I've been interviewing stage performers, for my StratfordFestivalReviews.com website, about the creative process and people whose lives depend upon it.
A common point I hear from people who have attained success in the Arts is that they have a support network, which most often began with their parents.
Naturally this had me reflecting on my own path, and the role my mother played in supporting my interest in the performing arts.
My mother is Tessy Tomasek.
At the age of 10 my parents divorced and my mother, as a single parent, raised me. My father was always nearby and we saw him regularly, but it was mother who took care of the four kids in the family.
She took care of us while holding down a full time job and enduring chronic, debilitating, back pain. Through it all, mother infused our house with the sounds of public broadcasting, classical music and jazz. I'll never forget discovering the wonderful sounds of Stéphane Grappelli, Oscar Peterson and Joe Pass by her side.
Around the time her back pain became so intensely painful that she was bedridden for over a year, I developed an interest in prestidigitation. Hoping to amuse and delight her, and make her pain disappear, I performed magic tricks at the foot of her bed.
I could easily make a few coins vanish but her pain never did go away.
And it was my mother who achieved truly miraculous feats. Despite the chronic pain she never lost her will to live. Through sheer determination and a commitment to exercise and healthy living, she regained some of the strength in her back and eventually regained her mobility. She learned to move through the pain.
To this day her willpower is powerful life force.
During my teens my interest in performing grew. Naturally it was always mom who would help me pick out costumes or drive me to nightly rehearsals, despite her painful condition. Mom even got involved with Lyric Theatre, a community based musical theatre company on the West Island of Montreal. Our involvement with community theatre not only brought us closer together, but I believe it helped with her rehabilitation, although we'll never know for sure.
One year I landed a part singing, dancing and doing magic in the Lyric Theatre Cabaret. It was my mother who drove me to and from the shows. When it became obvious that I did not have a voice for singing, or the legs for dancing she consoled me. Rebuilding my confidence she encouraged me to continue performing magic tricks, because they got the best crowd response.
Now, as a parent myself, I can't help but reflect upon how much time and energy my mother devoted to supporting my artistic endeavours. She taught me the value of being a supportive, loving parent by patiently responding to my never ending requests to "pick a card, any card."
I aspire to be as patient, and generous, with my family.
Fortunately these days I'm blessed with the love and support of my wife Suzie Hatch. Suzie's kind spirit and generous soul has empowered our child with confidence and the belief that, with hard work and the love and respect from those around us, anything is possible. And his support network is growing.
Theatre played less of a role in Suzie's youth than mine, but she's becoming a theatre mom too.
Here we are outside the Avon theatre in Stratford, Ontario, after a memorable performance of Peter Pan.
Happy mother's day.
Tulip image above from Cole Tomasek, age 6