Sometimes reality is stranger than fiction. “Could it be that I’m psychic?” is one of my lines in a play here in Los Angeles – my first ever theater performance. Through an admirable set of synchronicities, and by simply allowing myself to “follow the energy,” I have been cast in the play, Cold Sweat, by Neal Bell.
One thing led to another…
Last fall, a guest speaker and prominent screenwriter, Jane Anderson, recommended to my UCLA screenwriting class that all writers take at least one acting class. “It will help you get inside your characters, and better understand what actors look for in roles,” she said. It was sound advice, and so I promptly searched for an acting class. I found the Andrew Wood Acting Studio here in Hollywood and contacted Andrew. Andrew meets every potential student to ensure there’s a good fit. We met for coffee at Starbucks. I liked him immediately and felt I could learn a lot from him. And despite the fact that I was an acting novice, and that my last theater performance was in elementary school at the age of 10, Andrew invited me to join the mixed-level class in scene study and technique.
Scene study: a play about Spirit
I was assigned to work on a scene from Cold Sweat, a play about life after death, replete with spirits, a medium and faith healer, a young woman with “second sight”, the skeptic, and of course, the searcher. Cold Sweat was first performed in 1987, and was in fact inspired by the life of Elizabeth Kubler Ross, a prolific writer on death and dying. I’d not mentioned my spiritual work to Andrew at our coffee meeting. But what are the chances that I’d be randomly assigned a play about the very themes that define such a big part of my life? Had Andrew googled me and found my website, I wondered? So, I asked him. Not so. Andrew was actually surprised to discover that I was a medium. It was simply a role he thought would be right for me to work on.
The last day of class was Friends and Family Night, at which we performed the scene we’d worked on perfecting for several months. Outside, after my performance, Andrew complimented my work and asked if I would be interested in performing my role as Bess in a public theater production of Cold Sweat, which he would soon be co-producing and directing. He was presently casting for it. I’m not sure how far my jaw fell, but I’m pretty sure the grass tickled my chin. Once the shock of his invitation wore off, and Andrew’s assurance that “I was ready,” had sunk in, the timing and logistics were considered and I opted in. Doubting the wisdom of my choice at times (acting is definitely harder than it looks), I wondered if I could really pull it off, but all signs said, “Go!” so I stayed in the flow.
I play the outspoken, self-absorbed, and rather outlandish Bess Franklin, a New England blue blood and the mother of
Alice, the main character (played by the very talented Eve Danzeisen). As Bess, the wife of a man terminally-ill with cancer, my fear of being “left behind” and later, my dark struggle with the overwhelming grief that comes with losing a loved one, are emotions with which many of us can identify and empathize. Bess is a character far from my own personality, but the words of the playwright are so rich that Bess quickly found a voice within me. With Andrew’s skillful guidance and direction, she took on a life of her own. Inspired by whom or from whom, I’m not yet sure!
The play is about “my daughter, Alice,” a Vietnam War field doctor traumatized by her war experience, and especially the sudden loss of her lover. Once back home, she finds herself on a personal quest to help cancer patients come to terms with death, and to truly understand for herself what happens after death–if anything. Despite the heavy themes, the play delivers plenty of sharp wit, comedic repartee and metaphysical mysteries as Alice journeys through the unknown. And the play ends on an up note! What more can one ask?
Reflections on my soul’s path
In March, while visiting Boston and my beloved Swampscott Church of Spiritualism, I sat in a Spirit circle. A message from my sister Susie came through Beth, one of the student mediums. Beth brought through many validations of my life in Hollywood, details of the latest story I was researching for a screenplay, even the elephant totems in the Hollywood & Highland shopping center just a block away from my apartment. Susie said through Beth, “Your world is expanding in ways you can’t see, can’t imagine. Keep focusing and keep buckling down.” (Side note: Susie passed into Spirit in 1973, when this play opens.)
My world is indeed expanding. Acting in a play is the last thing I would have imagined for myself when I arrived in L.A. last fall. That said, I’ve met so many wonderful people through this experience and have been opened up to the joys of acting. Following the energy has served me well this past year as I find myself in the flow of deeply creative and expansive exercises, all of which serve to inform, reinforce and complement the other.
We are here on the Earth plane to learn, to create and to be creative. This challenge takes many forms, and manifests in all aspects of life. When we find ourselves “in the flow” of creative energy, in the process of co-creation with the Universe, we are literally carried forward in a river of great joy and deep satisfaction. For me, creative endeavors are also opportunities to bring forward messages of hope, compassion, and eternal love, no matter the medium… Aha! A pun.
By chance (or not), Andrew just sent me the perfect ending to this post–a quote from Letters to a Young Poet, by Rainer Maria Rilke:
If only it were possible for us to see farther than our knowledge reaches, and even a little beyond the outworks of our presentiment, perhaps we would bear our sadnesses with greater trust than we have in our joys. For they are the moments when something new has entered us, something unknown; our feelings grow mute in shy embarrassment, everything in us withdraws, a silence arises, and the new experience, which no one knows, stands in the midst of it all and says nothing.
One weekend left: June 26-28, 2015
If you’re in the Los Angeles area, consider coming to one of the final performances of the play. You’ll be sure to enjoy it! Cold Sweat is showing at the Atwater Village Theater, a 99-seat blackbox theater, so tickets are limited. You can get them online here. If you come, please wait for me and introduce yourself after the show! I’d love to hear how the play touched you.
~In love and light, Renee Buck