When I was a young girl of about five or six I wanted to be a tap dancer. I pressed thumb tacks into the soles of my black patent leather shoes. In the little courtyard outside my parents’ bedroom I practiced for hours at a time, making up my own little dances.
This was to be the beginning of my love affair with the performing arts.
At fourteen I joined the Pam Dunn Young People’s Theatre. On Saturdays in a leafy suburb in Wollongong, children of various ages would gather for classes in her home. We learned from a seasoned professional, the craft of acting. She introduced me to many classical and modern pieces of theatre. I performed the ‘All the World’s a Stage’ monologue from Shakespeare play As You Like It for one of her popular drama recitals.
At high school I auditioned for a part in the 1989 production of Brigadoon. As it was an all-girls college we played the male roles too. I successfully landed one of the principal character roles. Jeff Douglas was a New Yorker who liked hunting and drinking.
On opening night as the curtain was going up on the first scene, my heart was beating so loudly I thought the whole audience could hear it. Yet the thrill and exhilaration of becoming a character and telling a story was intoxicating to me.
At sixteen I knew little of being a middle aged man who liked guns and whiskey but I must have been convincing. I won the annual Arcadians Musical Theatre encouragement award for best principal character in a musical.
For work experience I chose to work in the local theatre. They were preparing for a production and I was able to partake in everything from set design to lighting and assisting in rehearsals. I loved it so much I stayed on as a volunteer usher for the next eight years. After we took the tickets and showed people to their seats we were allowed to creep into empty back row seats and watch the shows. Sitting in the darkness I was immersed in another world as a tale unfolded before me on the stage.
I longed to be an actress and for five years after I finished school I rang the National Institute of Dramatic Art and requested application forms for their annual auditions and intake. I never filled out the forms. I was riddled with self-doubt. I constantly compared myself to the glamorous actresses of the day and in my mind I just did not measure up.
Throughout the years I dabbled in things here and there but mostly I got my fix by going to live performances. I looked up at the players telling a story on the stage and it was the one place that I felt I truly belonged.
Almost ten years ago I started a job for a telco in Sydney. Beginning in the training group with me was a young New Zealander called Seamus. He was an aspiring Opera singer and had come to Sydney to pursue some training and hone his voice. He was charismatic and kind and infectiously happy. We would often hear him singing on his bathroom breaks. Probably something about the acoustics. The song would float out onto the call centre floor and seem to dance around us. He would emerge to spontaneous applause and break into his characteristic honking laugh.
We enjoyed many after work drinks together and I listened enthusiastically to his aspirations for a professional career in Opera. He told me about a young woman, also a singer, whom he had fallen in love with. He confided in me that he wanted to marry her. I was delighted and we raised a glass in a moment of happiness, revelling in the excitement of an incredible future unfolding.
Several years went by and although we moved on to other things, we stayed in touch. One day I received word from his wife that he had been involved in a car accident. Within the week he was gone.
I pondered on his life and who he was. He was inspiring because he lived and breathed his heart’s desires. He did not leave this physical reality feeling unfulfilled or wondering “what if”?
He was the only Seamus I knew before you were born. If personal attributes are associated with a name then you are in good company. He was warm and charming, with an unfaltering courage to pursue his dreams.
Last night I took Nanny and a family friend to a performance by The 7 Sopranos. Seven beautiful women, resplendent in ball gowns with angelic voices. They took me on a wondrous journey, drawing out memories and emotions.
As their other worldly harmonies glided over the lyrics of “Somewhere over the Rainbow” I thought of my friend Seamus. His life may have been cut short but it was a life rich with dreams coming true.
I have always been a storyteller, it was written on my heart long before I was born. Now my heart writes to you and my soul’s desire has found its voice.
Dare to dream my darling and let nothing hinder your passions. There will be examples all around you of people living their dreams, no matter how big or how small.
Your heart will sing to you and listen you must, for then you can share your divine song with the world.
“Somewhere over the rainbow
Skies are blue,
And the dreams that you dare to dream
Really do come true.”
Music and lyrics by H. Arlen and E.Y. Harburg