Friday, December 31, 2010

In Mourning

With all that is going on right now - the frantic holiday season, my upcoming one-year anniversary, Ross's many recent interviews, hopes to lead a new ladies' Bible study group and the unexpected passing of a young friend - I have been, until last night, too overwhelmed to write.  When too many thoughts and ideas crowd my mind, they are unable to flow as freely as they should.  Instead, they jostel each other, clamoring for space and voice, and, unable to move, they fester and rot.

Last night provided and unfortunate remedy to that.

The news of Melissa Lynch's sudden death yesterday was shocking and I know that most of us who called her our friend are numb, unable to process the fact that a vibrant and beautiful young lady and fellow actress is no longer with us.  I don't profess to have any answers to the painful, angry questions her passing has brought.  All I know is that I am praying to my God, the supplier of all needs, who will comfort those who mourn with the completeness of his love and mercy.

We need time to express our anger, our fear, our regret and our shock.  I don't believe that God condemns us when, in our confusion and outrage, we ask, "Why?"  I do believe that he wants us to run into his arms so he can bring us peace - although he doesn't always provide answers.  There likely isn't an answer that would satisfy us anyway.  Why so young a woman?  So beautiful and talented a friend?  Why so perfect a smile?  Yet, there is a measure of good that can emerge from all this...

Those of us who remain, who acted with her and therefore took a little part of her soul with us when we left Clarion, have regrouped.  People who have not had much contact, if any, in years, have found each other again, carrying the matching banners of mourning.  We have rediscovered common and beautiful memories - not only memories that involve Melissa and her great talent, but memories that remind us of why we fell in love with our art.  If we close our eyes, we can remember the glowing glory of standing under a single, golden spotlight...the giddy, nervous laughter of pre-show superstitions...the thrilling triumph of a standing ovation...the shared intimacy of creating lives and a histories out of nothing...

The radio station is frequently listen to, K-Love, often features a guest speaker during the morning show.  Yesterday, it was a pastor who has been encouraging his congregation not to make New Year's resolutions, but instead to choose just one word that will act as a lens through which they want to see themselves and their lives.  

The word that immediately came into my head as I drove the icy back roads to the bank yesterday morning was "relationship".  I had spent so many hours this past year fretting over not being a good enough wife, sister, daughter, friend, employee, Christian, leader.  I made myself sick comparing myself to people I considered more successful than myself.  I grew depressed and anxious, and more withdrawn than I had been previously.   All of the beneficial social and relationship-building skills I had gained through training at Starbucks, Dollar Bank and Berean Fellowship crumbled from disuse.  I wasn't spending much time with my friends.  I was sometimes reluctant to help at church, even though such work previously brought me joy.

It slowly dawned on me that feeding my insecurities was not the way to build and sustain healthy relationships.  I mean, I knew that and have always known that, but as I was driving, I just felt lightened by the reminder of that knowledge.  Relationships involve sacrifice, passion, effort and determination.  They rarely just happen, and even those that seem to happen organically still require nurturing and care.  I felt that God was reminding me about my duties to the people in my life with whom I have relationships: my husband, my family, my co-workers, my church and my friends.  And he reminded me that service to others cannot dwell in the same heart as self-loathing, so I must choose.

Just as I was beginning to make that decision daily, I was struck with the news of an old friend whose relationship I had let fade.  And I was filled with sadness and regret at both the news itself and the fact that I had lost touch with her - and myself.

Although I would much rather have been reignited by something other that the death of a charming young woman, I am determined that I will gather up the memories - and the potential - of passion into a beautiful bouquet and display them where I can see and enjoy them as often as a please...and allow them to remind me that nothing follows us to the grave but the relationships we have built.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

A Muse of Fire... how I will always remember Melissa Lynch.

Seriously, the girl was so passionate about everything you could almost feel sparks crackling in the air around her.  Physically, she was very pretty.  Pale skin, shining dark hair, a slight frame and a winning smile, but her eyes were what got you.  There was an intensity in them that was almost frightening.  It was as though she was about to lock horns with a stampeding bull - and end up with steak for dinner.  

It was one of her trademarks, that passion.

That same brand of passion didn't flow through all the actors I had met during my time at Clarion University.  Although there were many, many talented, adept, charming, brilliant people, that intense fire seemed reserved only for a few.  Miranda Scopel, for one.  She was one of those people whose fashion sense was from another era, who lived like she was dying, who could make any topic sound intriguing and maybe even a little scandalous.  Trevor Southworth was another.  He was another creature when he was onstage.  Almost inhuman, in the best possible way.  My God, these people were just...fireballs.  Not only good actors with good directorial and design instincts (there were a lot of people like that), but just so much energy and passion that sometimes you just wanted to sit them in a comfy chair with a blanket and a cup of chamomile tea to quiet them a bit.

I loved these people.  I always wanted to be one.  Melissa was one.

She was one of those versatile actresses who never got stuck in a certain type of role.  She played the innocent Wendy Darling in Peter Pan as adeptly and sincerely as she played the quiet, confident King of England in Henry V.  She had mastered numerous dialects and could whisk you to the hard-pressed streets of Brooklyn, New York, a southern plantation or the foggy, chilly coast of Ireland - with just a single phrase.

She was loud.  She was opinionated.  She loved to laugh and cause a scene.  She could be as proper or as unladylike as you could imagine, depending on her mood.  But there was nothing in the world she seemed to love more than the moment when she found her character...when she found the gesture she had been seeking, the tone of voice, the position, the stance, the motivation, the mood.  It was fascinating to watch, and an honor to be a part of.  I directed and acted with Melissa in several productions during the time we spent at Clarion, and if I were to honestly name the highlights of my educational career, she would be in the top two: directing Broadway Bound and acting in Henry V.  It was a thrill to pour my talent and passion into a performance with her, and I will never forget those opportunities I had.

Melissa went on to be among the few Acting graduates I knew who found success as an actor outside of college.  She returned to her hometown of Philadelphia and was building a career in reputable local venues when her life ended just a few hours ago.  She was involved in a car accident.  She wasn't even thirty.

She will be greatly missed.

The true magic of theatre is not in the set or the lighting or the music.  That takes talent and technology, and it is, of course, always a marvelous display of the work of the hands and mind of a designer or artist.  But creating a character out of nothing but black words on a white page is a different kind of magic.  It's the magic of the heart that only truly passionate actors ever get to share.  It's a spell woven by an enchantress who wants nothing more than to connect, to feel, to express.  And it's a love song that will spill over into every aspect of a life, even after that life has ended.  

Thank you, Melissa, for captivating us with your passion.  Thank you for reminding us that passion cannot survive without diligence and perseverance, and that passion is worthless without product.  Thank you for the memories that you have woven into our hearts, and for the great talent you shared so proudly and so freely, with those around you.  Thank you, Melissa, and good-bye.

"We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep."