From The Heart Of
Dear Mr. Keating,
I'm the gal who gushed all over you at intermission at today's performance of Starmites. You'll have to forgive me-- it's not often that I meet a hero of mine.
You'll also have to forgive me for writing so quickly. I know you must be very busy right now, but I just couldn't wait. There's so much I want to say to you. I owe you the happiest days of my life.
To give a bit of background...
I was an actress, starting at age 4 (my dad was a director). The theatre bug nestled deep in my bones, and by the age of 7 or so, I was already stealing Saturday's Newsday to go through the cast calls and make audition appointments, without my parents' consent. (Later, I'd casually mention to my mom that I had a tryout for "Oliver" in Maryland... she'd pull out a globe and try to reinforce that Maryland wasn't anywhere near Long Island. This made little sense to me.)
Fast forward many years. About 1991 (?), a friend of mine dragged me to a little theatre on Long Island (I'm undecided, but it was either Victory or Theatre Three in Port Jefferson) to see Starmites. I'd never heard of it, but he assured me that he'd seen an earlier performance and I was going to love it. That was an understatement.
I went crazy for it. The two leading ladies were phenomenal. (I still remember that "Diva's" first name was "Wendy," but I've forgotten the other gal's name.) The music had me leaping out of my seat. Although I didn't know any of the cast members, my friend let me in on a secret-- one of them had put "Beauty Within" on her answering machine. I called this stranger repeatedly, just to listen to her answering machine.
It never left me. I knew I had to do this show one day. It was pure goodness.
Another fast forward. I went to college, and something terrible happened-- I began developing a panic disorder. I didn't call it that at first, of course. I thought I'd just lost my nerve. It felt awful-- I'd go to auditions, voice shaking, legs buckling, and watch the faces of the directors going blank, just waiting for me to finish. I wanted to scream, "I swear, I'm really good! This isn't what I do on stage!"
I went from consistently landing leading roles to not even making it to callbacks at non-professional shows. After one too many of these failures, I knew I had to find a way back to the theatre without the pressure of auditions. I found directing.
Of course, I knew the only show I had ever wanted to direct would have to be my debut. Starmites. And it was.
I had the most wonderful cast I could have ever hoped for. (Picture of most of them attached. I'll track down the rest and scan in a few more later.) Not only were they talented, but they were the nicest group of people I've ever known. And they "got it!" No one ever went home after a rehearsal. We'd wind up at my apartment, having long discussions about what the "cruelty" meant to each of us, or adding in extra parts to "Reach Right Down," or psychoanalyzing Shak Graa.
About a month before the show, our "Dazzle" got into major trouble with the law and had to drop out of the show. I brought in a new actor, and he did a great job of picking up the part. Because of budget red tape, we had no sets, no choreographer, no keyboardist, and no costumes until about a week before the show. But the big bomb was still coming...
Six days to curtain, our "Space Punk" got meningitis and was hospitalized. Having already used up my 'extra' actor, I had to promote my "Herbie" to Punk's role, and I stepped in as Herbie! God bless ace bandages and ponytails. And our staff artist, who made me a Starmites Handbook in the shape of a hand, filled with pages of inspirational messages to "discover" on stage.
The show was unforgettable to everyone involved. Many of us still keep in touch through all the years and miles. I knew then that it was the happiest time of my life, though I know it even better now. I went around pinching myself every day, wondering when the euphoria would end. This was what theatre was supposed to be about. No egos, no attitudes... just a bunch of good friends spreading entertainment, joy, and a journey back to childhood imagination, innocence, and fantasy. There were people doing the "Cruelty Stomp" down Commonwealth Avenue weeks after the last performance. I lived that rush for months, and nothing could get me down.
That is, until about a year later, when the panic disorder completely took over my life. I became agoraphobic (housebound) because I couldn't leave the house without having a panic attack anymore. Obviously, a theatrical career was out of the question. I turned to writing, and have had plenty of success with it (I've written everything from articles to books to screenplays to slogans for doormats and t-shirts!). But my heart still aches for the theatre. It's magic to me. I always have been, and always will be, in awe of the way an outstanding performance can shake me down to the core and make me remember why I'm alive. You can imagine, I'm sure, how much of a prison I was in; going from this fantastic high in my life to hermit-hood.
I didn't leave the house for over 3 1/2 years. I have only been "out and about" for 6 months or so now, and am still not 100% recovered, but I'm getting there. The fact that I drove 2 hours to see Starmites tonight proves that much. ;)
So, kismet. The stage manager dropped me an e-mail because she found a picture of my mighty Stamites on my website, and I showed up to get on the waiting list for today's show. You would have seen a fit in the lobby if they hadn't let me in!
It took everything I had in me to stay seated through the show. I LOVED the music-- the new arrangements are terrific! It was even better than I'd hoped it would be. The puppets, the actors, the everything. Getting to meet you was the icing on the cake. Thank you for making me feel alive again, and thank everyone who was involved... these are moments I can never take for granted.
So, now it's my turn to give back. As I mentioned, I write for lots of magazines and websites. I'm the Editor-In-Chief of two major writers' websites-- AbsoluteWrite.com and WriterOnline.net. I can already promise you coverage at Absolute Write-- I'd love to interview you (and, of course, I'll include links to your site and anything else you'd like me to post). I can also pitch stories to other markets for which I regularly write-- Writer's Digest, Salon.com, etc. I have a PR background, as well; I am the Public Relations Director for upcoming Scottish film Curse Of The Bog Women.
What I'm saying here is that I know a thing or two about getting publicity, and if there's one cause I'd like to promote, it's seeing Starmites get the recognition that keeps evading it! Of COURSE it deserves an Off-Broadway run, and I'd love to do whatever I can to help get it there. So, you tell me. If I can write a letter to someone to help your cause, or help out with press releases, etc., just say the word. In the meantime, keep me updated about what's happening, and I'll start pitching to editors and seeing what kind of coverage I can get you.
Thank you again for changing my life. Your imagination made my world a better place.
To Starmites 2001