"The Best Thing in the World to Me" by Erin Dahl

February 5, 2018

 

I remember the first time I went to New York City.  My parents took me on the ferry over from New Jersey and I remember staring into the murky brown water as it churned against the boat. Once we got onto the island I was too short to realize the enormity of what was around me, I only remember exhaust rising into the sunny air and taxis honking.  I was scared but oddly exhilarated at the same time.  Almost like the feeling of “Fuck Yeah!” as I climbed into the backseat of the 90’s era taxi but obviously I did not know that specific phrasing yet.
My parents were taking me to see "Beauty and the Beast" on Broadway.  Of course the show completely made my four year old life, but it took me years to realize how iconic this day truly was.
I think my practical non-actor parents soon regretted this move because every time they had “people over” thereafter the moment the appetizers came out I would push “play” on the stereo and emerge from the top of the staircase wearing a Belle costume and force my captive audience of New Jersey legal professionals to watch me perform the entire "Beauty and the Beast" soundtrack.
How this relates to me being at MCS today is an interesting journey. Despite the previous anecdote, I am actually not a musical theater actor. But what we all share as artists is a mutual desire to perform and express universal feeling to the world, and it almost doesn’t matter what medium we do this in. I feel especially grateful that I found MCS because before I did, I always felt, like, gratuitous for having this need, and because I never acknowledged that I had it, it would come out in more destructive ways.
It took me a very long time to accept, despite a bevy of overly obvious indicators over the years, that to be an actor was my calling in life.  Most parents, who are not artists themselves, will definitely try and dissuade their children from this world.  And even if they want to help, they have no idea how. I spent my youth watching other kids who were less quiet than me get the school play, like a little scorned Salieri.  I attended more Broadway shows and saw more movies, always imagining myself a part of them, and being brought to silent tears by the Universal Studios spinning world opening thing, and feeling like actor world was so far away from me as I struggled to simply wade out of yet another Applebee’s induced malaise.
I finally got cast in a play in High School, but let’s just say the #MeToo movement came a decade too late for my High School drama teacher, so that was a washout. I learned way too young that not all people who were in a position to affect my dreams were good.
Finally things turned around in college and I started performing.  But I still didn’t feel “allowed’ that I wanted to do this.  It was cute that I was trying, (but you know, let her get it out of her system), everyone seemed to be waiting for that day as they asked in a patronizing tone if I had any auditions lately.
Everything changed the first day I walked into MCS. This all hadn’t been an accident.  It wasn’t just "tolerated" that I wanted to be an actor.  I was one.  I was supposed to be one, whether I ultimately obtained any commercial success or not. In fact, if I ignored the fact that I was an artist, that could be bad for me and bad for the world, I learned. As I looked at Matt telling me this in the whimsical studio lighting, he seemed to gaze through my soul and I got this uncanny feeling that he was like, some kind of artistic spiritual guru that is here in the world on a very specific mission.
If you had told four year old me that day in 1994 as I stared in awe at the Broadway actors and dancers on stage that I would one day be in class with the next generation of them, that would have truly been the best thing in the world to me. I never would have believed in this life it was truly possible.
And yet, it is.
But maybe, as I warbled the opening notes of “Tale as old as time,” for the three hundredth time, but, with a little lisp, a small part of me did.
MCS is comprised of those small parts that live on in all of us.

 

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