tick, tick...BOOM!

tick, tick...BOOM! ★★★★

When I was in the process of moving out of my parents’ house in June, I found a journal I kept toward the middle of my career as an actor. I was probably fourteen, fifteen at the oldest. Sacred, it held audition schedulings, names from casting calls, character musings—and in between all of that was a bulleted holy grail of advice gifted to me by a well-established Broadway director. The last words of his I wrote down, underlined twice:

“Look as young as you can for as long as you can.”

I maintained this recommendation biblically until my retirement, and it wasn’t until I found that journal five months ago that I realized such a mindset is why I felt perpetually behind my peers. Aging is cruel in entertainment. It’s a relentless reminder that you haven’t yet ‘made it’, and the more years that pass the less likely it becomes that you ever will. At 18, I had already deemed myself too-old. I can still feel the enervation so excruciatingly well, existing in the purgatorial bohemia Tick Tick Boom depicts; shoebox apartments crawling with precocious young creatives who all sense the pressure building in and the time running out. Every single one of them having a cut-off year, a rehearsed answer to ‘what’s next for you?’, a nagging intuition that there might not be a next. It is a universally endured agony.

Still, there’s a beauty to bonding over artistic suffering. I have never felt more spellbound than the years I spent surrounded by peers who considered themselves children of Stanislavsky and van Hove. All of them full of hope, constantly constructing and revising their craft. Selfishly, I still take pride in their successes. I still mourn their losses.

This film brought back the dread. And the inspiration. All of the emotions I subsisted in for seven years leaked from the screen with such palpability that I started to remember basement readings, black box rehearsals, and live workshops I thought I’d forgotten. It made me remember the ping of bittersweet delight I felt the first time I saw a friend performing at the Tonys, the bittersweet agony when another told me they didn’t think it would ever happen for them. Most of all I remembered the premiere of my first authored play two years after I retired from acting; my embarrassed pride that accompanied the acclaim from those sitting with me in the audience on opening night, the realization that—despite it being a hit—it would never leave the theater it was born in.

I remembered it all. It’s the closest I’ve felt to my previous identity in a long time. And now I sit here writing about a film full of people who know people I used to know, on a couch that I could only afford because of a corporate sinecure, in an apartment with so many windows I can see three sides of my city. And I think to myself, “this could be the rest of my life.” My god. This could be the rest of my life.

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