Break a leg, and maybe some old traditions along the way

One of my favorite things about life is discovering new things. The world is constantly changing all around us, and there is always something new to discover, but more than learning more about the world I love learning more about myself.

Okay, that kind of sounds incredibly conceited – I just want to spend all my time learning about myself because I’m that awesome. I didn’t really mean it that way, but it has a nice ring to it.

Actually, I was just thinking about what I’ve been doing this summer, and it really struck me how much I’m not like the person I was in high school or even college, much less way back when in those younger childhood days.

The highlights of my summer so far have included a 10-day trip to Walt Disney World that I’ve already written about (and wish could’ve lasted much longer), the birth of my amazing nephew Elliott and a very brief trip back to Ashland that included a third annual sunrise hike of Mount McLaughlin. Quick side note that I’ve mentioned countless times and will repeat until I die: if you haven’t seen a sunrise from the top of a mountain, go do it. I promise you it’s worth it.

I’ve always loved Disney, although I will admit there was a decade-long stretch between Mulan and The Princess and the Frog when my faith in Disney’s movie-making skills wavered. The last four years have helped restore my faith, and I could not have asked for a more enjoyable trip to WDW last month.

Now little Elliott, I don’t even know where to begin with that guy. I’ve been so blessed in the past several years to serve as “Uncle Tyler” to the kids of some amazing friends down in Ashland, and my little nephew Malachi turned two years-old earlier this week. Elliott arrived in the wee hours of June 25, and he finally made me an “official” uncle (after years of me prodding my big sister to do it…). He’s pretty much perfect, as is Malachi, and I can’t wait to be right there as these guys grow into amazing young men – we’ve already worked hard to make sure Malachi appreciates all the classic Disney movies.

When I was younger I don’t think I ever would have appreciated the joy, opportunity and responsibility of being an uncle. I also don’t think I appreciated the magic and joy of Disney nearly as much, which would probably make me less embarrassing to my dad (who was there with me) and my friends who have asked me how I can be like a little kid as soon as I walk into the park. But let’s be real for a minute: anyone who is worried about being embarrassed is not going to last long around me; I’m pretty much public embarrassment waiting to happen.

Speaking of a perfect segue, tomorrow (I guess technically later today) will mark an entirely new experience for me. For the past six weeks I’ve been working with an amazingly talented and just overall wonderful group of people to prepare a stage production of Fiddler On the Roof. Tomorrow is opening night.

I’ve never performed like this before, and I’m sure many of my high school friends would be shocked at my involvement in something like this. My high school had a fantastic musical theatre program, and I never participated. Even as many of my friends took part, I didn’t even attend several of the productions. Looking back now, I simply can’t understand why. But I was content with my marching band experience (#drumline4life) and never thought to expand my horizons.

Sometime in the past decade I’ve realized how much I love musicals. It really started with karaoke, especially Disney karaoke, and it didn’t hurt that I moved to Ashland for two years where there is a nationally-renowned theatre tradition.

Anyway my friend/mentor/former boss/former colleague/predecessor/stage father Nick introduced me to ManeStage Theatre Company shortly after I moved back up here last fall. The first production I had the privilege to see was Into the Woods, and from that point I was hooked. While my work schedule includes weekends throughout the year, Nick encouraged me to audition for the summer show, so I figured I would give it a shot.

Now I can’t imagine that I have the least bit of acting talent, and I know my singing talent is limited at best. But everything worked out perfectly: I was cast as a snobbish, judgmental over-educated (Jewish) Bible snob. That’s right; I’m pretty much playing my middle school self! Well, I’m playing the less-fat, Jewish version of my middle school self. And then, of course, Nick was cast as my father (he’s the rabbi, and I’m the rabbi’s son Mendel). That poor guy simply can’t get away from me.

The past six weeks have been a complete blast working with some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met, and all our hard work has built to a crazy tech week these past five days. Tomorrow we take the stage for our first show, and I could not be more excited.

I’ve also had an opportunity in the past few months to be involved in a new church plant with my cousins Jeremy and Marissa and an incredible staff of leaders and volunteers. I drum with the worship team one or two times a month (including this Sunday morning – it’s really going to be a busy weekend), giving me a chance to drum regularly for the first time since high school. Now if only there was some sort of marching band I could be involved in, I could have that covered as well!

Anyway, I usually try to make these posts not exclusively diary-type entries about my life (although I’m guessing that always fails). All of this is to say it’s amazing how many things we will enjoy if we give ourselves the chance to try. Four years ago I’d never even gone on a minor hike, much less climbed mountains. I never would have imagined it would be something I’d enjoy, and now it is something I look forward to almost every time I visit Ashland. And of course, now I have my sights set on Mount Rainier. Someday I will climb that mountain. It’s going to happen. Like “fetch” (#obligatoryMeanGirlsreference).

Tomorrow brings just one more new experience for me, capping six weeks of new experiences that have been even more enjoyable than I hoped. If you find yourself in the Sumner area anytime during the next four weekends, please stop by and see our production. It is truly wonderful to see what a group of talented, passionate people can accomplish when they are committed to something, even without the potential for financial gain.

We’re midway through July, meaning we still have about half the summer left. For anyone who has time off from work or school during this summer, I encourage you to try something new. For me it was climbing a mountain, auditioning for a play and countless other new experiences I could share. For you it can be anything.

The basic premise of Fiddler On the Roof is tradition and its ability to help us keep our balance as we live our lives. By the end of the story, every character is forced to abandon tradition in some way and radically change his/her perspective and experience of the world. While we don’t have any of the pressures the characters face (and thank God for that), it’s a good reminder that we’re not fully living if we sit back and let the world pass us by.

Step out into the world and discover something new. You might be surprised by what you learn about the people around you, and you might be even more surprised by what you learn about yourself.

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