Two such people left recently and perhaps their last gift to me is this understanding of how important their gifts have been to my and our – our family – lives.
Gary Austin and Jim Scott are both such people. Gary died April 1st and Jim died April 13th.
Gary Austin was an improviser, musicians, actor and most importantly for me a teacher. I wrote about Gary earlier this month. Our relationship started about 15 years ago through the wonderful theatrical non-profit Artistic New Directions in New York, now called AND Theater Company. Through the years I was in classes, workshops and private lessons with Gary. In classes sometimes he would yell at me, push me and challenge me. I can remember our first private lesson when he was “candid” with me – “You are not going to be a great actor or Improv person. You do okay, just that you are not a professional.” I don’t know if he wanted to scare me away or push me to be more committed to the practice.
So I persisted. Of course he was not my only coach or teacher. Yet, in my rear view mirror there is no question that without Gary being there, I wouldn’t be here – a vagabond actor taking his trade to small and large theaters around the US, finding meaning in my own life through the story I am telling which was found through Gary’s techniques and his commitment to me.
There is no reason for Gary to have worked so closely with me. Not being modest, just realistic. He had better things to do with his life and work; and yet he was generous, candid and a spark to my own creative process that led me to find my real purpose in life. The creation of The Actual Dance and performing it for everyone who needs to see it. In December of 2015 Gary and his wife Wenndy saw the full show performed in Los Angeles. Afterwards, he came up to me in full-tear, hugged me and told me he loved me. Without Gary I would be not be me here today doing what I am doing being what I am being.
Gary was an angel in my life.
My recollection of our first project was him encouraging me and a coalition to seek conditions on the first proposed cable franchise in Fairfax County. We won the grant of a “cooperatively owned cable channel.” And for years with Jim and others worked to make it a success. Of course, the lesson was also more about how to get things done on the local level.
Later Jim, who had been a member of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors decided to run for the Virginia Legislature. This was about the time that our son was graduating college. Coincidence? Marcus, our son, ended up working for Jim as his legislative aide after Jim won the seat by ---yes wait for it – by – one (1) court certified vote!
Jim stayed in the legislature for 20 years. Marcus was his legislative aid for some of the early years and through the relationship joined the staff of Kate Hanley, who was by then Chairwoman of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.
Jim was always a man full of great ideas and great wisdom. We worked together on many projects; but none so important in my view as his mentoring of Marcus. Among the many things he taught was the wisdom of hard work. In an era of dreamed-up short cuts to fame and fortune, Jim insisted on door knocking. Working quietly and persistently with others to get eventually to where you wanted to be – or at least as close to it as practicable.
We have since basked in the glow of Jim and Marcus and others in the Virginia political arena with and through the grace and kindness of Jim Scott and his extended personal and political family.
Jim was an angel in our life.
Who are the angels in your life?