy in the first violin section in exquisite collaboration with her fellow musicians.
It was something I recognized, have felt, still do whenever I write or take the stage or witness others in complete unity with their work – utter commitment. Ready for the performance. Seizing the opportunity. In love with the preparation and the act. It excites me to be in the presence of people joyously determined, possessed, in attendance to all they need to know before taking the leap, falling sometimes, erring, making fools of themselves in the name of doing what they were born to do and offering it up to the rest of us.
It’s what I watch and hope for with the young actors in our webseries, Anyone But Me. A wrestling match with no winner, just the raw struggle of actors inhabiting their roles and then right before our eyes the emergence of characters in a raw struggle for their existence. I’ve seen this happen. I know the giving over. It can look simple. It can appear calm. When Liza Weil guest starred in two recent episodes, that rare thing happened. Her character’s name was Dr. Glass. There now exists a Dr. Glass. She gave us Dr. Glass.
When I performed my one person play, My Left Breast, I was a writer being an actor playing myself being a character. I was in performance. What transformed the event and how I would rise to it was the audience. They were in performance with me. And I could tell every night the level of their commitment. It was deep, blessed, anxious sometimes, full. They gave it. And they required it from me.
How we perform in our work, as parents, citizens, friends, lovers is a matter of what and how much we’re prepared to undertake, and how deeply and generously we’re willing to dare.