As Fate Would Have It

11 Jan

August 2002: NY, NY. It’s my first week living in NYC. I’m nervous, excited, scared, anxious and a million other things, as I gear up for my first year of college.

I’m standing in line to retrieve my student ID, along with twenty or thirty other anxious freshmen. The hot, humid air has us all a little impatient and bored as we look around, flip through our new text books or fiddle with our phones. I’m lost in my own thoughts, absorbing my new surroundings until…

I feel a tap on my shoulder as a friendly young man asks, “So, you’re from California?”

I turn to reply, “Yes. How did you know?”

“Your license,” he says pointing to my California driver’s license I have already in hand, ready to go so as to not waste any time when my turn arrives.

“Oh,” I say, a little embarrassed, but regain my composure. “Are you also from California?”

“Yeah, actually, I am. I’m from southern California.”

“Me too!” I say, excitedly, to find someone to relate to, however superficial the relation. You cling to these little morsels of commonality when alone and new in a big city like New York. In fact, this man had a comforting familiarity to him. Maybe it was just a SoCal thing? “What part?” I continue.

“The valley.”

“Me too!” I say again, with increased enthusiasm.

“Where in the valley did you grow up?” he asks.

“Sherman Oaks,” I answer, the sense of familiarity growing stronger.

“Me too!” the friendly young man says with equal gusto as my previous exclamations.

“Where did you go to school?” I ask.


Then it hits me. “Me too.”

This strangely familiar, friendly looking young man was Marc Smollin, aka Seymour Krelboyne from the first theatrical production I ever saw in my life: Little Shop of Horrors. I had never met him, only seen him on stage. First in Little Shop and then in all the high school plays following until he graduated. There he was, in real life, standing in front of me, waiting in line to get his student ID as a freshman of Tisch graduate school, a program that accepts only 18 students each year.

“Are you Marc,” I ask, “Marc Smollin?”

“Yes,” he says, surprised and maybe even a little creeped out, who knows.

“I saw you in Little Shop of Horrors when I was in the third grade. You’re the reason I’m here. I’m majoring in Acting…”

We proceed to talk about the Buckley years, how he’s enrolled in Tisch’s grad school acting program, how I’m starting at Atlantic Theater Company and other small talk.

As I walked away, with new student ID in hand, I couldn’t help but think that that moment was fate. It was a sign, that I was following the right dream.

During those days or weeks I feel down, discouraged, overwhelmed by this profession I think back to that moment to get through the rough patch. However silly it may be, holding onto those 5 minutes and other little “signs” are great reminders and reinforcers of why I am going after this dream.

And guess what? Even he didn’t give up on his dreams– looks like his performing will never stop. And, look, I’m not the only one referring back to this little ‘ol high school production:

Oh, and Marc, if you’re out there reading this, I apologize for seeming like a stalker. But you marked a significant moment of my life, little did you know…