“Oh Captain, My Captain” Rest in Peace, #RobinWilliams: To the Actor Who Made Us Feel

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Yesterday, there was almost an audible gasp heard around the world as news of the death of actor Robin Williams made its way through news stations. I found out about his death while at my actor survival gig. Literally just twenty-four hours before I found out, I was talking to a co-worker about The Birdcage, and mentioned that it is one of my favorite movies: top three. I mentioned that it was like watching a masterclass in comic timing. Fast forward to a day later, and the person who helped teach that very masterclass on film was gone. Like many of my friends and colleagues in the industry, this celebrity loss seems to be much more than that. It’s as if parts of our hearts are ripped out because Robin Williams had such a monumental impact on us. Whether  he was part of our childhoods with movies like Aladdin and Mrs. Doubtfire, part of our pubescent years with Dead Poet’s Society and Hook, or part of our adult-hoods with The Birdcage or Good Will Hunting, we all have different points of reference for Williams. He was part of my parent’s generation, and they knew of that shining light from his start on Happy Days and  Mork & Mindy and through his stand-up. His slew of movies and television credits top the 100 mark, he was everywhere. I think it is safe to say, that no single actor’s work has had as great an impact on me as Robin Williams’ has from a human aspect. He made me feel deep emotions of light and dark. Like many, I’ve watched him be funny and serious, sometimes in the same moment. He made us feel something deep inside ourselves. He made that laugh that may have stayed hidden burst out, he made the tears that we were too afraid to show anyone, flow like a river. Robin Williams suffered from depression, and what that was like for him, we will never know. Rather than speculate and make generalizations about why and how he died, all I will say is that it’s tragic. Depression is tragic, suicide the same. That being said, those two things do not change the fact that Williams made us feel what most actors try to all their lives: He made us feel human.

I believe in destiny. There must be a reason that I am as I am. There must be.–Robin Williams

 

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

Meryl Will Play Maria and Give Us a #MasterClass

Maria Callas and the pianist Eugene Kohn at a session of her legendary master classes at the Juilliard School in New York in March 1972.
Maria Callas and the pianist Eugene Kohn at a session of her legendary master classes at the Juilliard School in New York in March 1972.

Terrence McNally’s play, Master Class, is about to get the HBO treatment and come to the small screen. The stage play, made famous by Zoe Caldwell as Maria Callas, eventually went on to star Patti LuPone, Dixie Carter, and most recently, Tyne Daly in the 2011 Broadway revival. Now, it’s Meryl Streep’s turn to step into the famed opera diva’s shoes. Maria Callas was an American-born, Greek soprano, who was known for her wide vocal range and dramatic flair. She graced the world’s most famous opera houses, and eventually went on to teach a series of master classes at The Juilliard School from 1971-1972. Those master classes served as the basis for McNally’s vibrant and lively play. What I find interesting is that Meryl teams up Mike Nichols again whom she has worked with on numerous occasions. It’s going to be fun to see what the two can bring to this character and the piece as a whole. Callas was a colorful personality, so I’m sure Meryl will have no problem. She’s a legend in her own right. She also has a talent for playing real-life characters. We can tell from her Oscar-winning performance in The Iron Lady.

Actresses who play Maria Callas have a lot of source material to fall back on, and what’s better than the actual master classes at Juilliard. Below is the audio from one of her many classes. She is working with student, tenor Mario Fusco on an aria from the opera, Tosca by Puccini. Enjoy the sounds of the real Maria Callas. I can’t wait to see Meryl as Maria.