18Oct

Stumbling into Something You Love

I fell in love with theatre at a very young age.  My mother used to take me to see productions at the Civic Center in Atlanta, GA, where I grew up.  We saw “Annie”.  We saw “Oklahoma”.  We saw “Annie Get Your Gun”.  I loved and watched everything about these productions – the actors, the sets, the lighting, the costumes.

Then in high school I left a very academic institution to attend a high school of performing arts.  I thought my life would be like the show “Fame” – kids would dance and sing on the tables in the lunch room and my life would be one big show after another.  Well, I did have a few leads in shows.  I studied Shakespeare, Ibsen, Wendy Wasserstein and Sam Shepard.  But I also convinced that acting wasn’t my calling.  I was awkward looking.  I was sensitive and didn’t have the stamina that an actor needs.  My sisters lived in NYC at the time and every time I came to visit, we spent all our time on Broadway.

So, I moved to New York City, where I’ve spent the last 20 years or so being a real voyeur and connoisseur of the theater world.  I’ve been a little bird on the wall, loving the experience every time I’ve sat down to watch a play.  I’ve saved all my Playbills (it’s a big pile!) and am a proud member of several theaters.

This year something happened.  Because of this blog I actually had a role in bringing two shows to the NYC stage.  It was all quite incidental.  Because of this blog, I have met women with similar interests.  Because of these women, I have discovered my true passion.  Because of this passion, I feel restored.

How did it all start?  At BlogHer in 2010, I walked up to Ann Imig of AnnsRants.com and asked her if I could have anything to do with her show Listen to Your Mother should it come to NYC.   She and Amy Wilson of WhenDidIGetLikeThis.com had led a panel called “From Blog to Page” and I was mesmerized by their words.  I just wanted to have the slightest involvement with the show, given my lack of knowledge and experience in the theatre world.

Ann got in touch with me right when I got back and suddenly, I was involved with bringing an actual show to New York.  And I mean really involved.  I learned the nuts and bolt of bringing a show to the stage. Along with Amy and Varda Steinhardt from SquashedMom.com, I helped to produce a show.  It was invigorating.

When that experience ended, I was depressed.  Where do I go from here?  I was glad to know that there would potentially be another LTYM show a year later and I would look forward to that.  But to have loved something so much and do it on a daily basis.  Would I be able to do that again?

Not much later I saw that Amy was working on a new show called The Best of Everything by Rona Jaffe, a play she had been working on for a long time with her writing and producing partner of 20 years, Julie Kramer.  Craving to have the slightest involvement, I fearfully asked her if she needed help. My hopes were so high and when she embraced the idea and brought me in, I was walking on air.

Photo credit: Leah Michalos

For the last 3 months, I have watched the birth of a show. I have been a part of something so important.  This show, one that Amy and Julie sank their hearts and souls into, is now a bonafide hit, playing at the Here Arts Center in Soho.  Last week it received 4 stars in the New York Times by Ben Brantley, one of the, if not the most important, theater critics in NYC.

After that review, and several other fabulous ones, the show has sold out its entire run and is truly the hottest ticket in town.

How was I so lucky to have stumbled into something I love so much? All because of this little blog. Amy and Julie’s mentorship have been worth a million dollars.

Have you stumbled into your passion through a back door? I’d love to hear your story.

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Comments

  1. I knew your story it bits and pieces, but I feel happy seeing it all in one place. It makes me happy and inspired. I am so proud of what you’ve accomplished and thrilled that you found something new, invigorating–a true passion. Congrats!

    Oh, the places you’ll go when you have a blog.

  2. Firstly, you did NOT just stumble into this realm. You have been on a journey towards it for years. It’s just now is the perfect time for it to come to fruition…karma works in strange ways my friend!

    I think all of those who know you, know you are perfect for this work. Plus? I look forward to my ‘friends and family’ ticket to the Tony’s when you are up for your producer award. Just give me ample notice so I can get a dress…

  3. Tyler Barton says:

    Hello, Holly. First, I must beseech your gracious forgiveness if I address you in something of a familiar means and without appropriate concern for customary titles of respect, but I am unaware of how to correctly address you in this realm, so my salutation must suffice for the nonce. You mentioned through Twitter that you had some interest in discovering how I accidentally discovered opera, so let the story unfold here.

    Before I proceed with this tale, it is first necessary for you and the other kind readers to understand that I was educated at home for the greatest extent of my academic career. I had been a product of public education very early in my primary school years, but my parents felt that God called them to instruct their children on their own. I say this to give the reader something of the idea that this makes my family rather different and precludes them from the social norms one might otherwise expect.

    I was quite precocious as a result of this transition, and I buried myself in academia for an activity of leisure. I found solace in such a pastime, and it seemed to me that this must be what all truly refined people must do. I had grand hopes of being a revered scholar as some of the great men and women of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance had been. However, my tastes in entertainment did not match my thirst for maturity elsewhere. At the age of twelve, I was determined to finish Homer’s works and then read The Aeneid to improve my knowledge of the origin of Rome and the fall of Troy. Furthermore, I was quite infatuated with learning as much as I could about Einstein’s theory of relativity, his formula e=mc squared, and nuclear physics. Certainly, I thought then, this shall be the basis for the pinnacle of my achievement in life; indeed, in those days I pictured myself to be the next great scientist who made many discoveries and proved many theories that should be useful to the world. Nevertheless, as I have mentioned, my taste in entertainment was far inferior to this standard.

