Rella Jr., Richard. “Ghosts Past and Present.” Backstage 2-8 Sep. 2010: Vol. 51, No. 35

The Oxford English Dictionary defines faith as the spiritual apprehension of divine truths or intangible realities. Actors, in general, have an amazing amount of faith. Faith that our bodies will instinctively recall the choreography that we tirelessly rehearsed for weeks. Faith that our minds will hold the seemingly endless iambic pentameter verses. Faith that our voices will not crack on the soaring falsetto sections of 1960’s classic rock songs. And, above all else, faith that our abilities can and will entertain people who are not related to us. This month, my faith was tested in many ways.

The uncertainty that accompanies this unstable career often led me to question whether bills would be paid on time, let alone being able to save enough money to ever buy a home for my family. After years of scrimping and searching, my wife and I purchased our first home on Staten Island. It is a lovely three bedroom house with a front and backyard for my daughter and a washer and dryer for my wife. Even as I write, I do it from the comfort of my study, which my daughter affectionately refers to as “daddy’s woom,” instead of my bed which doubled as my desk for the past two years.

The New York company of “Tony N’ Tina’s Wedding” finally closed this month. I was hired three years ago as an understudy and have performed in six different roles and in over five hundred performances. It was the longest running engagement of my young career and it taught me many things. Aside from working on my improvisational and singing skills, I learned the importance of teamwork and commitment. But as “Tony N’ Tina’s Wedding” closes in New York my manager just negotiated my first directorial contract for a charitable production of “Tony N’ Tina’s Wedding” at the prestigious Piazza in the Village in Dallas, Texas at the end of September. Thus I am reminded that opportunities to perform are in abundance and all around me. I simply need to keep myself open to the new and exciting challenges that this career demands.

Finally, and sadly, my grandfather, Emanuel Lewis Mangano, passed away on August 12, 2010. He was eighty nine years old and had begun to suffer from dementia. As my family continues to grieve this month over his passing, I am reminded of the words of my uncle, Francis Mangano, who succinctly spoke the eulogy at my grandfather’s funeral: “As people of faith, we must believe that this is not the end for him.  We must believe that Grandpa is beginning a new life, one where he’s no longer weak, no longer cold and has a full recollection of his time with us. Let us not say ‘goodbye’ to him.  Let us say thank you for all he has done for us, knowing we will be together once again someday.”

Faith. Who knows what lies beyond this shallow world of fancy cars, new houses, and the busy lives which we all lead. As Christians, we are called upon to unquestioningly believe that we are all going to be in a better place when our brief time here on earth has passed. While we are here, we have to believe that our God given talents and abilities will guide us to true and meaningful happiness and satisfaction. In the words of Helen Keller, “optimism is the faith that leads to achievement.  Nothing can be done without hope and confidence.”