“The purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experiences.” ~ Eleanor Roosevelt

Today I have Greg Ryan with us.  I met Greg in June of this year, during our time together working on the play "Our Town", which we both performed in.  Greg is here, sharing what this acting experience has meant for him.

Greg and I had a couple of scenes we were in together, and I'm really tempted to keep calling him Mr. Webb (his stage name)!

With that…Greg (errr…Mr. Webb), take it away!

An Actor's Experience

Community Theater is an odd bird.  Some people don’t consider it “real theater” because it’s not performed on one of the big-name stages.  The productions are often found in high school auditoriums or back-rooms that you could walk right by if you weren’t looking for them .  This production of “Our Town” was at SummerStage, an outdoor theater in the middle of Lapham Peak State Park, about 30 minutes outside of the Milwaukee area.  It’s a lovely theater, but it’s definitely in an odd location off the beaten path.

Even though I’m over 50, I’m still relatively new to acting. So when a director casts me I experience a flurry of emotions.  I’m initially flattered since the director is essentially trusting me with the production. In my short tenure, I’ve seen firsthand how one actor can jeopardize an entire production. This memory helps the flattery to fade and I turn my attentions to my next emotion: worry.  Can I actually do it?  Can I memorize my lines?  Can I really BE this other person?

Underneath all these questions is the reality that I’m putting much of the rest of my life on hold during weeks of rehearsal and, finally, the play’s run.  For the next two months or so, many evenings and
weekends revolve around the stage.  Actors spend less time with friends and family; even their careers can get upstaged.  Will this decision affect their long term relationships?  My wife wasn’t all that happy when I took this role because she felt that summer is such a long-awaited time in Wisconsin and we’d miss out on activities we’d normally do together. Luckily, after she observed me falling in love
with this play, she became more understanding and supportive.

Of all the plays I’ve acted in, none have made me think more about being human than Our Town.  It’s rather amazing, considering that during the read through I thought it came off as corny and dated.  But
the more I rehearsed and saw my fellow actors assuming their roles, the more I realized that the play is timeless.  Sure, some of the words we spoke may have been from the early 1900’s but the thoughts
that they expressed still ring true today.  How do you feel about a newborn baby?  Or when you discover that the person you love actually loves you back?  How would you feel if both your children died before
you did?

Connie Gehl, the actress who played my wife in “Our Town,” needed to cry during the performance.  Her sorrow was so convincing that I, as her husband, was compelled to comfort her so she was not alone in her grief.  Her performance pulled me in and, I believe, helped me truly embody my part as Charles Webb.  It was just one of the wonderful aspects of this production.

Memories and Emotions

I’d like to share two more wonderful memories of this show.  I was moving furniture from the stage to another building.  One of the younger actresses stopped me and we chatted pleasantly for a moment.  She said that she just loved interacting with all these creative people and she obviously was including me.  Still feeling like a newcomer to the theater, I was inwardly surprised and flattered.  Am I actually an actor?  I guess I am.

The other moment occurred during the wedding scene.  I play the father of Emily, the hesitant bride.  At the beginning of the scene, she’s scared and looks to her father for reassurance.  After a little
father-daughter chat, I kiss her forehead, drape her veil over her head and walk her down the aisle.   Well, I walked my own daughter down the wedding aisle about three years ago.  This is a privilege
that fathers of girls have enjoyed for centuries and it may be the only time I ever do that in real life.  But because of this play, I was able to relive the experience during every performance.   And my
“real” daughter saw the show, too.

When a show ends, I experience more emotions.  Sorrow that the production is finished.  Perhaps, relief too.   I commuted about 40 minutes to the venue, but the majority of the actors live out in the
Delafield area so I may never work with or even see many of them again.  I’m wistful when I realize that these people have passed through a brief part of my life.

Although I do feel sorrow,  gratitude is the emotion that over rides all the others.  I’m grateful that Diane Powell cast me in this play.  I’m grateful that I was able to work with Ethan, Mason, Amanda,
Connie and Lance as well as the rest of the cast and crew.  I’m grateful that we had good weather for all of our production dates. I’m grateful to the audience who usually laughed at the right times. I’m grateful to my body and brain for hanging in there and allowing me to physically and mentally handle the part.  I’m grateful to my wife, Brooke, for supporting me in a very personal endeavor.  I’m grateful to Facebook because it allows me to know some new friends even if they turn out to be temporary.

