Over the summer, as I was recovering from major bile duct cancer surgery in which I had 3/4 of my liver removed, I got a beautiful message from MJ Mufano, the Artistic Director at The Vineyard Playhouse, telling me that her husband Paul had undergone a liver transplant a few years ago and was now thriving and that I would get through this. Those words of support and encouragement were exactly what I needed to hear, as I was in pretty rough shape at the time. She also casually mentioned the possibility of me bringing my monologue From Ship to Shape to the Playhouse for a weekend in the Spring. The thought of that also buoyed my spirit and gave me something else concrete that I could focus on, as opposed to wallowing in a state of physical and mental agony and exhaustion. After all, I had wanted to go back to the Playhouse since I did my first show there in 2001 but couldn't forsee how it would transpire. When I was 21, I got my Actors' Equity Card at The Vineyard Playhouse, originating the role of Arthur in the first musical adaptation of Arthur's Christmas, based on the children's book and PBS cartoon by Marc Brown.
Well, this past weekend, I overpacked and headed up to Martha's Vineyard for the first time in 17 years. As MJ and I drove off the ferry, all I could think about was how grateful I am to be alive:
On Friday afternoon, Nacho arrived for the weekend, and I was so glad to have him there. We always have a good time when we go away together and he's a hell of a press agent. No matter where he goes, nothing can stop Nacho from spreading the word about From Ship to Shape in his own distinct style. Bless his heart.
The show went great. However, there were unexpected lessons in store. The day I arrived on the island I had a small cold, but nothing I couldn't work with. But the next day, the cold was worse and by Saturday's performance the cold had moved into my chest and there was so much mucus on my vocal chords, the entire upper register of my singing voice was gone. This, I thought, could potentially be a problem. So I did what I always do when undergoing a vocal emergency: I called Alix Korey. Alix was my voice teacher for years after coming out of NYU and is one of the great dames of Broadway. A powerhouse singer and actress, I've always been a huge fan. I'm lucky to have been able to work with her (we did a crazy movie together in 2003) and to call her a friend and mentor. Anyway, Alix told me exactly what to do to decrease the shit on my chords, how to warm up, how to hit the notes, how NOT to hit the notes, and how I should approach singing with a cold psychologically. I did everything she told me to, and then right before the show, I basically said a prayer. I said: listen God. I've done all I can for my voice. If you make sure it's there for me, I promise that I will walk onto that stage tonight and have as MUCH FUN AS I POSSIBLY CAN. And that's what I did. It was a completely new show with new choices and vocal adjustments but it was honest and connected, and at the end of the day, that's what really matters to me. Not whether I hit the notes or whether I sounded like a great singer. Mostly though, I'm glad this happened because now I can say I've done the show with a horrific cold. Now, not only do I know that I can get through it in that condition, but I have the tools to work around it. (Thank you Alix Korey!!!)
It's funny the kind of people From Ship to Shape show attracts. Dr. Gerry Yukevich came to the show on Saturday and gave me a copy of his book: Cruise Ship Doctor, all about his years working as a doctor for Norwegian Cruise Lines and how HE lost his mind (more or less) while aboard the ship too! I guess it's more of a universal experience than I thought and it's comforting to know that I'm not the only one who got pushed overboard by the boat itself.
I'm so grateful to have had the opportunity to bring my story to this island that I love so much and I can't wait to see what's next.