Post-GRADUATE: what I got back by putting out

After a prolonged ‘heartbreak hiatus’ from theatre, I really felt no need to step back onto the stage. The slow slide of a dramatic divorce, sudden shock of single motherhood, […]

March 22, 2010 // Tracy Shaffer // No Comments //

After a prolonged ‘heartbreak hiatus’ from theatre, I really felt no need to step back onto the stage. The slow slide of a dramatic divorce, sudden shock of single motherhood, and a stairway fall that took my brother’s life were enough to send me to my room and though life was good, I was not ready to come that far out. Long before the sideways years I’d fallen out of love… or so I thought. Twenty- five years of acting had left its mark. I was tired of having to be given ‘permission’ by the casting process in order to create. I loved the times when I was ‘first’ but exhausted by the times being ‘second’. “Lift yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again” sounded like heavy lifting where acting was concerned so I chose to let this deeply defining part of me go.
And I’d been writing plays: loving the lines that I wrote, accepting of the ones on my face. There is great freedom as writing comes in its own time, in yoga clothes and goes public when I’m damn good and ready. My plays got produced, my sons got to soccer and life was good. Even in its painful chaos, the writing (and the boys) made it good.
When “The Graduate” came along I had a twinge and I ignored it. Having started a business and ended an affair I was pretty sure I was not game for risk.
But I have this friend… And this friend bought me wine. And after a glass or two and veiled threats of retracting the friendship I was told of time and place of the auditions. Drunk on candlelight and viognoire I proposed the idea that “Maybe I’m not good at love or acting.” My friend, who sees me better than I see my naked self, kicked my ass in the audition door.
I’m not sure what I expected form Mrs. Robinson, but I did know this: I would strive to play her complexity simply. I would reconnect with the broader theatre community. One way or another, I would have to be naked.
What I didn’t know was how embraced I would feel, how at home. People showed up, not in audience numbers, but in the waves of friends and friends of friends who came: Realtor friends and soccer moms and high school friends and newer friends and theatre people, some I known and some I’d always heard of, bearing messages of good will pre and post show. Family and friends flew into town and out again, crossing mid-air paths with another jet, another friend flying in. My life in circles came together, welcoming me back from my seclusion and I was joyfully overwhelmed.
Actors working show to show may take all this for granted. There are always shows that are more fun than others, casts we hate to say good bye to, and shows which can’t close soon enough. There is bitching and laughing and sometimes it’s just a job. I’ve been there. But what I learned in my post-Graduate studies is a great deal of gratitude. When you’re willing to put yourself out there, to take the naked risk, the rewards far exceed the expectations.
“Here’s to you Mrs. Robinson.”


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