Battling for Mary


I performed at Feinstein’s/54 Below a few months ago, which, if you don’t know, is a well known cabaret venue in New York.

We’re talking velvet-coated interiors, dark red drapery, gilded barstools, the whole nine yards.

My friend wrote a beautiful, historical, epic musical, and he’d asked me to play one of the leads. We’d been working on it for a few years, and, to be honest, I never fully expected it to take me to this moment—to such a public rendition.

We’d be reading the piece at 54 Below.

I was nervous. Really nervous.

…Even though it shouldn’t have made a difference where I would be performing. Even if I knew that my body was the same, my voice was the same, my temperament and psyche were the same as they had been the day before and would be the day after…

Two hours before curtain, I was sitting on my couch (of the scratchy, brown, IKEA variety), script in hand, warmed up and in full stage makeup, trying desperately to find something to grab onto.

A latch between me and the character. A kinship.

Some last, intimate moment before we dove under the stage lights together.

Mary Smith, the woman whose story I’d be telling that evening (a.k.a. my character), was also nervous.

“I’m a World War II recruit. I’m in love with my best friend. My best friend—who is a woman.” ….is what she said to me.

“My family won’t be able to handle this. I’m a good Presbyterian. I can’t make sense of this love.”

“Don’t you know what it is to have a love that makes no sense, Julia?

A love you can’t bear to lose, yet probably will?”

“Yes,” I said. “I know that well.”

“Then let me be seen!” she begged.

Let me be seen.

The words rung. I can do that, I thought. I can do at least that.

The best characters ask of us our whole selves. Our painful truths. Our uncertainties. They ask for compassion, and not judgement.

It is a small and fearful actor that withholds love from even the most ugly of roles.

So sacrifice, Julia. I said to myself. Release yourself and forget yourself. This is not for you.

Things went well. :)

excerpts from THE BATTLE, NOT THE WAR

by Zachary Catron

with Nicole Fragala and Julia Meadows

Julia Meadows