By Paul Romig-Leavitt
The last time I performed on a stage at Colorado Christian University I was twenty-four years old. I was a newly-wed. I was an actor and musician. I was not truly a husband yet ( I was a former-bachelor) and It would be three years before I was a father. I continued to work as a semi-professional actor for another twelve years but even that was four years ago. I have not performed in a play for a live audience for almost five years. Acting, I thought, might be something that was lost with my youth. Sure, it was the craft that influenced all the aspects of my creative work from preaching, to directing and video producing, but the actual becoming a character on a stage in order to tell a story for a live audience in the hopes of entertaining and moving them in an immediate way, I wondered if I could still do this anymore.
This is the question that rattled around in my head when I received a text from Jenny. Jenny and I had only crossed paths for one year in college. After she left the school, she went on to have a career in theatre, writing directing and performing in plays in New York. Last year she came on as the head of the theatre department at CCU. She was reaching out to me last June because she was premiering a new play and wanted to know if I was interested in performing in it. I was thrilled. When I got the text, it was as if someone re-gifted me a piece of my youth and I received it as a treasure. Then I read the script. I’ve only had a few times in my life when a creative project had such a confluence with my real life that it was almost scary. I knew that I must find a way to be in this show because I had this deep feeling that it would take me on a journey into my own story and help me investigate my wounds and my strengths in a way I couldn’t do on my own. The theatre, after all, has always been cheap therapy for me.
In this musical, entitled Prodigy, I play the father of a young woman who is a cellist. In his youth, the dad was a cello prodigy but struggled later in his life to compete with the younger players and was tempted to retreat constantly into his secret world with his secret lover, his cello. After his death, his daughter struggles to live up to the prodigy standard she has in her head and the play unveils the complicated relationships she has with both of her parents and her own passions.
While I do not know what it’s like to be a prodigy, I do know the complicated and messy love-affair that artists have with their art. I know what it’s like to compromise my relationships for my desires to create the new thing or experience the approval of an audience. Now I know the feeling of being a father of a creative child who is beginning to demonstrate real skill and talent in several mediums. Stella is improving so rapidly in her art, I’m starting to ask myself, how do I give up my spotlight for her? What inheritance will I pass on to her creatively? Will I leave her to discover everything on her own while I continue to pursue my art? Will I give it all up to become the “wind beneath her wings” ( oh yeah… didn’t see that one coming.) Is there a way to both?
I suppose like so many other things in my life right now there are things that will die so that the new thing can sprout and grow. Funny how close the arts of parenting and creativity are.
I’ve never had a project touch on so many pieces of my history and identity at the same time. I am simultaneously afraid and excited to invite my friends to this show. It just feels like the stakes are higher for this one. If I do well and I love it, what does that mean? If I totally suck what does that mean? I suppose these are the questions behind any creative work. All that is left, I suppose, is to invite you to come and watch… So… Come and see the world premiere of Prodigy, It is truly something special. The music is excellent and the story is extremely well crafted. I’m proud to be a part of this show. The show runs from August 29th- Sept 1st. You can find tickets at https://www.ccu.edu/events