In the summer of my young adulthood, my troubles were behind me and with my new life ahead, I was invited to a small actor’s studio in the lower Westside of Manhattan. I had never been to a show like this before, but through a friend, I was told about an acting group that formed their own stage and performed in front of small, to medium sized groups.
Outside, the door to the studio was mostly black with chipped paint and different names and graffiti etched into its steel. Above this, a bright light bulb shined with a rainbow-colored halo around its glow. The light was partially protected in a cage and the electrical wires were slightly exposed and seemed to almost dangle from the brick-faced building.
At the time, I smoked Camel filters. I was waiting across the street for a friend to join me, but since I seldom use accurate names, in this case, I will refer to him as Peter.
Peter was up from Arizona and waiting on a word from his man in New York City. These were the times when one could ship a package of say, 5lbs of marijuana, and it could slip by without being detected.
Of course, there were risks involved and there were precautions to take. Before packing the product in a box, some used sheets of fabric softener to mask the smell. Then the product was wrapped in plastic, followed by more sheets of fabric softener, and again, the product was wrapped in more plastic. I was never quite sure how Peter did this. However, I was happy to be uninvolved and more interested in spending a night on the town.
After dropping my cigarette to the ground, I exhaled, and crushed the extinguished butt beneath my heel of my shoe. I noticed the sporadic crowds of people approaching the studio door to head upstairs and watch the showcase.
I had never heard of showcases before and I had certainly never been to one. Pete had never been to one either. But then again, there was a difference between Pete and myself.
This was something I wanted to see. Pete, on the other hand, wanted to head over to 11th Avenue but we had already agreed to meet a girl I knew at a place called The Limelight.
“What is this thing again?”
“It’s called a showcase,” I said.
“And what do they do?”
“I don’t know,” I told him.
“I guess it’s like a play, or something.” But Pete was not interested.
The showcase was a series of different skits with different actors. Some of the actors did spoken word; some of them sung, and some performed their own versions of comedy. Pete complained throughout most of the show. But I didn’t…
I admired it. I admired the actors, and though the stage was small, and the room was mostly undecorated with dark colored walls, and a beaten curtain to separate the actors from the audience; the lighting was perfect.
At the time, I was uncomfortable with the sound of my voice. I believed my accent was too hard or shaky to perform. But in truth, I wished I had the bravery to stand before an audience and recite some of my poetry, which I never spoke about.
While sitting in the audience, I was envious of the performers.
And envy is an evil word.
I say evil because envy is admiration without the willingness to involve effort. In a word, I was afraid, and fear has its way of keeping us from our dreams.
The other day, someone I know spoke of a time that was more than two decades ago. I looked at him with a partly unsure, partly surprised, and partly angry expression. I looked at him this way because he reminded me of the distance between now and then.
Twenty years had passed since that time…
In a word, he called me old without saying it himself. And of course, being much younger than me, he smiled the same smile I used when teasing the older generations of my time.
I still think about that night at the small actor’s studio. In this valuable lesson, I understand there is nothing more irretrievable than time.
(And wasting it with envy is a sin)
This is why I write.
I write because I don’t want to waste another decade wishing I had the courage to perform. I write because I don’t want to be afraid or feel envious of someone else’s bravery. I write because I’d rather nurture my dreams than waste it with envy.
In As You Like It, William Shakespeare wrote, “All the world is a stage, and all the men and women are merely players. They have their exits and their entrances, and one man in his time plays many parts.”
That means my cue can come at any time, and I don’t want to miss out on another entrance.
Neither should you