An unlikely lesson from “Music and Lyrics”

Music and Lyrics- 2007

Music and Lyrics- 2007

As artists, we sometimes find ourselves taking projects just to keep working. The performing arts can oftentimes be a ‘what have you done for me lately’ industry, where your most recent effort on  stage or screen becomes the entirety of how you’re viewed. To keep yourself in the eye of people who could/should be hiring you in the future, and to prevent the formation of artistic ‘rust’, you continue to work.
I know, as an actor that work itself is hard enough to come by, and completing roughly 3 full productions a year, plus or minus film work and voice-over gigs, is a pretty good pace. However, I’m not always doing the work I have a desire to do; the work that inspires and compels me to do it.

Which brings me to “Music and Lyrics,” the 2007 romantic comedy starring Drew Barrymore and Hugh Grant. I really was taken with this film, because I love music, lyrics, romantic comedies, Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore. It’s a story about honesty, artistic excellence, and integrity. Oh yeah, and two really neat characters fall in love. Formulaic? Yes, however there’s some great stuff in the formula, and it’s executed so well that I find myself drawn nearer to the characters, themes, and plot, rather than distanced from them.

In it, Hugh Grant’s character, an aging 1980’s pop star coming to terms with his nostalgic fame and lowered expectations says, referring to his accomplishments in light of his greatest musical influences (Smoky Robinson, Bob Dylan): “They write DINNER. I write dessert.”

Dinner. A satisfying meal that sustains one through the night. Simple or complex, it is artistic food he’s getting at. While I’ve grown through each project, developed as a performer and refined my craft with each opportunity to work and perform, I find myself really yearning for those fulfilling roles. The ones that stick to the audiences’ ribs. The roles people take home with them. I’ve had a taste of this in the last year and a half. I’ve had the great fortune to bring Dietrich Bonhoeffer and C.S. Lewis to the stage. I’ve also left my mark as Aguecheek in ‘Twelfth Night’ and formed part of a tremendous ensemble in ‘Antony and Cleopatra’. I stand behind all my work, but I find myself hungry again.

As another year draws to a close, I find myself making lists (it’s a compulsion of mine) and thinking about the year to come. A colleague recently asked me what roles I WANT. Not what roles I could be interested in, but what I desire to do; roles with words that compel me to speak them. What roles do I want?

I want dinner.

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