Thursday, February 24, 2011

#302: The Sage Lets Go of That and Chooses This

The five colors blind the eye.
The five tones deafen the ear.

The five flavors dull the taste.
Racing and hunting madden the mind.
Precious things lead one astray.

Therefore the sage is guided by what
he feels and not by what he sees.
He lets go of that and chooses this.
Tao Te Ching - Lao Tzu

Something big is changing today. A new chapter. A letting go. A taking up.

Timothy James Hull and Pennsy in
Actors' Guild of Lexington's
Glengarry Glen Ross
 Today, I open in Glengarry Glen Ross at Actors' Guild of Lexington, the theatre I love, perhaps more than any other. While I was sick, my prayer was, "God, let me live to see my wife grow old, and to play again at Actors' Guild." Tonight, that second prayer will be answered. It's time to let go of wishing, and take up the work I love most in the world.

It's hard for me to find the words to describe how I feel today. I've been trying for a while, but I just can't make it come out right.

I'm grateful, certainly. I don't recommend a brush with death to help you appreciate your life, but I have to admit that it helps. I wrestled with God daily during my illness. We still have a few things to work out. But I know that God is the one who sent the doctors and the family and friends. God inspired the prayers and the phone calls and the hot meals. God's grace allowed me to accept my situation as it was, and grace put me in the 40% of head and neck cancer patients who live through the disease. And now, God has put me in the place I love the most, in the theatre, on stage, on opening night. Yeah, I'm grateful.

And I'm in awe. I'm working with some remarkable artists and technicians. Some of them are old friends, some were born after I started my professional career. When I'm not on stage, playing with them, I sit in the house, watching them work through scenes or paint scenery or swing from ladders focusing lights. There isn't a job in the theatre that I haven't done at one time or another, and it gives me such joy to see people loving the things that I love.No theatre has an easy journey, and Actors' Guild's has been rougher than most. But she survives. It amazes me that any theatre company can endure. It gratifies me that a company I have loved so much, and given so much of myself, keeps on making theatre, against all odds and obstacles.

I'm proud. Proud of the work I'm doing on stage, and proud of the men and women with whom I'll share that stage tonight. I don't like to brag, but we are a hell of a company. Each of us has a story. Each of us has struggled to reach this place. And we carry the scars we earned in those struggles with us as we play together to tell our story. That's what I've always thought theatre is, really. A community gathering in the dark to tell stories, to share what it means to be alive. That's my job. I'm proud of that.

I'm so in love. I love the people I'm working with. We have shared so much, offered so much of ourselves to one another. I love the theatre. She has been my home, my lover, my nemesis, and my best friend since I was 10 years old. Everyone who cares for me knows that they have to share me with her, and the ones who love me best are happy to do it. And Mrs P, Most of all, I love Mrs P. She stayed by me when I was sick, She celebrates with me as I get well. She tells me she's proud when I run a little farther or lift a little heavier in the gym. She helps me learn my lines. And she never misses an opening night. She is my biggest fan. How I love sharing my work with her. How I love the embrace after a good show. How I treasure the consolation after a bad one. A teacher once told me that every play is a love story, and I believe it. My story is one about love, that's for sure.

We who love the theatre are more than her children, we are her stewards. We delight in the pleasures and rewards she offers, but we are charged with her care and preservation. What a priviledge to play on the stage that generations of artists have kept alive and thriving. What an honor to breath life into an art form whose precepts were firmly in place two thousand years before chemists stopped trying to turn lead into gold. What a joy to preserve a culture that will allow future generations of young people to wish one another "break a leg," and to chide one another for whistling in the dressing room.

My God, but I love the theatre. Thank God, I have the chance to play in her light again.

It's a great day to be Pennsy. It's a great day to be alive.




  1. This, my dear friend, THIS is a beautiful piece of writing. And, boy, did you encapsulate EXACTLY the emotion of being a "theatre type" really is...Break legs tonight. I will see you during this run and cannot wait. PLEASE tell me that WE will be onstage together SOON!


  2. I could not be happier for you. HAPPY!



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