I relish in my confidence and ability to talk to anyone. With charm and grace, I usually can hold my own in any conversation. College and university presidents, philanthropists, banking CEOs, the young and the old.
…I am standing in front of an actor. I can’t believe how star struck I get! All my charms drain away and instead, I hear the pounding of my own heart in my ears as they burn searingly hot. Suddenly, all my easy confidence disappears and I have a case of temporary amnesia as to what to say next. A large part of me wants to remain indifferent and am ashamed that I react this way. Heck, these actors are people too; we’re no different…well perhaps except in talent and in money?! My NYC pride reminds me that it is totally unfitting for a New Yorker to be flustered with a famous person. This city is a great equalizer; the world continues to turn regardless of who you are. People pay you no mind even if you are a star most of the time.
As a result, I’ve sat next to Kyle MacLachlan on the subway, dined next to Tom Selleck in a restaurant, seen Denzel Washington doing sit ups with his trainer at the gym, walked past Spike Lee buying his morning bagel from the guy in the corner cart, walked past Jason Biggs on the sidewalk only to encounter Ethan Hawke two minutes later, sitting in the front of a restaurant I entered, ridden the subway with Natalie Merchant and her newborn baby girl, accidentally bumped into Sarah Michelle Gellar, and watched Brad Pitt exit a pediatrician’s office with Pax…all with such cool composure you could refrigerate cucumber on my face and body! Puhleaze. I am a New Yorker and I do not create a fool out of myself by gawking at celebrities. This is not Hollywood folks. Decorum, please.
But today was different. A special screening of Persuasion at Brooklyn College featured a Q&A with Ciarán Hinds after the film. He spoke for 15 minutes about the film, its production, and his own particular craft of acting. He was charming, soft-spoken, intelligent, funny, and quite the gentleman. I was struck at how different he is when he performs, most notably evident in his voice. His tone takes on more power, a kind of air if you will, when he’s in character, which was lacking tonight. The only time I’ve noticed this kind of shift in a person is my cousin in the Philippines, Methodiusmonk. The moment he puts on his robes and celebrates Mass, he becomes a different person. Possessed by the Spirit, his exterior shell is of course the same, but his way of being is unrecognizable to us, his family. I suppose this is what I see too when actors are in “the zone”? Or when I used to give presentations; I was “on”.
The Q&A session was an absolute delight albeit short. I managed to take some pictures with my camera phone but I felt absolutely silly doing so. As you can see, some pics are blurry because I so wanted to hurry up and put the phone away while equally desiring pictures of Mr. Hinds. Everyone rushed to the stage to ask for autographs and take pictures.
I resolved that I would not get his autograph like everybody else. Yes, my NYC pride prevented me. Instead, I exited the auditorium and went to the bathroom in preparation for the hour subway ride home. After exiting the stall, I got a glimpse of myself in the mirror. Where was the confident woman I loved? Why was I letting this moment slip away? I had an opportunity for a guaranteed minute with Mr. Hinds so why not take it? I reasoned that I was not stalking him on some street corner with a raised picture and pen shoved to his face among a crowd of other fans. No, this opportunity would be more genteel.
So I forced myself to go back into the theater and I happened to be the last person on line. Thinking the woman before me was the last person he would speak with, he got up but then he saw me and stopped. I flashed him my winning smile, the one I’ve depended on to get out of numerous parking tickets or used to end a debate I’ve won. “I’m sorry Mr. Hinds. If I could oblige you for one last signature?” “Of course,” he said and got back down to his knees. By the way, he was on the stage and I was on the ground. He looked so comfortable in such an uncomfortable position — on all fours on a hard floor — I wondered if he regularly did cat/cow poses from that tabletop position he seem to so easily be in? I handed him a playbill for The Seafarer. “I thought you were brilliant in the play,” was all I could muster. Oh my wit escaped me! I wish I could’ve said more like how MoJo was so gripped by the tension that his hands shook at the end of the play! But the moment passed. He looked at me and asked, “To whom shall I address this?” I said my name, spelled it, and I watched him, mesmerized at the deliberate way he wrote. All I could say was, “Oh, I hope it doesn’t smear!” referring to my ink pen’s possible inability to stick on the shiny playbill cover. Gad, how idiotic did I sound?! When he signed his name, I thanked him again and he said, “Oh, it’s alright.” I smiled again and practically ran out of the theater relieved that our encounter was over.
I completely came undone.
So here it…a trophy for my courage. It’s funny how my wish to meet him and get his autograph on my playbill came true. I remember how much I wanted to wait for him to come out of the theater after the play but I felt silly with MoJo with me. And here, a few days later, I managed to get it in a more intimate and personal setting.
Ask and you shall receive.
UPDATE: Click here to see another blogger writing about the evening’s experience and thanks to ClaudeS39, we have a video of Ciarán’s appearance that afternoon!