    I liked contemporary Christian music of the era. Yes, I remember that slight return to disco at the turn of the century because the Australian band The Newsboys made it popular. Other favorites of mine included dc Talk, a group for whom I should be remiss if I did not still profess some predilection, Steven Curtis Chapman, Plumb, Sixpence None the Richer, a band I still avidly admire, LaRue, Plus One, FFH, and Rebecca St. James. Eventually, however, as I matured over a very short time in my faith and in life in general, these artists and their sort of music no longer appealed to me. It was at this time that I became acquainted with classical music. For any readers who are even remotely acquainted with me, this shall be difficult for you to believe, but I did not like classical music. It bored me exceptionally. I was still enamored with my academic pursuits and adding other areas of interest to my expertise and understanding, but classical music did not fit with my life in the least bit.

    Time passed, and I gradually exchanged my former listening habits with classical music, but I did not do so because I enjoyed it; indeed, my motivation was merely a technical one. I wanted to know the more popular pieces of classical music by hearing them so that I might merely have a catalog of them in my brain. If I was to be an intellectual, I must endure this to ensure that no one could assail this title and say that I was deficient in some way following my mandatory years of study to attain the recognition and prestige that I assumed came from one’s graduation of secondary school. I was a tender, yet mature fourteen years of age at this time, and, since neither of my parents had graduated from secondary school at their prescribed times, I was quite proud of this achievement that I hoped to one day attain. Adding to my mental capacity reserved for the art, I turned on the radio on a Saturday afternoon expecting to hear a piano concerto by Mozart or perhaps a keyboard sonata or a portion of a mass by Bach, but I instead heard solo singers accompanied by music. Hoping that this should soon pass so that my original purpose of academic necessity should be fulfilled, I continued to listen without paying much attention. Though it was quite unbeknownst to me at the time of the incident, I was hearing Handel’s Rodelinda with Renee Fleming from the Metropolitan Opera in 2004. Margaret Juntwait, who hosted the Saturday radio broadcasts alone in those days, began to talk about the work shortly thereafter as the intermission interrupted the action on the stage, and she informed the radio audience of the afternoon’s offering of the story of the events that was accompany the next act’s singing. I was enthused and intrigued by the story, so I continued to incline my ear toward the work to hear how these events could be relayed in a language I did not understand and through the music, which, according to my reasoning, had no purpose if it did not complement the story in some fashion.

    I listened to the remainder of the performance, and I understood what was happening on the stage, for the portrayals were of exceptional quality as one might expect from the Metropolitan Opera of New York. I found that I quite enjoyed this exquisite new form of art to which I had been introduced. I discovered at the end of the broadcast that another one was scheduled for the following weekend, and I was so excited by this fact that I went to my other family members who were assembled in the living room of our home and disclosed to their discretion that I had found a new passion, which was opera. My parents, not being very well cultured individuals, or, that is to say, being those who have chosen a rather simple life, immediately associated opera with daytime dramas on television and at first forbid me to listen to any more of them. Eventually, I discovered their error of thought and assured them that two were altogether different, but they were reluctant to recant this edict. Over the course of the following three or four years, they were quite insistent that opera was not a thing worthy of my attention and that it was a distraction in life and was quite unwholesome for a young man. Nevertheless, as I have grown older, this practice has waned, and it is today my field of study and, to a certain degree, my profession. I could not be more overjoyed or elated to have it so.

    Please accept my immense ingratiation that you should possess any interest in my account of my acquaintance and subsequent ardent obsession with all facets of grand opera. I am honored that I should have anything to say that could be of any interest to you, and I am most grateful that you should afford me the pleasure of recounting this tale in this manner through this present means. It is with all gentlemanly modesty, utmost propriety, necessary nobility, gracious civility, and ample felicity that I humbly remain,

    Very Respectfully Yours,
    Tyler Barton.

    • Wow, Tyler. What an inspiring story. You are much younger than me, I assume, so I am in awe that you discovered your passion so early in life and are pursuing it.

  4. Your post gave me chills, Holly. I’m so grateful to you and for you. I’m completely in awe of the success of Best Of Everything. Yet not at all surprised.

    xo

  5. CHILLS! I also was in theatre as a child and then through high school and college but when it came time to pay the bills, I opted for a job that paid good money but took me away from the theatre. Then I got married and had kids and really thought that I was “done” with that life and now was moving on. THEN I met Ann in 2010 just as she was preparing for the first LTYM. After her show I begged her to come to my city, and eventually would direct my own show … finding that directing and producing a show like LTYM tied together all of my passions- motherhood, writing, blogging, theatre, lights, stage! It all just makes sense now for me. And I do eventually want to be back on stage stage acting again but I feel no rush. I see LTYM going far and I want to ride along with it!

    Congrats to you and Amy! How I wish I could have traveled up to see the show!!

    Steph

  6. You’re the best Holly! I really do feel like LTYM has awakened me to the possibilities of doing many things, of trying many things, of leaving my comfort zone, of life post-little-children being the best yet.

    thanks for being on this journey with me. I am so honored by your words.

  7. Well done, my friend.