The Art of Being Here

The Art of Being Here

Ok, Matt. I can do that over the phone if you like… Ok, so your membership is frozen as of October 1st. If you want to reactivate, you can at any time, but the cost will be $100 plus whatever the dues rate is at that time… If you are inactive for more than five years and another Matt Garner wants to join Equity, then we’ll release your name to them… Have a great day.
— AEA Representative

My first experience acting for the stage was some fifteen years ago, the spring of 2002. An audition poster at my small liberal arts university had sparked some “what the hell” curiosity in my restive freshman bones. A student director, who remains a friend today, saw something in my histrionic audition, and against his better judgement and the caution of his best friend he cast me in a terrific little play, a signpost experience during which I would meet the woman I would marry and unleash a creative passion that would drive the next decade and a half of my life. Which in short was as follows:

I would graduate three years later with a bachelors in journalism and a few more stage credits to my name, move to New York City on the advice of that same student director, study at the Atlantic Theater Company, start dating the hottest woman alive who had been my friend since 2002, perform in the NYC Fringe Festival, live the life fantastic, get engaged and married to the love of my life (abovementioned hottie), audition for MFA programs, get accepted to UNC, get tutored by some of the best practitioners and instructors in the country, perform on a LORT stage in a 500 seat theater in As You Like It, Big River, In the Next Room, The Parchman Hour, Henry V, Red, A Raisin in the Sun, and Clybourne Park, witness the birth of my firstborn,  teach four semesters of undergraduate acting, get my Equity Card, showcase in New York City, move to Nashville in financial preparation for more family friendly L.A., lifeguard at the YMCA with teenagers, begin researching and writing a one-man show, temp at a downtown hotel, work for the most heinous person imaginable for exactly one month before quitting in dramatic fashion, temp for a healthcare company, witness the birth of my second born, perform in Henry V (again but this time in the title role) and King Lear for the Nashville Shakespeare Festival, perform in Death of a Salesman and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead for Nashville Repertory Theatre, witness the birth of my third born, realize L.A. isn’t going to happen because we’ve built a life with family and friends in Nashville and L.A. is way over there and increasingly doesn’t make sense, realize that I can’t go on working 40 hours a week plus rehearsal and performance for AEA level  professional theatre, realize that I haven’t seen my kids for entire weeks because I get up before they wake and go to bed after they have, apply to upwards of a hundred faculty openings across the country hoping to hang on to a shred of the world I’ve grown to love, get called by exactly zero of them, have a panic attack, decide I can’t do it anymore, sob uncontrollably in an overstuffed chair in my apartment on my 33rd birthday, get hired by healthcare company, stop auditioning, buy a house, get promoted by healthcare company, turn down roles offered, perform one-man show I began working on years prior, decide to become a playwright, start writing another play, call AEA, tell them to freeze my membership indefinitely, write a blog post about all of it.

I thought I would transform into a bitter troll, grumbling about lost dreams and missed opportunities. But counter to my fears, that didn’t happen. Was I sad? Am I sad about it? Yes. My God, yes. I miss it every day. But life was suddenly bigger than those passions. Those dreams of being an actor. Life was suddenly beautiful laughing children and a wife who gets more interesting and gorgeous and lovely every day. Life was suddenly taking my kids out at dusk to get a little more swinging in before bath time, the September sun setting over the browning cornfield that borders our backyard. Life was getting excited about writing, knowing that I could take the next 40 years of my life becoming the best playwright I could be, on no one’s time but my own, simply having to write, to get the stories down, not knowing if my work would ever get read let alone staged and performed.

I’m no longer an actor—something I thought defined my place in the universe.

But I’m still… remarkably... here.

Artistic Injuries

Artistic Injuries

Slog-mitigating Parameters

Slog-mitigating Parameters