Rella Jr., Richard. “A Fresh Take (5).” Backstage 7-13 Jan. 2010: Vol. 51, No.1

September through December is a very busy time in our profession. This is my second full season on NBC’s 30 Rock. I am a stand in as well as part of the core background unit. This also marks my third year as a swing in the Off-Broadway production of Tony N’ Tina’s Wedding. The holiday season is my favorite time of year but, since I made the transition from college professor at Monmouth University to professional actor three years ago, I seem to have less and less time to enjoy it.

Amidst the hustle and bustle that pervades New York City at this time of year, I received a call from my sister, who provides the necessary day care for my nineteen month old daughter. She asked me if I had noticed a large lump on the side of my daughter Sophia’s neck. My wife and I promptly rushed Sophia to the hospital and were told that she had to undergo intravenous antibiotics and testing. After a week of countless tests, Sophia was diagnosed with a staff infection in her lymph nodes. She would need general anesthesia, an operation to drain the lymph nodes, and in-home nursing for weeks to come.

Professionally speaking, those few weeks were a blur for me. I remember receiving text message updates from my wife while I was on set and dashing to the hospital after curtain. Of course my auditions did not stop coming in either. One such opportunity was in an email from Austin Pendleton, a former teacher of mine at the Manhattan School of Music. He wanted to see me for the lead in a new Terrance McNally play that he was directing at the Kennedy Center. It certainly wasn’t easy to memorize fifteen pages of text in the pediatrics unit but with bills to pay and my little girl relying on me, the diversion of a busy schedule was a welcome one.

As heart wrenching as it was to watch helplessly as my daughter went through this ordeal, I was consoled by a constant stream of loving visitors. Family, friends, former classmates, and coworkers, many of whom had never met Sophia before, brought us gifts, meals, blankets, and toys. One extremely memorable gift was a book from my childhood friend called The Secret: What Great Leaders Know and Do. In it, Ken Blanchard and Mark Miller say that leaders should value relationships as well as results. Like all of us, I am always looking for ways to further my career faster. As I look forward to 2010, I plan on deepening the current relationships that I have with casting directors, agents, cast mates, directors, crew, and production assistants who care for me and my family so very much. Most of all, I am reminded this holiday season to say thank you to and for all of the wonderful blessings and people in my life.