Stephen Mosher On Retirement
The word is out.
I’m leaving the art world. I announced it last night, publically, for the first time. I was attending a Tuesday night workshop with The Shakespeare Forum, one of my favorite places, where artists gather and grow. I love to go there, even though I have not been an actor for a good many years. I love watching the artists stretch their wings, flex their muscles, learn and grow. I enjoy to hear the comments and constructive suggestions from their fellow artists. It is, indeed, a family of creators and I love nothing quite so much as family. And, last night, when the creators of The Shakespeare Forum, Sybille and Tyler Moss, asked who wanted to play I raised my hand, one of the three times I have done so since I started attending a few years ago. The first time I performed a Martha monologue from Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, as a birthday gift for my husband. He was shocked. The second time I did a Pale speech from Burn This because I had been named Shakespeare Forum Person of the Year and I felt a kind of obligation/longing to participate in the action. Last night I played David’s final moments of The Twilight of the Golds, and when Sybille and Tyler asked why I brought it in, I told them: I am leaving the arts in 2018 and I am taking these last months of 2017 to get it all out of my system.
I have discussed this with my family and they all understand and support my choice. At first some of them did not, particularly my biggest fan – my husband. In subsequent conversations, though, he came to understand my reasoning and the undeniable need for the decision and he is, now, entirely on board. I did not, though, make my decision public. Oh, people knew I was retiring from photography alright. That had been made abundantly clear in daily Facebook postings that shared photos and stories from my thirty seven years with a camera in my hands. However, as far as people knew, I would continue to write. And I was booked to do a nightclub act at the famous New York cabaret room Don’t Tell Mama. Naturally, I would still be an artist – that was the general assumption. Also, there was the confusing fact that, since walking away from the acting life at the age of twenty five, I had returned to the stage on a few occasions. In 1992 I was afforded the opportunity to play Willy Wonka at a Children’s Theater – and when you are offered a role like Willy Wonka you don’t say no. In 1993 I was given the chance to make (much needed) money at the same theater playing Mr. Beaver in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. In 2001 I performed for one night in a benefit for our local Firefighters after September 11th – the play was Jeffrey and I was the horny priest to my husband’s Jeffrey. In 2002 I played an original piece titled And The Stars Were Shining that was a benefit for a new AIDS charity called The Brent Varner Project after a close friend asked me to step in for an actor that had to be replaced. With the exception of occasional performances in acting workshops and classes that I was attending for fun, these have been my only ventures back onto the stage. Each one of them was a pleasure and an opportunity to bond with people in a new way, a special way, a unique and individual way. I enjoyed each of the experiences, as I had enjoyed (most of) my acting experiences in my youth.
But it’s finished.
It is my most fervent wish, at this stage of my life, to no longer be an artist. When I was asked why, last night, I offered that this year I heard an expression that, when you are an artist, you must be willing to go out there and open a vein. The dawning realization has risen that I have been pursuing some form of artwork for nearly five decades. Acting, dancing, directing, choreographing, drawing, costuming (for a blip of a moment), writing – even the culinary arts and the art of hosting. The only things I didn’t try were stand-up comedy and singing. The former never interested me and the latter will be checked off the bucket list on October 22nd when I perform, for the first and last time, in a nightclub in New York City. That’s nearly fifty years of bleeding. And I’m tired. I have spent years in a darkroom developing photos, at a computer editing photos, at a typewriter or keyboard writing, in the studio shooting pictures. There have been rehearsal rooms, kitchens, locations and more that have nurtured my artistic soul in ways unfathomable . There have not, though, been vacations. There have been no mountains hiked. There were no forests explored, no boats sailed and no roads cross country driven. My family have all had lives and adventures. I had art.
My new art will be the living of life.
Come January 1st, 2018 I will have sung live at least once, performed my last monologue, written one more story and completed the final photo shoot. People have suggested to me “you’ll go back to it” and maybe they are right. Nothing is ever an absolute. I can say that I know myself well and I believe in finality. When you quit something you should quit… like smoking, drinking or a love affair. I have had some experience going back to something I had left behind and it was never the right choice for me. In life you should either stand still or go forward: never go backward. I will have to look backward since I have been, kindly, offered an exhibition of my work, but I know I won’t go backward. This is a time for change, for adventure, for newness and for living. I’m not sure what will happen January 2nd but I know one thing for sure.
I will eat the new adventure as I have eaten life: 140 percent.