Tuesday, April 28, 2009

New in Town

It seems like everywhere I go here in London, people are friendly to me and doors are opening. Okay, it's not in the big, dramatic "we want you to star in our show on the West End NOW" way that I fantasized about. But it is enough for me to take notice.

Maybe it's the "new kid" phenomenon. I always remember being extra nice and friendly to the new kids in school, partly because I didn't want them to feel lonely and partly because there was something intriguing and exotic about them. I'd lived and gone to school in the same town my whole life.

I'm sure as adults we still have that instinct to welcome newcomers, and a desire to know about them and where they come from.

But I think it's also something coming from me. New York is THE place to be for an actor and singer - at least if you love theater. Ever since I moved there after college, I've been struck by the sheer density of intense dreams and aspirations floating around the city, colliding with one another, making themselves known in a myriad of ways. I've always felt that it's a place where you can pretty much do whatever you desire, if you have the chutzpah to make it happen. Ah, there's the rub.

The chutzpah to make it happen. Recently my mother and godmother had dinner with a mentor of mine in musical theater. She's a very successful dancer, choreographer, and performer in musical theater and film - and an extraordinary teacher who I studied with for two summers before college. According to my mom, she described me as "fearless." I was kind of surprised to hear this, as it seems like fear has certainly been an obstacle for me in "real life" after college. But it gave me pause to hear this, because obviously she picked up on something that is there in me, even if I don't always access it.

So, New York is: "If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere." And perhaps being there I've put too much pressure on myself to "make it there." But when I go somewhere else, there's a degree to which I'm surrendering to the possibility of "giving up" on New York and starting fresh. It's an energetic thing - the letting go, the surrender. I feel it here in London and I felt it to some degree in LA, as well, where I lived for a few months last spring while doing a play in Hollywood.

In addition, I find that newness and excitement are inspiring and motivating for me. So I'm more likely to get excited about the extra challenge of singing at an open mike in a new city where I don't know anybody, than in a city where I've been living for a few years. On the other hand one could argue that singing in a foreign place is easier, because people are less likely to know me, or my work, there. Well, whether it’s harder or easier, the bottom line is that it’s more appealing for me, somehow.

The last movie I saw with my sister before leaving NYC for my London sojourn was New in Town, with Rene Zellweger and Harry Connick, Jr. Not particularly sophisticated, of course, and I know you film aficionados will groan, but honestly I loved it and didn't want it to end. Perhaps it was a harbinger of what was to come for me, being new in town.

But perhaps we could all be new in town this spring, even if we're not. That sense of having nothing to lose, that sense of adventure - that could be created anytime, any day, anywhere. And the sense of surrender around our desires, letting go of our vise grip on the manifestation of what we want - that is so powerful and it would be so helpful to cultivate it whether or not we're new in town.

Even if we're not new in town, and neither are the people around us, we could treat each other as if we were. We might make a new friend or find a new opportunity if we stretched just a little bit by saying hello to the person at the next table a Starbucks, or the person in line with us at Whole Foods. Yes, I realize we can't do this all the time, especially in cities like New York or London. Sometimes people are busy or just want to be left alone (and sometimes we ourselves are that person – I know I certainly am sometimes). But a little bit could go a long way. Especially since the boundaries between places and cultures are melting. Everyone's talking about the world becoming a global village. If that's the case - that we're all becoming more and more interconnected and the boundaries are blurring - then there will eventually be fewer and fewer real instances of being "new in town," at least culturally or socially speaking. We might as well start getting to know our neighbors now.

"'What should I love?' . . . 'Whatever is in front of you.' . . . 'What do I do first?' . . . 'Whatever is facing you.' . . . 'Who should I help more?' . . . 'Whoever is next to you.'”
- from Love Without End by Glenda Green

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