There was no other way, no other path.
It was as if written in stone: actress….I would be an actress.
I’m not even sure if I actually understood what that meant when I was a child, I only knew I wanted and needed to be the center of attention and that I was capable of creating, finding, manifesting ways by which to get that blazing attention….that blazing bright heated attention. That hot spot .
As if the fire inside was so strong, it shed its illumination through my flesh and created a circle of brightness, a circumference of delight, a display of ever so obvious fireworks for all to see.
And it all had to be perfect ,whole, complete, the very best of anything anyone else was trying to do to get attention. I remember thinking in the 2nd grade : “ I have to draw a better picture than Carolyn Chandler is drawing….mine has to be the best….I need to also read aloud better than the golden child that was Ms. Carolyn Chandler, her white blonde hair shining like a crown on her wealthy kid head!” I was in a race for my girlish life against the young heiress of the CocaCola bottling fortune. ( Atlanta, where I was born, was home to CocaCola….Carolyn was the soda pop Princess ! We all had a painful awareness of that.)
And I do believe it was that need for heat and light that came to be the instrument of carving my foot lighted path through the ensuing years, through my half a century in professional show business….I believe it is that need that drove all of us, all my fellow Broadway actors and singers and dancers, to that spot in the audition process where we knew would be booking that job! Job after job! Paying our NYC rents by succeeding at
being constantly hired to create the privilege of our art! It never felt less than a privilege.
Except when it felt like hell.
It was of course a game of Heaven or Hell…..when , I ask you, is something you deeply need NOT that?
Because fire, that orange yellow red element, has the capacity to destroy along with its gifts of warming and enlightenment….it turns to ashes sometimes the very desired thing. It is true: all of us in my professional “ class” of New York/ LA actors constantly experienced the destructive as well as the glorious attributes of the fire that burned within each of us. It was our way of life to either crumble into ash, or rise fully juicily cooked by the scintillating light of our personal fires.
And I see that I am overwriting and overwrought….the subject of a fire burning within must have opened a door inside me and all I can do is turn out these tortured and filigreed words…..sort of like vomiting….passion, need, creation, flinging oneself against the empty stage space, making an indelible impression on that empty space between performer and audience…creating that blue arc of energy that feeds us all, whether we are on the stage or merely watching it.
How dare I use the word “merely”?
There is nothing “mere” about an audience, for without one, what would we do, those of us up on that stage? They are the second half of us, that audience…..or did they come first? The audience needed something and so out of the fire that burned within them, we actors, singers and dancers were born?
I will leave that question to the ages of fire messengers that come after me.
But for now, suffice it to say, in all this heated verbiage: the fire is all.