Friday, August 31, 2007

Dear Mr. Healy

*** This is something I wrote about a man for whom I possess a great deal of respect. He passed away last week. Please keep his family and his students (both former and current) in your prayers, as his death leaves a huge crater in so many hearts. As a dear friend of mine, put it, "It's crazy to think that our teachers could ever leave us, when we were the ones who left first." ***

Dear Mr. Healy,

When I first met you, I was an awkward 11-year-old, all knees and elbows, and my voice was the only thing that made me stand out from a line of child auditionees. I was far too tall to be auditioning for Amaryllis and I didn't know the first thing about theater, but on your stage, I met Tristan Rumery. Jordan Rumery. Jordan Gomez (who even back then, was trying to go by Jordan DeRea). Emily DeMaso. Phil Kan.

Two years later, I was back, using theater as a substitute for band. In my first few weeks, you taught me to connect with my pain, my joy, my confusion. I was young and unfocused, but you were training me, day by day. I'll never forget that "Cavalcade" rehearsal where I auditioned for a solo. It felt like my whole world rested on those sixteen bars; you made me sing the whole song. That's what you made me do. You asked me to do one thing and than proved that I could do ten times more than I ever thought.

I auditioned for "Oklahoma" and was stunned not only to get a callback, but a callback for Laurey! I was too green, and certainly too untrained. But it was enough to get me to stay, enough of a goal for me to keep working.

Sophomore year. "Once Upon a Mattress". I was second runner up. It was a show I didn't care much about, but I learned invaluable lessons from you. "You never get a second chance to make a first impression." "First time, every time." and my favorite: "Time is money, and we're going broke." You taught me to be a professional, even at fifteen years old.

Junior year. I started to audition with community theaters, but was unable to perform with them after I failed my driver's test. I got an understudy role in "Grease", and I was frustrated. There had been weeks of build-up, people who had seen my audition and praised me for it. But I kept that to myself, and did my job. My understudy night was one of the most rewarding performances I've ever had.

Senior year was my dream come true. I was able to show you everything you had taught me on a night during "Scrooge" where all the lights went out, and I sang. By myself. No microphones. No lights. No piano. Just me. But it was you, Mr. Healy. I never would have been able to do anything even close to that, had it not been for your guidance. I was nominated for an Elly for vocal directing; I thought I'd just been helping out with harmonies during class. "Les Miserables" was more than anything I could have asked for. I cried after my audition, because I thought I did so horribly. And I came out with the romantic lead. I was sick the whole time, from auditions to closing night, and never for a second thought about asking for an understudy to fill in for me. You taught me that. Without you, I would have whined about my voice every day of rehearsals. But because of you, I did it without even thinking. The show had to go on.

You were my first director, my first employer. You helped me decide where to go to college and what to study. I spent much more time in the theater than I ever did at home. On an application, you once wrote that my weaknesses were "naivete and an overwhelming desire to please". In many ways, you knew me better than I knew myself. I wonder if you knew about everything I faced during those years, all the trouble I got myself into when you didn't have me in rehearsal. I'm sure you did. You always knew the things we least expected that you would know. You guided me through everything, even though I had no idea.

You hugged me on closing night of "Les Miz" with tears in your eyes, and I was stunned. I love you, Healy. My life has been irreversably changed because of you, and for that, I owe you the world. I hope you're dancing enough to make up for all the years you couldn't and belting out songs in your deep baritone voice. This world is a better place because of you, and I know you've taken the musicals in heaven to a whole 'nother level.