Performance: An Actor's Blog

From actor Marya Sea Kaminski, playing Rachel in My Name is Rachel Corrie.

April 10th.
Dear Rachel Corrie.
Happy Birthday.
Aries. The Ram.
I am so glad you were born.
Which is what I say to all my best friends on their birthdays.
Glad. Certainly. Does not say it.
I want to wrap all of my thanks. In parchment with poems and tie it with the boy scout belt that I stole from my brother when I was in the seventh grade.
I want to thank you.
For introducing me to bravery.
Not the vaguery of bravery. Not the abstract concept reserved for difficult situations.
Real bravery. Bravery reserved for people who will themselves into their hometowns. Which I could never do.
Thank you. Thankyouthankyouthankyou.
For teaching me how to talk to a room full of people without taking their temperatures first. To speak the truth without being afraid. To follow my gut. To deciding every night, over and over again, in every show, at 7:42pm every day for the last month... to decide. To be. An artist. And a writer. And for telling me not to give a shit if I'm mediocre.
I'm in the phase of this production when I cannot help but quote the play at every turn. So forgive me while I offer your words back to you. As some contemporary sort of blog sacrifice. As some testament to the way you continue to speak loudly, and sometimes with severe superbowl fumbles, through me every night.
Thank you for giving me this moment. On the eve of my thirtieth birthday.
To remember what it is like to be twenty three. And to throw my body around with exuberant flirtation. To speak what you feel in your gut is truth, and haven't met enough men or newspapers to second guess it.
This is no accident. You. Your birthday. You.
Thank you for walking me to a place, word by word, where I can cry every night. For the murderous climate of the world and for my family.
Rachel, your family misses you so much. It stops my breath every time I hear them speak of your death, or of the following months. At a talkback last week, Sarah talked about watching your mom sitting in a Starbucks a few weeks after you'd been killed, and realizing that their lives will never, ever be the same.
Of course not.
Of course.
After my brother Adam died in 2002, I had a similar realization. Not in sadness. Of course, his death left a hole in me that will remain vacant and inhabitable for the rest of my days. But not because I am wounded. But because I am so, so full of him. And his joy and insight and restlessness. I will never be the same because he shifted my entire understanding of the world in a profound way. And now he is gone. And I am shifted.
I can't help but think Sarah is peppered with the same resonance.
The world will never be the same for having lost you.
But, mostly, we will never be the same for having had you.
You have reminded me what the smell of rain is.
Not rain on sidewalks, or cleaning out gutters.
But real rain.
You have reminded me why I love to ride the bus.
Because no matter how tired or battered or annoyed I am, we are all on the bus together. Going about our small days.
In your essays, you talk about your butterfly. That you chase with a hat pin. You talk about trying to get other people to chase your butterfly with you. But they can't. Because they have their own to pursue. Their own fluttering greatness that leads them forward... onto the bus, and into their day, and through their heartbreak, and beyond their day jobs.
Every night, before I go onstage, I conjure that. I conjure the butterfly in my chest. In the middle of my chest, my heartspace, that is flapping delicately against the whirlwind and leading me forward. On to the stage. Into the audience.
When I look out into the audience for the first time every night, and get ready to invite them into your show, I imagine their butterflies. Pounding loud and delicate in their chests. The butterflies that have lead them here to witness, or argue, or experience you.
I open every night to a field of butterflies, turning off their cell phones and folding up their programs.
Thank you. For reminding me that we are all the same. We are all after the same thing.
And thank you for making me listen to my music more deeply. And for challenging me to dance at every turn. And for making me imagine what it is to swim in Puget Sound naked in the night. And for making me imagine the horrors of Rafah. To bring it home. To envision what it would be for all of my friends, and my family, and the gregarious black boy who bags my groceries at the Safeway... to envision what it would be to have our lives ripped out from under us. To have sniper towers and tanks instead of cell phone towers and taxi cabs defining the perimeters of my neighborhood.
I can't believe you. I can't believe your guts.
To give up everything. And by everything, I don't mean your young and vibrant life which is the sacrifice that so many people jump to. But to give up your world in Olympia, you amazingly nurturing family, your quilt of good friends, your unquestionable promise, to go and see what the world is really like. Beyond Seattle. Beyond happy hours and self-congratulatory fundraisers. For actually going out and witnessing the actions that actually define the world we live in.
I can't believe that you were only twenty-three.
My ripe and tender twenty-nine bows down, and gathers the stones you have dropped.
Happy birthday, Rachel Corrie.
I am so glad that you were born.

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