Monday, March 29, 2010
Childhood in the flesh (a visit from Patrick)
I had an unusual yet amazing upbringing; a theatre raised me. One might think that Amarillo, Texas is anything but a cultural mecca, and to some degree this is true. But, Amarillo holds a jewel in the form of a community theatre--and it's just that--A COMMUNITY.
I volunteered at the theatre through my middle school years, and then in high school Amarillo Little Theatre (ALT) hired me as an education intern. It was through this internship that I fell in love with teaching the arts, and it was through my experiences at this theatre that I met my best friend.
Patrick started participating in ALT Academy productions when his family moved to Amarillo. Right away, we clicked. We both had an insatiable obsession with the Julie Andrews movie "Thoroughly Modern Millie" (NOT to be confused with the watered-down Broadway adaptation), and we were both curious about all kinds of experimental and physical theatre. Our teacher/director/boss Sara fostered this creative environment where we were safe to take risks and try things out. So, you could say that Patrick and my friendship grew and developed out of honesty, originality, and self-expression. Needless to say, when I left for college, we both knew that this was only the beginning.
The summer between my freshman and sophomore years, Patrick and I were cast in an outdoor drama in Palo Duro Canyon. Everyday, we loaded up in my 1998 purple Saturn (SEXY!) and drove into the beautiful, sunny canyon. We always had the windows rolled down, and we were always listening and singing along to: Simon and Garfunkle, Cat Stevens, HAIR soundtrack, Indigo Girls, Ben Folds Five, Indie Arie, Pippin soundtrack, or the likes. We spent so much time together that year, plus Sara took us to New York City and we saw Mary Zimmerman's Metamorphoses, Noises Off (where we met Counting Crows' Adam Duritz), Bernadette Peters in concert, and Rent.
*Side note: That summer was exactly what I needed. My parents had just split up, and I needed to focus on anything other than my family. Patrick sheltered me with love and good times, and I guess you could say that I'm forever young when I think about that time.
Patrick skipped the whole college thing and thrust himself head-first into performing. I always guessed that he would be a huge success after he left Amarillo, and sure enough he was. He got cast in the touring production of FOSSE right off the bat, and when the tour was over he moved to Chicago where the auditions and acting jobs kept on rolling in. While I was busy writing papers and acting/directing student ensemble projects for school, Patrick was actually living the life of an artist. We didn't see each other for several years, but we kept up an enthusiastic phone dialog that always left us missing each other.
Then, I got married. I met John during the end of my undergrad days, and he served as the perfect distraction from graduation. BUT, I managed (somehow) to fall in love AND graduate, and when I called Patrick to tell him I was getting married, Patrick knew that he would have to rearrange his schedule to BE THERE!! And he did. I'm pretty sure there was even some understudy action taking over while he flew to Texas for the ceremony. He sang Cat Stevens' Morning Has Broken and Van Morrison's Warm Love during the wedding, and having him with me was comfort enough to get me through the most beautiful yet crazy day of my life.
In October, John and I drove from Philadelphia to Chicago to see Patrick in a production of Cabaret. Patrick portrayed the Emcee brilliantly, and seeing him dance and sing brought back memories from childhood. But, at the same time, there was something different about his performance that I hadn't seen until this show. Patrick was an adult now, and his experiences he gained through his own journey shaped and molded his new character work. I was fascinated at how far his craft had come. Patrick was a real, grown-up artist now.
Last week, we drove to Princeton, NJ to see Patrick portray a David Mamet character in a Steppenwolf production of American Buffalo. Bob was a character unlike any I'd ever seen Patrick play, and as I watched him, I forgot I was watching my best friend. I was watching a sad, lonely, ex-junkie try to find acceptance. At the end of the play, Bob gets a concussion that nearly kills him, and it was this climax that made me appreciate Patrick's versatility and vulnerability.
Patrick came back to Philly for a few days of R&R at our place. He brought our baby homemade treasures: a baby blanket and stuffed giraffe cut from the fabric of the shirt he wore to our wedding, and a book called "Giraffes Can't Dance" about a Giraffe named Gerald who wants to dance, but doesn't think he knows how. When Gerald finds the music within, his dance comes out, and he is truly a lovely sight. Patrick gifted our baby with a spirit animal that represents wisdom and grace. Reading the explanation of the giraffe was maybe one of the most special moments in my life, and I am so blessed by my spiritual friend who loves our baby.
I think the end of this post (obviously dedicated to my dear Patrick) should highlight this thought: We started from the same place, but our lives took very different turns. And, yet, here we stand...just as united and connected as we've always been. We appreciate and celebrate each others' journeys, and we love each other wholly.
To my life-long friend, I love you. You are a blessing.