Despite the loss and grief my family was experiencing, I insisted that my mother drive me to the first of my Saturday classes in a funky old building on a side-street in Bethesda, Maryland. The place was the Maryland Academy for the Dramatic Arts....a fancy name for what looked like a rather run down and rather marginal place. My teacher there was Ralph Tabikin, a former Vaudevillian with a perpetual eye twitch who chewed on his pipe non stop.
This particular day, he handed me a piece of paper and said "look this over and meet us in by the stage." I looked down and there was a monologue on the page. It was the character Lucrece, from the Greeks, contemplating suicide in a rather Hamlet-esqe monologue.
Although I had not contemplated committing suicide, and although Lucrece's story was different from mine, I intuitively understood our human similarities of deep, painful feelings and the desire to be free.
When it was my turn to share my monologue with the class, I stood up on the tiny home-made stage and channelled all my passion, confusion and raw grief into Lucrece's words and allowed that impulse to lead me into her life.
I looked up and the small class of seven or eight people plus Ralph were wildly applauding. Intuitively, I understood something in that moment although it would be years and years before I would be able to put it into words and integrate the meaning of that experience. Fortunately, for me, I had discovered that in the act of sharing my vulnerability and emotional truth onstage, I had the power to move others and heal myself. An alchemical reaction happened that day. It was as if my own molecules had re-arranged themselves in the moment of self-revelation. When I walked out of the theater that day, there was a different quality to my grief. It was still fresh and raw, but it had transformed. I had transformed and I knew that I was bigger than when I walked in. There was more space inside of me. The grief wasn't so scary. It was just present.
And I knew that I was not alone in it. There was meaning in my grief and that was the ability to share it with others and allow us to all know, for a moment in time that none of us are alone.
This was a seminal experience for me that put me on the path of actor, storyteller and director for these last 32 years. It was a day of tremendous grace.