I apologize that I haven’t posted a new entry in a number of weeks. My beloved dad passed away on November 8th, and I’m just now gearing up to get back into my blogging. While I don’t know how much personal information I’ll discuss on this blog over time, I’d like to share a story about both my parents and how they responded to my chosen career.
I think it was my sophomore year at Belmont High School in Belmont, MA. I had started doing theatre my freshman year, when to my surprise I had landed the role of Malvolio in the BHS Shakespeare Club’s production of Tweltfh Night. At one point in my sophomore year, I was simultaneously rehearsing in the auditorium as part of the barbershop quartet in the school’s production of The Music Man, and as Algernon in The Importance of Being Earnest across the hall in the cafeteria. It was tricky, but I was making it work. One evening, my parents, who had been very supportive of my freshman year thespian efforts, sat me down for a talk.
They were concerned that this theatre thing might be getting a little out of hand, and distracting me from my school work. I pointed out that in fact my grades weren’t suffering. And besides, I told them: “This is what I want to do for my life. I want to be an actor.” They both looked at me quietly for a moment, then looked at each other, and said we’d talk about this some more another time. The next night, they came back to me and said, “Okay, if you’re that serious about acting, then we’ll make you a deal: you can keep doing your shows, as long as your grades don’t suffer, and you agree to go to typing school this summer. If you’re going to be a professional actor, you’re going to need to be able to support yourself.” Now, neither of my parents had a background in theatre, or to my knowledge any friends in the business. But they followed the theatre life in Boston closely, and obviously picked up on some realities along the way. Of course, I agreed! That summer, I found myself in a summer school class for typing, complete with fold-over typing manual, old IBM selectric machines, and a room full of female students. I embraced my fate, and over the summer became a superb typist; a skill I retain to this day.
And my parents couldn’t have been more right: after I graduated from Harvard, I moved to NYC to be a writer and performer, without knowing a soul, or how I’d make ends meet. My dear dad, who did business with a number of law firms, got me an interview for the typing pool at a large, old Wall Street law firm. I still remember the secretarial supervisor’s astonishment when she tallied my score from her typing test. I still wonder if perhaps she made a mistake, as she calculated 94 words per minute, which seems like an awful lot. But she hired me on the spot, and I was off and running.
I have never forgotten that conversation with my parents, and will never forget their wisdom and kindness. My mother died over 30 years ago, and my father just last month, but it still seems impossible that they’re both gone now. I don’t know how many parents would have taken seriously their teenager’s statement that “I want to be an actor.” But to my own dying day, I will always be grateful to my parents for understanding that I meant it with all my heart. And come what may, I still do.