Saturday, June 5, 2010

#174: Lessons From the Theatre

With the exception of my wedding and a few special New Year's Eve celebrations with Mrs P, I have spent the best parts of my life on stage. Acting is the only job I've ever really loved. It is often painful, always rewarding, and on rare occasions, positively mystical.

It occurred to me today that I've spent so many years playing characters who endured trials, I might turn to them to learn how to conduct myself during my own survival journey.

The first time I played Tevye I knew that I wanted to spend my life performing. On opening night, as I stood high atop my little milk wagon taking in the applause after If I Were a Rich Man I was positively drunk with the audience's approval. It was many years later - around thirty I think - that I was able to play the role again, and learned about the heart of this big, beautiful man. For him, family is everything. No matter how hard the world is on him, no matter how far away his children travel, he and Golde remain bound with cords of love that no Tzar or Cossack can sever. The dairyman from Anatevka taught me that love is the source of our strength and our life.

The Tempest is Shakespeare's story of a wronged Duke, Prospero and his revenge on the brother who unjustly banished him and his daughter on a deserted island. He has every right to be angry, and using magic powers he conjurs a storm that maroons the cruel brother and his fellow travellers from Naples. Prospero and the fairies who serve him devise more and more powerful ways to torment the party, but just at the moment when his final vengance is complete, the old magicial changes his mind. He himself is tormented, not by guilt, but by the innocence of his daughter and his sprite, Ariel. Prospero chooses mercy over justice, and because of that choice, he is redeemed.

I also have a lot to be angry about. I've been mistreated by the insurance company, old employers, friends who disappeared when things got tough. I could spend - and to be honest, I have spent - lots of time blaming and fantasizing my own vengence on the people who may not have caused my cancer, but have certainly made it more difficult for me and the people I love. Such thoughts are tempting, and perversely gratifying, I must admit. But they will not help me to redeem my life back from the disease that is trying to lay claim to it. Like Prospero, I have not choice but to forgive the people who torment my nights.

Nick Bottom is a complete jackass. So much so, that he is given a donkey's head in which to woo Titania, the queen of the fairies in A Midsummer Night's Dream. Bottom has little talent and less craft, but by golly he loves his friends and he loves the theatre. The chance to play makes his heart soar and his enthusiasm lifts his fellow mechanicals to heights beyond their wildest dreams. Bottom loves unconditionally. It's as simple as that. He finds wonder everywhere and ecstasy in the crazy poetry of life. He gives himself away completely, and in doing so, he is glorified.

I lack Bottom's purity of heart, but I know what it means to love what you do. In that, I am a lucky man. I know what it is to love the people around you without reservation. In that, I am a rich man. No matter how much depression and cancer may try to convince me otherwise, I know I have a reason to live. I need to live, because I am not finished loving yet.

In the dark days ahead, I will remember the lessons these teachers have given me. I gave my all to do right by them, and I know they will not abandon me in my hour of need. And when the Dark Angel has passed me over at last, I am determined to return to them. I am not finished learning yet, either.


  1. Aging/experience has brought me a better understanding of God's declaration: "Vengeance is mine, I will repay".

    My ability to match punishment to 'crime' is limited by an unyielding inability to know the heart. With stubborn consistency, my version of vengeance would cause collateral, unnecessary and inappropriate damage.

    But God knows. His punishment will always perfectly match; Justice will always be perfectly meted out.

    With God, Ultimate Justice, like all else in life, is something we can safely leave with Him.

    Thanks for blogging. You consistently keep us in touch with what's Real.

  2. Life can be terse. Yes, I meant terse and not tense. My husband begins his chemo on Monday as well. Three days of liquid poison and then 18 days off with this regimen to be repeated twice more.

    Lots of big changes on the horizon as his mortality comes screeching right in front of our face. Our only son just turned 17 and has been dealing with some serious pain for nearly a year and it was just diagnosed 3 months ago and then the diagnosis changed and then one more condition added for good measure.

    Tell you what. I will pray for you if you will pray for my husband, John, and my son, Paul. We will all be lifted closer to our Creator if we don't go this alone and allow others to offer the sweet-smelling savor of prayer.

    Robyn (TMF poster "jrdown")

    If you ever feel up to it my email is

  3. Actually felt my heart leap a little reading about your love of acting. We have that in common. John and I have five kids and there have been two shows (over our 16 years of stage life) that all of us have been in together and that says something.

    There is a lot that can be learned by portraying different characters. Funny how we recall what happened in our lives by the shows we were in. I'll bet you understand.


