Photo credit: Casey Gardner Photography
I believe roles come into my life when I am ready for them and when they are ready for me. It's equal parts preparation and destiny; I have to be properly aligned for any of it to work, but I have no control over it. That's why I try not to sweat booking acting jobs anymore. (Full disclosure: I used to REALLY sweat it. So, no judgment if you do.)
I learn so much from every character I play, but lately, I have been thinking a lot about Fay, the lead character in Jump by Charly Evon Simpson. I played her a little over a year ago, and the experience changed my life. Fay is a complex, beautiful, hot mess of a human being that lived in my skin for two months.
In true Fay style, I almost missed the audition to play her. I found out about Jump two days before the first round of auditions. No one in the theatre house knew me, but I felt drawn to the story and decided to give it a shot. I tried my version of Fay in that first round and just kept going, never quite feeling like I had her figured out. I remember sitting in the waiting area, surrounded by beautiful black women that also looked like her. I tried to figure out who would make a good fit for the role, not actually thinking that the team would choose me.
Before Fay, I felt like I was stuck in an emotional pain cycle for a little over a decade. Like Fay, I had some depression and unresolved grief. I'd just started going to therapy, but I was timid about the whole thing, censoring myself in the sessions.
When I got the role, all of that changed. Fay FORCED me to face my pain directly. We shared trauma, and she said so many things out loud that I didn't have the courage to say. She was tough and broken. She laughed and danced through hard times. She was exactly what the Doctor ordered, the creative outlet to be a hot mess too!
Playing Fay was hard. The rehearsal process was both challenging and satisfying. I felt both determined and doubtful. In performance, I was emotionally present, but I could only handle it one day at a time.
I am just now understanding how profound the whole experience was for me. The role was my opportunity to work out my personal mess on stage. I thought facing all that trauma at once would break me, but it cracked me just enough to see what was going on in my heart and truly heal from the inside out.
So, if I could talk to Fay face to face, I would say:
You're a bad *ss.
Thank you for the safe space to work through the pain.
Thank you for teaching me that I am perfectly capable of every creative challenge I want to take on.
Thank you for being a vital part of my healing process.
I finally made it out of the pain loop.
I am okay, and you will be too.
Challenges are meant to be embraced, not avoided. They humble us. They teach us about our humanity and force us to expand. I wouldn't trade Fay for the world. She made me grow, and I am eternally grateful.