I spent Friday at a college visit with my oldest daughter, Abbi.
Abbi, you see, wants to go into drama, theater, film, whatever happens to hit closest to her heart when she goes. The particular visit also included her having to audition for a scholarship from the school’s program. Abbi has two monologues that she has to give, one classic, one modern. The classic is a favorite of hers from Shakespeare, a comedic monologue. The other is a section she just discovered from the play Our Town.
I’ve seen Abbi do the Shakespeare monologue before, and she’s brilliant at it – if I say so myself. But the monologue from Our Town affected me, more than she may really know.
My kids have been surrounded by a lot of darkness lately. Death seems to swirl around us lately, and it’s nobody’s fault, it’s life. Life, however, seems to have a mist of grief that is intent on bringing us to bear and it’s hard to keep moving when the mist obscures the landmarks and footprints you’ve made. It’s hard to see if you have traveled the same ground when you can’t see where you’ve been or where you’re going.
Abbi performed the monologue for me and it nearly brought me to tears. It’s a character who is coming to terms with the fact that she has died and is trying to see what she did, could have done, and what she is missing or missed. She said she was nervous and wasn’t happy with her performance. If that’s her worst, I feel for her future audiences because of the fact that it reached into my heart and squeezed it. Hard.
I wasn’t at her audition, but she talked about it. She wasn’t first to perform, but came after a girl who was in-state, filled with confidence (too much maybe?!) and was part of the state’s drama programs. She walked in a bit over-confident and a lot egotistical, and she got the attention they felt she deserved.
Then Abbi got up and gave her two.
After her dramatic monologue, the panel questioned her . . . a lot. They asked her about her choice of the piece from Our Town. Abbi recounted to me that her answer was more than sincere, and maybe a little more personal than she’d wanted.
“We’ve had a lot of death in our family lately,” she said, “and it’s been a lot to bear.” She recounted losing her mother, her great-grandmother and her grandfather, all in less than two years. She talked about having to adjust to things in life and how we all feel now: life isn’t nearly long enough to waste it. Grab the opportunities and experiences as they happen. Find the adventure even in the smallest of events, and live it.
And tell your story.
The panel had read her essay – a required part of auditioning.
“You say here that you want to tell stories. Can you expand on that?”
I won’t recount her entire essay, but she said that at the end of the day she wants to tell a story, a tale. The way she connects and tells them is acting, on a stage, adding herself a bit to the character.
When they asked her to expand, she said that, in essence, she was doomed. Every time I tried to complain about my job, my industry, all of it, my wife would look at me and roll her eyes.
“You have too many stories you want to tell,” was her line. She hated that fact about me sometimes, but she was right. I do. Unfortunately for Abbi, she’s doomed to have it as well.
Abbi told them her father is a writer, a storyteller, a journalist. But she added: “but I get it from all sides. My Mom was a reporter. Heck, my grandma can tell you a story about how she went to the grocery store this morning. It may take her a half hour to recount the adventure of her 15-minute trip, but it will be a tale and it will always be interesting. I want to tell stories and I do it this way, for me it’s the purest form of telling a story by inhabiting it myself and giving it to the audience.”
A member of the panel apparently was extremely excited by that answer. It’s apparently exactly how they looked at things and she unknowingly had hit the nail on the head.
I couldn’t have been more proud of her, either.
Tell a story. That’s what we do. I recounted my past eighteen years here . . . telling of love, loss, and life. I’ve told how I’ve moved on, becoming more and more the person I am now, moving into a new phase in life, a new way of looking at the world. I sometimes dominate the conversation – to my detriment. I have learned to listen. I talk a lot, because I tell a tale. But we’ve both learned to hear and not just fill in the gaps of silence.
We have little adventures, small trips, and seize what opportunities we hope to grasp. It’s important to us. We’ve lost, but look what we’ve gained?
The truth rolls around our heads . . . and we tell our stories.
So what tale do you have to tell?