I was recently lucky enough to be able to talk about the magic of theater in a podcast conversation with writer, playwright, and Wise & Shine colleague, Jack Canfora. As we talked about the powerful feeling of a night in the theater when it all comes together and just works, he told me a story about Laurence Olivier and young Maggie Smith.
After a night where the performance was particularly magical, Laurence Olivier angrily stormed into his dressing room. Maggie Smith inquired after him, asking him “What’s the matter, Larry? It was brilliant.” Laurence replied, “I know. And I have absolutely no idea how I did it, and it’ll be gone tomorrow.”
Wow, that story speaks to me! About how I want to capture magic, to define it, and put it into a bottle. Also about the repetitive nature of life. Preparing a meal, writing a post, or having a moment with friends – there are so many things that I do repeatedly and when it goes well, want to know why. Laurence Olivier’s reply gets to the desire to capture it in a formula so that we know exactly how to do it again.
The elusive nature of life seems to ensure that there is no perfect replica. Even for someone with the talent of a great actor cannot control all the factors that go into a delivery. Yet we still strive for those wonderful moments when it all comes together.
If you’re anything like me, that striving actually takes away from the moment. Instead of savoring the now moment, when everything went wonderfully well, and being grateful, I start thinking of what I have to do next, or how things might go differently in the future.
Fortunately, I keep getting the chance to do it again. I’ve found that life requires us to repeat ourselves and then begs us to stay present for each show. I feel this most starkly when it comes to writing. Every time I sit down to write, it feels like breaking through my barrier of protectiveness and layers of my own BS to try to write something meaningful. Then I post something, for better or for worse, and then think, “I’ve got to do that again?”
Of course I do, because life isn’t static. I’ve found that writing rubs off that tarnish or moss that grows when I don’t do the work to show up authentically. For me, that’s where the magic happens. I can only imagine that something similar was at work for Laurence Olivier.
(featured photo from Pexels)