Friday nights show went incredible. Great response from the audience, and we all had a great run on stage. But even that was outshadowed by what occured afterwards…I ran into a person who was a major source of inspiration for me.
My high school drama teacher, Mary Lawlis was not only a great teacher and a fantastic actor in her own right. She was thoughtful, considerate and encouraging to the members of her class, and I remember her as being the one person who really encouraged me to grow as an actor. If it wasn’t for her, I probably wouldn’t be doing any stagework, never mind pursuing an acting career today.
Mary was still working towards her full teachers degree when she came into Sutton District High School in my grade ten year to substitute for our regular drama teacher who required a leave of absence, and right away I enjoyed working with her in the betterment of my abilities on stage. For me, who at the time was still somewhat gawky and horribly shy around girls, I discovered I was able to become a completely different person on stage and Mary seemed to recognize that. She began to push me as hard as possible to grow and to my own surprise and possibly hers, there didn’t seem to be a breaking point…I would take anything that was thrown at me and run with it. I even remember she said right in the middle of class once (and I’m quoting here, not tooting my own horn), ‘Tim, you are every directors dream.” That statement alone gave me just the little shot of ego I needed to push forward to a better dream.
In grade eleven, Mary had received her teaching certificate and began a full time position as a drama teacher at the school, and my learning continued, not just in theatre but as a human being. Now, I’m not going to say I was popular or anything at the time, but I really didn’t care. I did what I wanted, hung out with who I wanted and never gave a moments notice to the ‘elite’ students who were for the most part just a bunch of stuck up pricks. To me theatre and similar arts were everything. If I wasn’t in a drama class or vocal music or even dance, I was involved in a theatre production either within the school or in community theatre. I was even one of the voices of the school as a steady member of the morning announcements team, which allowed me to practice public speaking and even the odd character piece. Throughout it all, Mary was a fantastic sounding board.
BY my OAC year (a now defunct year in Ontario highschools once known as grade 13), Mary was really throwing us some fantastic material to work with, including Native Canadian playwrite Thompson Highway’s The Rez Sisters, which is mostly a female cast with only one male role – the Native God Nanabush. This is a true, gritty play with a lot of cursing, and the class all pretty much agreed that it was wonderful to be treated as adults, not a bunch of teens – and we all respected the trust that was given to us. Everybody but me were placed in the female roles (split between two casts – even the males) and I was asked to portray Nanabush for both casts, an honour that I happily embraced.
A regretful issue between my ex-girlfriend and myself in the final months of school (nothing serious, just juvenile highschool stuff that was blown out of proportion – I’ll discuss that one day) led me to believe that Mary was angry at me, which I regretted even more at the time. It turns out that this was not the truth.
I was coming upstairs from the greenroom to greet the audience when she walked right up to me and gave me a hug and I was just flabergasted that she was in the audience – turns out she knows Marianne (who played Lenore) and didn’t even realize I was in the show until I walked onstage. “I think that’s my student”, she exclaimed to her friends (after 12+ years, a few less hairs and a few more pounds I’m sure I look a tad different afterall). We talked for awhile, mostly about the ‘old days’ but also about where we are at today. It was then that I brought up what happened between Sue-Anne and myself and how bad I felt about how things went down. She had actually forgotten who Sue-Anne was for the most part, and stated that though she remembered something happening around that time she never once chose sides. It felt good to hear her say that.
She loved the show, and graciously praised my performance which made me blush a bit. I had been hoping she would see one of my shows for years, and she just happened to pick this one which is some of my best work to date to actually show up. It felt GOOD!
Her most rewarding comment, when I mentioned that Melanie and I are expecting our first child was very simple. “That will be your best role ever”.
I’ll continue tomorrow about Saturday’s show.