I am officially one proud Father.
Before we give my Mother a heart attack, let me clarify: I don’t have a baby. I haven’t lived through a nine month pregnancy that culminated in a long, painful delivery process that brought a new life into the world. I won’t be changing diapers, fighting through late night feedings, or wake up to an early morning screaming baby alarm clock. I’m not that kind of Father and my “baby” is definitely not that kind of baby.
But I couldn’t be prouder.
My path to fatherhood is unconventional and unique and began with the conception of an idea. In the summer of 2010, I was working as a performer at the Surflight Theatre in Beach Haven, New Jersey. It was there that I met Alex Mitchell, a fellow actor who had also been living the gypsy lifestyle of a young Musical Theatre performer. We both had traveled far from our familiar corner of the world in the passionate pursuit of a life in this crazy business. One night, after an evening of performing, a group of us walked down to the beach for a late night stroll and a conversation began that (unbeknownst to me at the time) would change my life forever.
The topic was simple: What do you see as your place in the world of Musical Theatre? For the others on the walk with us, the answer was clear. They were meant to be performers, to soak up the spotlight and to live and die by the demands and rewards of an eight show week. The only people who failed to answer immediately were me and Alex. Both of us loved Musical Theatre, loved performing, and couldn’t really picture our lives doing anything else—and yet something was missing. I had just always felt that there was something more waiting for me…or calling to me, though in a muffled voice and with an unclear message. And that’s when Alex spoke up.
“I’ve always thought about writing a musical, but I don’t really write words,” Alex said reflectively. And just like that, a spark ignited inside my brain.
“I’ve always thought about writing a musical, but I don’t write music,” I responded, looking at Alex with a growing excitement. At that moment, an idea was conceived and something began to grow inside both of our imaginations. Maybe we could write a show—maybe we could find our true place in this business of passion and emotions.
Well, there was only one way to find out.
Over the course of the past five years, Alex and I have been completely transformed by the desire to create something beautiful, powerful, and creative. Our idea started out small: a concept for a show based on a collection of classic Greek mythology stories. I have a degree in Classical Civilizations with a focus on Greek and Roman Mythology so the material was familiar and inspiring. But, as most parents know who have watched their children grow, what starts out as a simple, sweet, and smiling baby develops into a complex, interesting, and completely unique individual.
Some of the transitions have been easy: the more we wrote, the more we learned about form, structure, and storytelling. These led to nights of excitement listening to a new demo recording or reading a scene that finally seemed to fall into place. Our show was featured in the 2012 and the 2014 West Village Musical Theatre Festivals and had a reading in NYC in 2013. Those moments of growth were phenomenal. Other changes were more difficult to digest. Two fully developed characters were cut from the show at different points in the developmental process and both of them hit me hard. I had created these people. I had breathed life into them and discovered their speech patterns, their inner desires, their motivations—and then had to watch them disappear from view. It was a surprisingly difficult experience each time. But those are the growing pains associated with nurturing a life—some things are lost and some are gained during maturation. It’s what makes us who we are—and makes a show what it is.
This year, the idea we conceived five years ago will be growing into a full blown production. Spot on the Wall is an official selection of the New York Musical Theatre Festival’s 2015 Next Link Project. What was once a dream and became a goal is now a reality and we couldn’t be more excited for our “little show that could” to spread its wings and test the air. But most importantly, this moment feels like a familiar landmark on a path I’ve been trying to find my whole life. I feel like I’m beginning to find my place in the Musical Theatre world—and to be honest, it’s not in a way that I ever really expected. But my experiences and my passion have led me here and I’m looking forward to seeing where they take me next.
So if you’re passionate about Musical Theatre and want to pursue a career in this business, follow the path—but be ready for bumps in the road and look forward to the moments of wonder. But at the end of the day, find the thing that makes you soar in this business, even if it isn’t onstage—because your place could be in the booth, in the pit, in the costume shop, in the director’s chair…or in the back of the orchestra section, watching your baby become a full production in NYMF and nervously gauging the audience’s reactions.
And being one proud father.
(P.S. What father doesn’t show off pictures of his kid? www.spotonthewall.com)
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