  4. What an incredible perspective this is. As always, I applaud your spirit and abounding love. I remain always impressed and amazed by your thoughts and words, but, in this new situation you have found yourself in, I am so moved by your commitment to hope and inspired by your devotion to life and love. Thank you, my friend, for reminding us how important these things are. Thank you for enduring this battle for the rest of us so that we may learn about hope, life, love, and sacrifice through you. I continue to send my love and thoughts to you and your lovely wife.


Label Cloud

mrs p Cancer running lifting weights LIVESTRONG at the YMCA treadmill weight nutrition depression God Living Strong at the Y injury YMCA dogs mom walking radiation Weight Lifting cardio friends program theatre body fat long slow run love One for the Five aches elliptical race resistance bands stretching 5K Acting Jeff Galloway chemo doctor family mental health Church Pittsburgh Marathon bluegrass fundraising inspiration patience personal trainer recovery Flying Pig Marathon Jesus Johns Striders Race Report Run the Bluegrass Half Marathon bipolar frustration kentucky knees measurements morning promatx yoga Christmas Marathon Pennsy's Greatest Hits cats clothes heart rate hope lance armstrong life molly poetry rest side effects steelers swimming 10K Actors' Guild of Lexington Blog CT Scan Coach Carrie PET Scan cross training exercise fear feeling good groin healing ice cream livestrong nausea powerlifting run/walk/run stair climber surgery Cancer Fighter Cold Gear Hills Iron Horse Half-marathon Job LSR Mum Nike+ Shamrock Shuffle 3K achilles advent arboretum bmi bodyweight exercises changes charity circuit training cycling dad deadlift diabetes encouragement experts give up goals horses interval training jake kettlebells lean body mass new rules of lifting pacing personal best plateau prayer recumbent bike research shoes sleep strength teeth therapist toe video Blood Easter Endurance Funeral Garmin 405 Homecoming House Insurance Juicing Keeneland Legacy Night PR Pennsyltucky Pittsburgh Relapse Run This Town TRX Training Values aflac arnold ben-gay bench press chafing christian compression shorts dentist dreams faith fat fatigue foreclosure good day half marathon hospitality javarunner john's run/walk shop lou schuler new year nurse pains peg tube powercage progressive resistance. racing rain rapture reboot runners world squat sun block supplements team pennsy tired weather will rogers work #3rightThings 9-11 ACSM AIDS Aquaphor Blessings Bluegrass 10K CSN Cancer Boy Cedar Hill Charles Dickens Class of 82 Classes Colby Road College Compassion Courage Crowdrise Cystoscopy Dee Diet EFM Epiphany Fall Fartlek Fat Man Fat Sick and Nearly Dead Frankfort Gadgets Gramma Grampa Gratitude Grete Waitz Guest HITT HIV Hell Holding Hands Holy Saturday Homer Horse Capital Marathon IVP Ice bath Jacuzzi James Taylor Jesus wept Joe Cross John Izzo Joy KY LaDonna Leg Day Lent Lessons Lexington Little Pennsy Mental hospital Midsummer Night's Run Mindfulness MobileFit Negative Splits Old Frankfort Pike Pilates Podrunner Pre-race Priorities RICE Railrunner 10 Miler Random thoughts Resurrection Reunion Run Bob Run Run Report Run Review Run for the Gold 3K Running Form Running for Sabrina STUPID Shakespeare Skip Brown Speed Spinning Summer Of Speed Sunrise Supersets Tao Te Ching Thank You The Wall Three Right Things Toxic Passenger UK UK basketball Urine Urologist Victory Walk of Shame Warrior Westminster Whole Foods Wind Words Zumba ace bandages addicted agony alwyn cosgrove america anger antibiotic anxiety awake back baseball blood clots blood pressure body glide bonhoeffer books brad calories chinup colonoscopy consistency crazy cycles dentures dip dr. google dumbbells elevation facebook failure farts feet fight for life fitness forgiveness frankenpennsy fun getting started glucosamine glutes goal gremlin grenz grumpy hair hamstrings hiccups high school hot ice incarnation indian food jogging john lennon joint legacy trail liniment lunges machines maker's mark medicine ball meds mercy motivation motley fool music nature neighborhood new balance nike noah numbers pennsyltuckian periodization persistence phlebitis postmodern prison professional boundaries progress psychiatrist pullups pushups quads ramble rememberance renewal road running ronnie coleman rowing safety sauna scan-ziety sexy shopping shorts shower sick sleepless snow socks spandex star trek statistics steam room steroids stiff strained muscle strap strength training supination support surgeon survive swackett swiss balls table technology tempo terry bradshaw testicular torsion text thai food that's fit the five thighs walk breaks warm up water fitness water jogging weak wedding ring wellness wife winter workout writing yardwork