When I teach, to introduce my theory of why artists have to strive for the truth, and why telling their truth is the only way they will have a shot not only at a career, but more importantly, at fulfilment, I always ask the students a question; "Have you ever heard a song that made you feel like you just cried your eyes out ?" That question always gets a resounding yes. Every head nods, students immediately go to that sacred moment again. It's personal, and it's important. Then I ask, "How is that possible? How can a musician, possibly one who is long dead, know you that well?"
It's my way of introducing the value of laying bare your humanity for all to share. It's that artists truth that we are connecting to. It's the thing that makes us want to act in the first place. Someone, in a theatre, or a movie house or on a TV screen did something that smacked us between the eyes and made us say "yeah…that's right! that's exactly how I feel!!" and the inspiration for the actor to get up there and share their humanity is born.
When we are our best, that's how it feels. We get to share our feelings about the world that this playwrite or screenwriter has given us. It connects us to everyone who ever felt that too, and we feel it. And, we as actors LOVE watching fellow actors who make us feel that connection. Yes there is that professional unity among us that loves to compliment a good performance, but there is always that want for the piercing of our souls via the art. It's the most fun we have when it's not our turn to be acting.
I don't know her, or the history of the song, but I'd like to tell Natalie Merchant that King of May, might be the greatest homage/eulogy/tribute song for someone who has passed, ever. It's everything I'd do if I ever tried to write a great song for someone who was a king to me. It simply destroys me. I cannot hear the song without wondering how she knew exactly how I felt when my dad died 8 years ago. I can hear my sister's voice bouncing off the church walls as she belts that song out at his funeral, which didn't happen, but I can hear it. It makes my sit at my desk and cry about that day all over again. And it makes me wonder, how Natalie Merchant knows me that well?
Ah…these are the reminders and the artistic cleansers we need to avoid that "center on the universe" syndrom that will invade our ego when the pursuit of a career takes it toll.
Dear god we have a lot to share. Be brave enough to really share it. The monsters of this world have no problem sharing their anger, politicians their ambition, and celebrities their insecurity. Share the good stuff. Please. There is a fellow artist somewhere sitting in his office sobbing and having a moment with his dad because you did.
Ms. Merchant, wherever you are, I can't tell you how much I appreciate you braving the elements and singing for us.