Cornelius Hackl: I’ve lost everything: my job, my future, everything people think is important, but I don’t care – because even if I have to dig ditches for the rest of my life, I shall be a ditch-digger who once had a wonderful day.
– Hello, Dolly!
I had the great privilege of seeing Donna Murphy absolutely SLAY the title role in Hello, Dolly! last week, as she went on Tuesday night for Bette Midler. It reminded me of just how beautiful old school musical theater can be – not only aesthetically (and this production IS truly gorgeous) but on a much deeper level. There’s an honesty and simplicity and a glorious earnestness in it that really is the crux of why I chose to pursue this career in the first place. Right now I’m holding on to that feeling as tight as I can. Entering the fall audition season and my second fall/winter out of college, it feels like “real life” keeps getting more precarious every day and on one level, I’m terrified.
In August I finished up a very suddenly last-minute contract with some colleagues who I’ve been longing to work with again, as well as some really and truly lovely new friends at the newly re-opened Surflight Theatre, performing in Hairspray which is not only an incredibly topical story, but the most fun you could possibly have on a small stage in a sleepy beach town. The entire process was incredibly quick, especially since I started rehearsals not 48 hours after I was offered the role. After an incredibly energized month away from NYC, I immediately returned to what many refer to as “The Real World”, working my survival jobs, getting my materials together for audition season and training whenever I could, with very little sleep and even less spare change.
Right now, as audition season begins to get into full swing, and my survival jobs all a bit awry, I’m feeling overwhelmed and lost and unsure how any professional actors unable to live off their craft alone have ever been able to make enough money or get enough sleep to survive. My respect for anybody who has ever lived, or is willing to live this lifestyle grows every single day.
Despite feeling lost, I’m also feeling more inspired and optimistic and sure of my career path than ever before. I’m getting feedback in rooms. I’m self-submitting and networking more than ever (though not nearly as much as I feel like I should). I have a family at Broadway Dance Center and through my many friends and colleagues and mentors who I see living their dreams, or fighting to live them and encouraging me to go out and pursue mine, even though I’m sure on the inside we’re all having these same survival fears. But I see them all leave it at the door when they walk into class, or into an audition or when I get to see friends finally accomplish their goals and try that new audition song, start taking those new dance classes, booking that national tour or cruise line or for some, make entire Broadway audiences leap to their feet. Each beautiful moment I see happening for somebody else feeds my soul to keep moving towards the same.
In summary, life feels really, really hard sometimes. Still, every time I see a beautiful show like Hello Dolly, or take a really invigorating dance class, or have a great heart to heart with an artist I admire, or even just to have the opportunity to sing one of my favorite songs in an audition and allow myself to completely let go, I’m reminded of this feeling Cornelius has during Act II: that as long as we have one beautiful moment, that’s really all we can ask for in this life. The universe can throw whatever it wants at me – I’m hoping to have many, many more wonderful moments in the meantime.
“Isn’t the world full of wonderful things?”