Well, on to the next audition.  I’ve just been cast in a new one act play, but I’m confident that this production of “Our Town” will stay with me until I play in my own real life funeral scene.

You can keep up with Greg at his personal website – Our Next Thing, and on Facebook.

“For of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: ‘It might have been!’” ~ John Greenleaf Whittier

Do you ever have those things that float around in your heart…things that make you say "what if…"

What if...I joined this new group I've heard about?

What if…I went on that trip, all by myself?

What if...I tried a new sport?

What if...I ventured out in my own business?

What if...I listened to my heart?

…the courage to be yourself…

Do thoughts like this bounce through your head (and more importantly – through your heart)?  And does that bouncing go anywhere?  Or does it stay locked within the recesses of your heart and mind?

What If

What if, instead of just thinking these thoughts, we did something about it. 

What if we didn't know what that next step looked like, and took it anyway.

Life is awful funny, that way.  Call it serendipity, the Universe acting on our behalf, God answering our prayers, …

Our thoughts, along with some sort of action in their general direction…well, pretty amazing things begin to happen.

Our Town

For a couple of years, the idea has bounced around in my head (and heart).  What if…I tried my hand at acting?

Of course, this thought without action..it's like a seed without soil.  The possibility, the potential of that seed is great.  Although, without the action of placing that seed in some soil, and providing some nourishment – nothing happens.

{have you ever had thoughts that lie dormant?}

Fast forward to early June of this year.  {and recall…this idea of thoughts coupled with action}  For some reason (I don't recall at all anymore), I land upon the website of a local bookstore.  That bookstore website has a link on its site to a small outdoor theatre at a state park near our house – SummerStage.  I normally would just move on, except for some reason, on this day, I'm compelled to click that link.

Our Town, by Thornton Wilder, will be performed at SummerStage this summer – and there is still a need for actors.

{the easy answer is to say – I've not done anything like this in forever}

{the easy answer is to say – rehearsals have already started, it's too late}

{the easy answer is to say – I have lots of other "things" to do}

{the easy answer is to say – nothing…} {the easy answer…is to do nothing}

The easy answer, though, is it really the easy answer?  Is it, when that answer pulls you away from something that tugs at your heart?  Perhaps that easy answer is an answer that's become the default too many times? 

Perhaps that easy answer is really the difficult answer – every time, taking you one step further from your dreams, your desires, you bliss. 

So, I choose this (difficult) easy answer…the easy answer that speaks from my heart, the easy answer that might feel difficult and yet – it's the answer whispering from my soul…

And So It Begins

A week later, I find myself showing up for rehearsals – and with a role to play.

Life is awful funny that way…

Between that time in mid-June and now – my evenings have been with this group of actors, creating our performance of Our Town.  A group of people from all different walks – together creating memories, fulfilling dreams, making a few mistakes (I speak personally on this one…), having fun…

{how are you choosing to answer?}

The Culmination

We have just finished up our performances.   It's a bit strange to think I won't be spending my evenings with this amazing group of people – something we've done for the last several weeks. 

…and the journey continues for each of us…

As I reflect back, I'm reminded of a line near the end of this play ~

"…Oh, Earth, you're too wonderful for anyone to realize you.  Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it – every, every minute?"

We are here on this earth for a finite amount of time.  What tomorrow holds, we know not.  And yet, it is so easy to live our lives as if tomorrow will always come.

Your Call to Action

Choose to listen to that voice which speaks from your heart.  And if the thoughts that voice brings up, if they are ones that maybe scare you just a little bit – choose to act. 

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” ~ Theodore Roosevelt

Dare to dream. 

Dare to be uniquely you.

Dare to step out of any boxes you've created for yourself.

Dare to live…really and fully, live…

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Katy Perry: Firework

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Creative Commons License photo credit: Jason A. Samfield

"Your vision will become clear only when you look into your heart. Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside awakens." ~ Carl Gustav Jung

Life coaching.  What is it, anyway?  And what's the value in having a coach?

In the spring of 2010, I began working with life coach Laura Neff

Laura recently asked me some questions about our time together – questions that really touched upon my experience in having Laura as a coach, and in the real and tangible benefits of having a life coach.

You can read it here ~ The Jungle of Lance (a peek into the coaching journey)

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