This past year easily qualifies as my "best" year in Dallas—which is ironic considering I spent much of the year trying to leave Dallas.
You might say 2012 changed my life. I started planning an east coast move nearly a year ago, but the promise of work is an alluring one. The promise of good work is even more seductive.
I started the year with Kismet at Lyric Stage, played a bug (and made some dear friends) for Dallas Children's Theater in the late spring, and told myself that by September I would hit the road. I am ever so grateful that I stuck around.
I must confess now that this is the third incarnation of this essay. When Mark asked if I would be interested in writing about my "big year at Lyric" I excitedly accepted, and then promptly began to procrastinate. I have so much to say, yet had no clue how to succinctly describe my success without sounding either egotistical or faint-hearted. Because the truth is this year was great.
That's not to say there wasn't fear. There was a moment about halfway through the rehearsal process for The Most Happy Fella where I genuinely believed that I was going to fall flat on my face. Yet Cheryl Denson (who gave me my first professional job), true to the promise she made before we started, took care of me. There have been times where ego got in the way, and I felt like I should have been considered for something that I wasn't, or that I was fighting an uphill battle for respect because I don't have a B.F.A (mostly in my head, I think). Looking back I realize that I have been perfectly cast, and have never been given more than I could presently handle.
I've played many parts at many different theaters around the Metroplex, but I had never felt that special love for a project. That kind of misty-eyed fondness that everyone else seemed to have had. Of course I've enjoyed myself. I would never want to appear ungrateful. I just hadn't met that one part in that one show with that one company that you could do for years and never grow tired of.
2012 changed my life.
Never have I felt so akin with a character as I did with Rosabella. Her toughness, her loneliness, her self-reliance, and her tenderness all resonate deep within me. That bond fostered a magic moment on opening night. I was so nervous that at one point in the opening scene I made an early exit without even realizing it. Minutes later the curtain came down behind me and I was left alone for "Somebody, Somewhere." I looked down at Jay Dias radiating love and bliss and everything else fell away. It was just us and the music, and in that moment I knew without a doubt that I was exactly where I was meant to be. In the ecstasy of that moment my hands went completely numb, and I choked back tears of joy as the song came to an end. Music really does give soul to the universe and wings to the mind.
I have been asked several times what Jo Sullivan Loesser said to me that night during her lengthy embrace after curtain call. I don't remember. Others have since told me that she liked it. I don't get starstruck often, but taking a bow with the woman who not only originated the role, but so deeply loved the man who created it is forever burned into my mind's eye.
I went on to finish my year with the man show that is 1776. As special as Rosabella was, there is something extraordinary about breathing life into a historical figure. New challenges and new fears presented themselves in sharp fashion, and I often worried that I wouldn't be able to live up to the expectations of those who had so admired The Most Happy Fella. I was also terrified of falling into the pit. Those who saw the show will understand. I did not fall, and I am better person for having played that part. Thank you, Abigail Adams, for teaching me that there is great power in stillness, and much love reserved for those who will receive it.
I credit much of my current success, along with the possibilities of the future, to the team at Lyric Stage. They have become family to me, and working with them has shaped me not only as an artist, but as a person. I have done seven shows with Lyric, and I can only hope to do 70 more in this lifetime. With that, I look towards the future. Heels down, head up.
◊ This is the second of our year-end essays from members of the arts community on TheaterJones. The first was from Raphael Parry of Shakespeare Dallas. From now through the end of the year, look for essays from Michael Serrecchia, Jeremy Dumont, Vicki Caroline Cheatwood, Jerry Russell, Katie Puder and others. If you'd like to contribute an essay, email Mark Lowry at firstname.lastname@example.org.