My chaotic work-aholic lifestyle has amounted to a lot of stress, a little sleep, and a humble yet honorable amount of success. Success that include the start of a relationship with an entertainment professional who I recently signed into my life as my Manager.
In typical client-manager fashion my Manager initiated our relationship with a drink meeting followed by a networking event.
On this particular evening in Downtown Crossing I was meeting my Manager at the Ritz before heading over to The Modern Theatre at Suffolk University to hear a talk given by David Hoberman, Executive Producer of Mandeville Films, whose recent film THE FIGHTER was nominated for an Academy Award.
I had just come from interviewing legendary director David Wheeler for a campaign that I have been commissioned to document. I was dressed trendy yet professional in my new black suede round-toed pumps and after listening to Mr. Wheeler’s poetic intellectual rants about Boston theater (as well as stories about his days with Al Pacino and Matt Damon) I was looking forward moving onto a similar conversation about film in the state of Massachusetts.
The Modern Theatre is a small, intimate space equipped with balcony access, a stage, screening accommodations and big, leather, mahogany colored chairs straight out of Masterpiece Theater.
As David Hoberman spoke he was everything that I loved and hated about my chosen profession: arrogant, boastful, insightful, tough yet calm, cool and collected. And of course – in a good ole’ PR move Mr. Hoberman’s talked focused mainly on Mandeville’s next film:
A preview of the new Muppet film was screened and I suddenly recalled being a child, hanging out in front of the TV with Miss Piggy, Fonzi, and Beaker. And, we can’t forget about the gang on Sesame Street and their adventures around the globe, OR those hidden cousin’s of the muppets down on Fraggle Rock.
Yes, I guess you could say I was kind of a huge fan of Jim Henson’s work. I even remember, like it was yesterday, the exact place I was sitting at my kitchen table when my mother and I read the article in the paper informing the world that Jim Henson passed away as she served me my cinnamon toast.
Before you know it, in a smoother PR move, the lights to the theater went up and sitting next to Mr. Hoberman was Steve Whitmire, the protégé of Jim Henson and the man behind the little green guy. Mr. Whitmire has been the voice and the puppeteer of Kermit the Frog for over 20 years now. He has been a member of the Henson Productions family since he was 19-years-old and he always knew what he wanted to do with his life.
Standing at 6 feet 4 inches Mr. Whitmire looked like a mountain compared to the Kermit the Frog who he bought with him. As he began puppeteering and Kermit answered questions from the audience there was a life in that frog that made him appear bigger than his 6-foot-4 counterpart.
Kermit isn’t the only Henson creation that Mr. Whitmire is the master behind. Within the Muppet family he voices Rizzo the Rat as well as Beaker. He also voices Ernie of “Bert and Ernie” on Sesame Street.
I left the Modern Theatre in awe. The Muppet’s were so much of my childhood. I can recall watching MUPPETS TAKE MANHATTAN and then insisting the next time I was in the city with my parents that we eat at Sardi’s (famed for all the caricatures of celebrities), where Kermit posed as a regal Frenchman spying on Miss Piggy.
Mr. Whitmire was incredibly struck as a young man from watching “The Jimmy Dean Show” in which Rowlf was the original and only muppet (puppetted by Jim Henson himself). It was from those experiences admiring Rowlf that he set out at the young age of 19 to work alongside of Mr. Henson.
I couldn’t get that fact off my mind as I sat the following week at the Independent Reviewer’s of New England awards ceremony. The IRNE’s, as its known and pronounced by all as “the ERNIE’s,” is the New England awards ceremony honoring local theaters both of fringe and regional size. I was there to support Company One as well as a friend who was nominated for Best Supporting Actress.
The ceremony was modest but did include a cash bar as well as many speeches from the winners that touched upon having been hit with inspiration at a young age.
Was this jealousy I was feeling? All of the winners at the IRNE’s and Mr. Whitmire, Mr. Hoberman, and Mr. Wheeler had a sense of calm confidence when it came to their craft, their art, and their careers.
I’ve always known what I’ve wanted to do with my life. From those moments of early childhood spent watching Mr. Henson’s creations, to the many plays I saw on Broadway with my mother, and the hundreds of Raul Dahl, Judy Blume, and Goosebump books I read. But still, even with all that inspiration at 19-years-old I wasn’t doing much more than living the average college lifestyle.
Even now, I thought to myself as I sat at a post-IRNE celebration at the Beehive, am I really running and chasing after my dream? Have I been procrastinating? Will all my hard work amount to something?
And then as I looked around at the other individuals from the Boston theater community who laughed and sipped on drinks, who gossiped and whispered in the corners, and who cheered and celebrated their evening’s victory, I had another thought:
Do I even belong here?