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boundary waters canoeQuite early this beautiful morning Gabe and I flew into the sunrise toward DIA, racing the clock to catch the plane. My youngest at fifteen has never flown alone until today. After two planes, one long delay, one two hour bus ride and one another, he is now officially off the grid. Tonight my younger son sleeps under the stars on an Outward Bound Heroic Journey with twenty-five other grieving teens in the Boundary Waters Wilderness Area outside of Ely, Minnesota. I don’t even remember a time when he’s been out of ear shot, or text range. When I got the email, “Well, they’re off, and we usually don’t hear from them during the week, so… just relax and we’ll see you on Sunday”, my immediate response was a sense of relief he’d arrived safely. Hours later, there’s been no “what’s for dinner?” bounding up the stairs, no eye roll when I answer and, knowing that it will be that way for a week, it suddenly feels so different than when he’s at a friend’s.

Absence rings through the night air as I sink into the idea that he is officially off the grid. How strange in this modern day to have your child out there in the big wide world without an electronic tether. I wonder if he’s homesick, if he’s scared, and I don’t know if that’s out of my deep concern or a deeper sense of wanting to be missed. I worry and hope he’s warm, dry and has a belly full. I smile because he’ll learn to read a compass, and I’ll learn to navigate my way by the heavens. I take a moment to feel the space between us, the silence, and I know this is something I’ll have to get used to.launch

I’m practicing, feeling the fullness in the emptiness. Last week the cat came home after three days, very sick, and he went off again to spend three days at the vet. The house was not the same without him. This week is Gabriel’s turn for a solo adventure (god I hope it’s better than the cat’s) and the house is not the same without him, either. Spring has been a time of adjustment as we lean into the first year of life without their father, Dane. But change comes bearing unseen gifts, and broken hearts can be open hearts. Softer.
This is the stepping off place, the launch pad where he blasts into the world and I am earthbound on my own wilderness adventure, canoeing through the unfamiliar waters and portaging over time. Somewhere out there in this great big world lays my baby boy, drifting to sleep to the lullaby of mosquitoes buzzing. We’ll both make adjustments this week, and learn more than we can remember. But my, won’t we have good stories?

badass bardTheatre’s obsession with Shakespeare, coined ‘bardolotry’ by George Bernard Shaw, has always escaped me. While Voltaire called his work “an enormous dunghill”, my aversion to Sir Will is far less eloquent. Not knowing my First Folio from my “What ho Malvolio”, I’d quipped “I hate Shakespeare” in defense. “You don’t know what the hell he’s saying, he takes too long to say it and you know what’s going to happen in the end”. But truth is truth… it’s personal.
When I was a student at the Stella Adler Conservatory of Acting in New York City, I was enrolled in the requisite Shakespeare class. Our teacher heaped praise upon the European students, fawned over the Renaissance Faire maids as they flitted twixt texts, winked at the tinfoil swords and paper crowns, taking delight in our dalliances. He found the good in everyone’s work… everyone but mine. It seemed that no matter what scene I chose or how long I’d rehearsed it, I’d leap “Once more unto the breach” to a tragic ending. I can’t tell you how many times I rushed out of the building to hail a taxi and hide my tears, or how much it cost in cab fare to sob my way home to Tribeca, but it felt like a pound of flesh. As this wasn’t the case with my other acting teachers, I was left to assume at Shakespeare I sucketh.
Being Stratford-upon-Avon challenged, I’ve managed to work around my shortcoming and carve out decades of work on stage, in film and on television without ever trodding the boards for the Bard. Until now.
I was at Water World when the call came in. It was the Denver Center Theatre Company with the offer of a role in “Romeo & Juliet”. I snorted my slushy out my nose, choking back surprise along with terror. “Me?” I asked. “Are you sure?” They were, revealing I’d be playing Lady Montague. “Is that Romeo’s mom?” I asked, trying to recall the Franco Zeffirelli film I saw at the drive-in lo these many years ago. “It is.” came the reply. Hmmmn. The play is’t called “Romeo’s Mother” so I can probably pull it off, I figured. Some rhyming verse, a ruffed collar and losing my metaphorical maidenhead beside men in pumpkin pants made it too saucy to resist. “Why not?!” I blurted out before they could catch their mistake.
There must be a million things we’ve held ourselves back from over some misconception of our youth, Brussels sprouts for example. Schoolyard taunts and misspoken remarks of friends and lovers twist the view we see in the mirror. I’m sure my teacher had no idea the lasting effect his critique would have on me, but I made the choice to break up with Billy Bardy, didn’t I? Shakespeare, like the bitter cultivar, may be an acquired taste but so is the taste of freedom from all that crap. Maybe, in spite of the Mayans, life goes on, stretching itself out to give us the time to circle back to find the sweetness in what was sour and to savor it.
Sitting at the rehearsal table with a talented group working through the script I find myself thinking… This guy’s pretty good. This guy’s badass, even if I do know how it ends.

Romeo & Juliet runs January 25-February 24, 2013 at the Denver Center for the Performing Arts.