Telluride Inside… and Out: Denver, post Graduate

Telluride Inside… and Out: Denver, post Graduate

Mrs R 6
Tracy Shaffer as Mrs. Robinson

by Tracy Shaffer

After a prolonged "heartbreak hiatus," I really felt no need to step back onto the stage. The slow slide of a dramatic divorce, sudden shock of single motherhood, and a stairway fall that took my brother’s life were enough to send me to my room. Though life in general was good, I was not ready to step that far out on a ledge, so to speak, and act again.

Long before the sideways years, I’d fallen out of love… or so I thought: 25 years in the spotlight had left its mark. I was tired of having to be given "permission" by the casting process in order to create. I loved the times when I was "first" but exhausted by the times being "second." “Lift yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again” sounded like heavy lifting where acting was concerned. I chose instead to let this deeply defining part of me go.

And I’d been writing plays: loving the lines that I wrote. Accepting of the ones on my face. Writing is freedom. It comes in its own time, in yoga clothes, and goes public when I’m damn good and ready. My plays got produced, my sons got to soccer, and life was fine and easy. Even in its painful chaos, the writing – and my boys – made it almost all better.

When “The Graduate” came along I felt a twinge, but I ignored it. Having started a business and ended an affair, I was pretty sure I was not game for risk. But I have this friend…  And this friend bought me wine. After a glass or two and veiled threats of retracting the friendship, I was told the time and place of the auditions. Drunk on candlelight and Viognier, I put out the idea that maybe, just maybe I’m not good at love  – or acting. My friend, who sees me better than I see my naked self, kicked my ass through the audition door.

I’m not sure what I expected form Mrs. Robinson, but I did know this: I would strive to play her complexity simply. I would reconnect with the broader theatre community. One way or another, I would go naked into the world.

What I didn’t know was how embraced I would feel, how at home. People showed up, not in audience numbers, but in the waves of friends and friends of friends who came to see me on stage, once again. Realtor friends and soccer moms and high school friends and newer friends and theatre people, some I'd known and some I’d always heard of, bearing messages of good will pre- and post-show.  Family and friends flew into town and out again, crossing paths in mid air. My life in circles came together and welcomed me back from my seclusion. I felt overwhelmed, but so good.

Actors working show to show may take what I have to say for granted. There are always shows that are more fun than others, casts we hate to say good bye to, and shows which can’t close soon enough. There is bitching and laughing and sometimes it’s just a job. I’ve been there.  But what I learned in my post-"Graduate" studies is this: when you’re willing to put yourself out there, to be naked, well nearly, literally and metaphorically, the rewards are far beyond your expectations. A pretty good reason to take a risk…

Here’s to you Mrs. Robinson.

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