The year is 2008. It is early spring.
Lights up on a confused, depressed, sexually free, angry, yet well-mannered and respectful little black boy from Arkansas, struggling to find his identity during his second semester of college. For 18 years, he lived uncomfortably as those around him made decisions about who he would be, how he would act, and what he’d be responsible for. What now? He’s alone. No parents or sisters as an alarm clock. No restraints or limitations on when to be in the house, how long to stay gone, who could come over, when to have calls stopped at night, or how to prioritize homework over after-school activities with friends. This independence is frightening. Business Management as a college major isn’t working out, but that’s what everyone wanted. Everyone wanted him to “major in something that will make you a lot of money.” With so much pressure to be what so many people wanted him to be and an innate desire to escape the constant nicknames of sissy and faggot, how can he ever get to a place of discovering who he is or what he truly wants from life?
Giving speeches in front of the class is doing something to his confidence. Is that personality we see? Is he effortlessly able to grasp the attention of those listening and clearly articulate his thoughts and feelings, although public speaking has always been one of his greatest fears? “You should change your major to theatre,” said an eager and passionate communications professor (since his current major wasn’t working out). Freshman year had ended and he made the decision to take a step into the unknown. It was time to fly. It was time to soar. As much as he was willing to learn, it was time to fail and experience life and all that it was prepared to teach him.
Forward, once more.
First audition complete. Yes, this is home! There’s a natural fit and an immediate realization that it was time to take control and hone in on every repressed thought, feeling, and emotion of the past 18 years of his life. A few shows and one National Excellence in Acting Award later, it is time for graduation. He has discovered his passion and has conquered countless fears and overcome a lifetime of obstacles. This is the real test. He must now take this newfound passion, sense of self, and awareness of life and apply it to real world experience.
Pause. Hello, Baltimore.
He has an internship with Centerstage, the state theatre of Maryland and Baltimore’s largest professional producing theatre, a 16 hour drive from family, is single, and is eager to experience life as a working theatre professional. All work and no play for the first few months. But guys are starting to notice him. From the cliche “I haven’t seen you here before” to the never-ending “Can I buy you a drink?” things were off to an excellent start. There was a certain charm about Baltimore that kept a sparkle in his eye and a curiosity to explore. Countless sex partners and a year of valuable professional theater experience later, it was time to go.
Lights up on a confused, depressed, sexually free, angry, yet well-mannered and respectful little black boy from Arkansas, struggling to find his identity after an HIV diagnosis. This is all seemingly familiar, yet unfamiliar territory. In the blink of an eye, everything he learned and everything he knew was gone. He no longer knew what to do or how to navigate this new life. Retreating to that silent and scared little boy, he moved back to Arkansas to be with family. No one knew what he was dealing with. The internship was over. That’s all they knew. As he watched how people living with HIV were treated, he began to educate himself on everything there was to know about this… thing. Why is it so frowned upon? Why aren’t people talking about it without being hateful or demeaning? It’s public now! The world knows his secret. The secret to his pain. From talking about the struggle to get in care and stay in care to the greatness that is “HIV Treatment Works”, he found a new purpose in life.
Baltimore, we meet again!
With this purpose came popularity. With this popularity came more struggle. Struggle to say NO. Struggle to be happy. Struggle to find what was missing from his life. Day in and day out he’s working for others who are oppressed and repressed and oftentimes forgotten about, but he’s forgetting about the most important person of them all: HIMSELF! He so desperately wants life to be better for everyone he meets, all the while neglecting to focus even the slightest attention on issues in his own life.
He is me. I am him. We are one.
The moment has come for me to reclaim my time. While I get extreme satisfaction from helping and supporting those around me, I have reached a place where I am strong and secure enough to know that I can’t continue to pour into other people without taking time to recharge and truly refill the cup that I’m constantly pouring from. My passion is performing. My purpose is helping. My mission will be to combine the two.
Audition complete. I got the part. I’m back home. Let’s work!