By Rachel Caplan, Special Events Manager
Outside of acting, I’ve been bartending for about a year now. Sure, I’ve learned to make a killer margarita, but I don’t think that’s why all of my regulars continue to visit during my shifts. I genuinely like hanging out with them, listening to their stories and dreams and concerns, and throwing in my two cents over a pint. Our goodbyes have grown from smiles and waves to high fives and hugs. It’s just like my own personal “Cheers.” I love it.
Connecting with people, especially during this time of year, is so important. New York City looks glamorous and so damn sparkly, but all of those Gap ads with warm families in giant houses, greeting one another in perfectly “normal” sweaters can make our lives seem a bit lonely. That’s why we need so strongly to find our own versions of extended family. More than any other city, I think that New York is a place where your friends quickly become your family, and this was so apparent at last week’s reading of A Christmas Carol at O’Lunney’s with Theatre East. I looked around the room and saw glowing faces, both new and familiar, young and young-at-heart, all dressed up and participating in telling a beautiful story together. Some lending their talents, others lending their ears. All giving.
A while back, a young man began coming to the bar during my shifts. I learned he is a director, a rather up-and-coming one at that, and we began talking shop every time he came to grab a beer. He has taught me so much over these lager-filled hours, lessons I couldn’t learn in acting school, and I’m not sure he knows what an impact he’s had on me, but his simple gifts of time and attention have benefited me so tremendously, I feel I should leave him a tip instead of the other way around. One issue we’ve discussed ad nauseum is our fear that theatre is becoming a “rich kid’s sport,” something that is so expensive, many young artists cannot afford theatre tickets, not to mention sustain a career in which it is tough to keep one’s head above water. This is why giving is so essential, and so very doable.
I don’t have much money to give, but I do have TIME. All of my mentors, those whom I respect and turn to for advice, have given me only their time, which is a most precious gift. I recently produced a play (None of the Above with Pegasus 51) for the first time, an experience which was incredible and overwhelming, and was made far more rewarding by the generosity of the playwright, Jenny Lyn Bader. She found me on Twitter and invited me to ask any questions I had about the play. On top of that, she came to see the show not once, but three times, bringing different guests all along. Because of her openness, we began a dialogue that fostered a lovely new relationship. I have so much respect for people like Jenny Lyn and my director friend, established artists who reach down to the next generation and offer their resources.
This, I believe, is the spirit of the holiday season, and of Theatre East. We are a company of artists at different points in our careers, and I’m proud to be part of a group so willing to give of their wellsprings of knowledge and experience.
I suppose this is something we can all learn and apply in our respective communities. I dare you (and myself) to take a look at your position in your community and find someone seeking advice or a bit of inspiration or even just a high five. Be generous however you are able, whether that means sponsoring someone so that they may see a piece of theatre they wouldn’t have been able to afford or simply sitting across a table from them and and listening. I can tell you as someone who is young and hopeful and unsure, a pair of ears is the greatest gift in the world.
I will dip into heavier business for just a moment and say that now is an essential point in history to give of your time, not only to individuals, but to greater causes. Be brave, be bold, gather your friends and march for justice. Let your voice be heard and support those whose voices have been silenced.
And perhaps it is my youth and hopeful outlook that make me believe this, but I think that if we step up, we can create a remarkable chain of giving and a glorious future for every beautiful, valuable person in this world.
Kwanzaa yenu iwe na heri!