~ Guest Writer, PAT WILLSON~
My initial exposure to performing came at an early age.
I was in fourth grade living in Wiesbaden Germany. Our teacher, Miss Sweet was very cosmopolitan unlike my parents who were country type folks from south of the Mason Dixon line. Miss Sweet took us to Amsterdam and Paris and showed us what wonders awaited us worldwide. She took the class to an opera in Frankfort where my imagination took flight.
There was a girl about my age on stage performing both song and dance. My usual sad demeanor evaporated. I was an introvert by nature. I knew I wanted that experience. This amazing fourth grade teacher saw the light in my eyes and allowed my creativity to grow. Whenever I did not do well on an assignment my punishment was to memorize long poems and recite them to the class. She adapted Peer Gent and gave me the lead role. I credit her for the joyful path that became open to me.
I loved the stage and still do.
I find my spiritual connection there. I surrender to a role and let it take me wherever it wants. I let go of fear and doubt and bare my soul. I become the fourth grade child again filled with awe and inspiration. The theatre has become my church. I respect it like no other place. People who know me will vouch that I am not very forgiving of those who don’t respect it.
For years I was most often a comedic actress and had few opportunities to play serious roles until….
Tragedy came to my personal life.
I had just left the university where I had been accepted in the drama department.
Overjoyed I picked up my son from the sitter to drive home excited to tell my friends of my good fortune. We never made it home. The road accident cost me my left leg and my son his life. I now became deeply familiar with tragedy. After nearly a year in the hospital and lots of practice using a prosthesis a deep sorrow set in that no one could console.
Church was of no help. I was left with more questions than answers.
My marriage suffered from all the trauma to the point of dissolution.
I was left with one choice between two things; Either I could wallow in the suffering forever and never recover or I could straighten up and find what inspired me creatively again.
I chose the latter.
I went to New York and tried to get professional work. I won a scholarship at Circle in The Square acting school and was cast in a few off-off broadway productions when one of my teachers said I should try film and that Hollywood was the place for me.
In Los Angeles I flourished once more. I met an actor in the audience at one of my performances and a month later we were married. As time progressed and women’s roles for my age declined I began directing. I was given the chance to inspire others. Watching actors experiment, daring to disregard easy choices until they can bring their characters to life thrills me as much as acting ever did. Those opportunities are becoming increasingly rare at present so Today I find the storytelling venues keep my creativity alive and well. I even produce a storytelling event myself a few times a year.
This is my life and I choose it again and again.
In my 73rd year it seems there are always new sufferings that befall me and I am always left with that same choice. It is no longer as difficult as the first one was thankfully.
I once heard that when you stop creating you are telling the Universe you are finished here. I’m not finished yet by any means. I know if anyone remembers a sharp talented teacher in their past they will understand my gratitude to my fourth grade teacher. A gratitude which multiplies as time goes on.
Pat Willson is a practitioner at the North Hollywood Church of Religious Science. Divine guidance has never failed her with perfect timing. The teaching of the church came to her with comfort and inspiration at a low point on her life’s journey. Her professional teachers and friends cross her path at opportune times always changing her life for the better. She is grateful to share her story with you today. Perhaps in some small way it can contribute to your life too.
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