Click on the MARY book cover to order your copy for only $19.95 on Amazon

Sunday, August 30, 2015

She Lived Her A-Life: A Tribute to Terry Scheil

I was blessed to have talked with her only a few weeks before she transitioned to Heaven.

But I was always blessed to have talked with her...or just to be in her was everyone else.

That's the kind of person she was...the kind of soul she remains in Heaven.  A loving-kind soul...a blessed soul...a soul who blesses...a soul I came to know in this world as Terry Scheil.

In the mid-1990's I taught acting and writing at the Rochester Association of Performing Arts, otherwise known as RAPA, located in my beloved Upstate, New York hometown.

Multi-talented in the arts - and in the art of living, Terry was a charming, intelligent, beautiful, and nurturing presence and colleague at RAPA, where she essentially helped keep it all together.

At the very least, she helped to keep me all together.

Whenever I had to reschedule a class, or was challenged by a particular time-crunch or any other issue that may have arisen, Terry worked her magic.  No matter how busy she was, and she was always busy, she somehow made time to make things better, to make things work, or to make things work better.

On many an occasion, she would place her work aside and be there to guide me.

One of the amazing aspects of Terry's sweet soul was her uncanny intuitive ability on how to deal with even the most difficult of challenges with nothing but an unflappable, pleasant, nonjudgmental, gracious, generous demeanor.

In the few years that I worked with Terry at RAPA, and in the years following, whenever I spoke with her in person or on the phone, I never once heard her say an unkind thing about anyone; never once did I see her become intolerant or angry or impatient with any one human being or in any one particular situation, intolerable or otherwise.  I never once heard her speak a cross word about anyone, anything, anywhere, at any time.

That wasn't Terry's style.  She didn't have time to be any other way.  She was too busy being an angel and working miracles.  Not the more opulent parting of the Red Sea, or anything like that...but the more subtle little miracles that pave the way for the big miracles...the big miracles that would not be possible if not for the countless little miracles that are created by the kind of souls...the loving-kind souls like Terry Scheil.

Terry's physical presence is gone now...but her very essence remains in the ethers of this world - and in the very molecules, hearts and souls of all those she left behind.

Any of us who ever loved Terry, and there are many...we now have a grand legacy to live up to.  The best way we can honor Terry and every good thing she ever did, said, felt, believed or thought, is to at least try to be as good and gracious a human being as she exampled for us.

To her beautiful son, Ian, who did such an astounding job in caring for his beautiful Mom:

I understand what you're going through...not exactly....but somewhat.  I, too, served as a caregiver to my dear Mother, as well as my dear Father.  So, I've been there...I get it.  But we all have our own journey...and our own way of processing life experiences, and I certainly will not suggest any which way as the best way to deal with anything.  

But what I do know is this...on Earth, my Mom and Dad's love was packaged and shaped in bodies and personalities called Frances and Pompeii.  And though I may not see them now in this world, everything about them that was Love, lives on - in their sense of of humor, the echoes of their voices, every hug they ever gave me, every blessing my Mom ever made with her rosary, every blessing my Dad ever made with his strong sense of right and wrong.

Everything else that was not Love...the various physical challenges they each faced in their later years...the fears....the anxieties...the heart ailments....the stomach issues...all of that burned away in the Light of God's embrace...or Love's embrace...however you want to name it.

And I believe that to be the same for all who leave this world...including your dear sweet mother.

As I observed after my own Mom passed...our journey and final destination is like a rocket soaring into space.  The pieces of us that we don't need - fall off as we move closer to that all-encompassing Light...until all that is left is the little capsule that holds our soul.  And that little capsule, filled with every loving thought and every act of loving kindness that is ever displayed on Earth, is now not only bundled together, magnified, multiplied and showcased in Heaven - but is now able to leave behind a personal, immeasurable, immortal and priceless legacy in which the rest of us to revel while remain on Earth - and beyond.

What a wonderful gift...and so fitting to such a wonderful soul that we knew here as Terry Scheil.

Thank you, Terry, for teaching us all how to love - and how to live...the A-Life...a truly authentic and exemplary life...forever more.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Kindness Trumps Talent

Years ago, I directed a musical for the Rochester Association of Performing Artists (a.k.a. RAPA), and spent weeks auditioning many actors, singers and dancers of all ages.

            A diverse amount of extremely talented performers gave it their all during the auditions, but of course I could only narrow it down to a chosen few who would win the various lead and supporting roles.

            But it soon became clear who would round out the cast.

            I was impressed with the excessive talent of some, but more impressed with the extreme kindness of others. Some of those with the most talent, unfortunately, did not have the best personalities - nor the kindest of demeanor. And some of those with less talent - and in some cases, no talent at all, appeared to be less egotistical and potentially the easiest with whom to work.

            So, I was faced with a dilemma:

1.      Hire the most talented who were also the most egotistical and difficult personalities?


2.      Cast the least talented who were the gentlest of souls?

            Ultimately, it ended up being a good mix. I cast those who were talented AND kind, and I also cast some who were not talented, but yet kind. Either way, I did not cast any of egotistical and somewhat mean-spirited - but extremely talented performers. They would have to at some point try again later for another production of mine, or somewhere else in town.

            Years after that, when I started teaching acting at Rochester, New York's Historic German House, I came across a similar experience. There were many fine actors who enrolled for my classes, and in doing so, they had to audition. I was a tough teacher, and expected a great deal from each of them. However, many who attended those classes went on to great things, in and out of the entertainment field.

            In any case, there was this one particular student who stood out - but not for the reasons that one might expect.

            He was an awkward sort.  He was very tall and very thin, and not very coordinated or particularly talented. But this actor had heart - and passion - and determination. And he was one of the kindest souls I had ever met. I knew that when he auditioned for my class, and I experienced that throughout the entire semester.

            And once the course began, and each time he stepped in front of the class to work on a scene, either by himself or with another student, his talent did not shine, but his kind heart and determination to do his best lit up the room. What's more, I was so proud of my other students whenever he did one of his scenes.

            Not one of them snickered or laughed at his performance. They supported him 100% - which not only was one of the rules in my class, but it was something that each of them CHOSE to do on their own.

            I could never bring myself to tell this particular student that he might not have "what it takes" to make a success of acting, because acting was just too important to him. He loved it so much. He loved to perform. "I don't want to do anything else," he would tell me again and again.

            So I kept him in my class - not because I wanted his money - but because I enjoyed his good heart. He was an inspiration to my students - and he was an inspiration to me.  And I never charged him a dime. His passion and determination for acting - and his kind heart and gentle spirit - trumped his lack of theatrical talent.

            And he taught me more about life - than I could have ever taught him about acting.