Monday, March 16, 2009

When the Spotlight isn't on you....

Hi Bloggers!

I am visiting family in New York. I have been feeling a "pull" or a "need" to come out here. But it was deeper than just to visit my family. And I want to share what I have found with you guys. Don't know if it'll make sense, but I hope it does. It's been pretty profound for me, and I am still just processing what I've experienced.

First off, I ran a half marathon on a road that runs along the Deleware River. Some amazingly challenging hills (Jen can vouche for me on this!). The longest I had ever run on this road was eight miles, and to go 13.1 was really intense. I didn't keep time, just wanted to do it. No musice, either. I had the amazing musice of wind, water dripping from melting ice, and the occasional distant sound of a car. The temp was about 32 degrees. Chilly but so beautiful. I will take some pics and post them when I get home.

But the run isn't what I want to write about.

I have felt the "spotlight" of acting take a shift away from me. It's been awhile since I played Cyrano, or the Librarian in Underneath the Lintel. And even when I have been "the main dude" in a show, I just have felt that I was no longer a focal point in the theatre. And it has jossled my ego a bit from time to time. Some of this feeling is self-imposed and negative, but I think there's some truth to it.

And I think I had to come to New York to learn that that shift of the spotlight isn't a bad thing. And it doesn't mean it won't shift back once in a while. But how I live my life shouldn't be based on whether or not a spotlight is on me. I should be living and doing as peacefully AND purposefully when I am in the center of things in the theatre world, and when I am on the perifery (spelling??).

One big reason I came to New York was because my wonderful Father In Law got me tickets to a Ranger's game (hockey!) and I took my Brother, Rich. Rich introduced me to hockey and got me playing that wonderful sport, which in turn helped fuel my passion for acting. So in a lot of ways, I owe my career path to my bro!. Anway, at this game there happened to be, among 18,200 fans, three retired players from the days when I watched the Rangers as a kid. One of them was an old bruiser named Nick Fotiu. Nick was a favorite of mine and Rich. He grew up in Staten Island and worked his butt off and got to play for his childhood favorite team, the Rangers. Nick was not the most talented guy, but he tried harder than anybody. He only scored about four goals a season. Not much when you consider that good goal scorers get at least thirty! But everybody LOVED to watch him play. He retired a long while ago.

The last time Rich and I were at a game together was over twenty years ago. And at that game, Nick Fotiu scored the winning goal. It was the only time he ever did that in his career. He scored with two minutes to go, putting the Rangers ahead of their arch rivals, the New York Islanders, 3-2. When Nick bullied the puck past the Goaltender (it was not a finesse goal, he forrced the puck THROUGH the goalie) Nick started jumping around like he had just won the championship! It was not even a playoff game, but for Nicky, it was the most important game of his life.....the crowd went nuts for two reasons: the Rangers were ahead AND their beloved hometown boy had done it! Nick was so excited that when he got back to the bench, he threw up! The next day it was in all the papers. One writer said that Nick better not score winning goals too often or the excitement will kill him.

My Bro and I have retold that story many times. It's a great memory for us. So of course we were thrilled to see him back at Madison Square Garden. And we sat close to him during the game, about a section away. During the game, I watched Nick. His love for the game is still there, apparent in how he watched. His love for the family that is that hockey team is still there, and he is still a big part of that place, even though he is no longer on the ice. He matters. Even today. Maybe today he matters even more. Not many players in today's sports world are associated with only one team. They go were the money is, not where they feel they are "family".

And during the game I thought about my "spotlight" and thought about Nick's "spotlight". I am not retired, not by a long shot. But I see that we have to be in different lights as we go through this life. You can't be so in love with one type of focus that you are unwilling to give it up when the time is right. Sure, work to stay with something as long as it feels right, and it feels in balance with the universe, but have the grace to feel when a different light wants to shine on you.
And relish that one as you relished the last.....

After the game, we were leaving the parking garage and my Brother looked up and said, "No way. Rob, look. It's Nicky."

Nick had parked in the same garage. And we called to him and he happily spoke to us. And I told him that the last time Rich and I were at the Garden was his "famous game". Nick knew exactly what I was talking about and he started nodding his head and laughing, the memory instantly flooding back to him.

"I wish I could still do that!" He said.

We told him we loved him and thanked him and went on our way. It was a brief and blissful exchange and I really think that was why I felt a pull to come home.

I still wish I could play Cyrano sometimes. It's okay to sometimes "wish I could still do that". And it's nice to know that my old hero, Nick Fotiu feels that way too. But getting to see him in a different, equally wonderful role, is helping me realize that life, and my wonderful career, is about much much more than just scoring one game winning goal.

Thanks, Nicky.


Chris said...

Wow, Rob. I'm speechless... what wonderful, blessed experience(s) you've had on this journey home. I hope everyone in the Project, and beyond will read this post; a true gem, just like the guy who wrote it.

Love ya, man,

Terri said...

Oh, Rob. What a fabulous essay. And what an amazing thing to happen to you -- meeting your old hero by chance and sharing that fantastic memory.

The reality is that when you were in the spotlight, you probably had a fair number of people who looked at you when you were at the top of your game playing Cyrano, and it changed something in their lives. You may never know it. Few of us get the chance to tell someone how a particular performance, or work of art, or piece of music had a profound effect on our lives. But it certainly happened. Remember that, no matter what side of the spotlight you are in.

Rad said...

Rob, Thanks for sharing your story. I feel as though you have opened a window to reveal the marvel of your progress toward enlightenment.

Here is that poem I mentioned.

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
as an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all!
Even if they're a crowd of sorrows,
who violently sweep your house
empty of its furniture,
still, treat each guest honorably.
He may be clearing you out
for some new delight.

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,
meet them at the door laughing,
and invite them in.

Be grateful for whoever comes,
because each has been sent
as a guide from beyond.

~ Rumi ~
Translations by Coleman Barks

Ginger said...

Rob, I haven't read blogs in awhile but am so glad that I found this and read it. Moments like you shared with your brother and Nick probably happen in some way or another to us all, at least I hope they do! But your abililty to share it on this blog and make all that read it feel that warmth is not something that all can do.
Thank you. Love, Ginger