It all began six years ago in a dressing room. I happened to be working with one of the Twin Cities' most esteemed veteran actors, whose talent and wisdom I equally appreciate and respect.
One evening while preparing, the conversation drifted toward the notion of pensions and when might be a good time to think about it. This actor being some years my senior basically told me, "if you need it, take it. You've earned it." I was, at the time, a year away from an age when that would be possible, so I had some time to consider it. The seed, though, had been planted.
Along with that seed came a germ of another idea - retirement. I had always laughed at that notion. Retire from what? Having fun doing what I love to do? Curious.
As I thought about it, I reflected that work, for whatever reason, had slowed down. I thought about that as well. Karma? Who knows? Age? Maybe. It didn't really matter. Still curious.
A year and a phone call later, bingo, my Equity pension. Life got interesting.
Over the next couple of years I was fortunate to be able to do some rewarding and meaningful work with some extraordinary actors and directors, all of whom made a significant contribution to my love of the game. Oops, did I say game? I meant to say theatre. Or did I?
It was somewhere in 2014 during a "hiatus" that I began to become more interested in that often under-reported sports team, the Minnesota Lynx. I had, of course, known of their existence, but working pretty steadily made it almost impossible to go to games. But then came September of 2014. The Lynx were in a playoff series with the Phoenix Mercury, and there was a game at Target Center. I bought myself a great seat (fifth row center court as I recall) and went. I sat down, and was immediately overcome by an energy that I had never felt at any other sporting event. It was different, and not in the Minnesota way of "that's different." It really was, and it had a profound effect.
After a few minutes, a woman sitting in front of me turned around and said, "Who are you? I've never seen you here before." I said, "Hi, I'm Marty, and this is my first game." Diane (her name) smiled at me and said, "Well, we're glad you're here." "So am I," I said. The game started shortly thereafter. Within five minutes I said to myself, "I'm home. I belong here." At halftime, Diane had talked to an account rep who then came to talk to me. A week later I had my first season ticket.
Between that game (which the Lynx won but lost the series) in September and the beginning of the next season the following May, something changed. I changed. I began to see a different path and feel an energy that excited me and revived a dormant passion and desire for something new. It turned into a kind of slow, romantic baton race.
I was doing a play that overlapped with the end of the 2015 season playoffs. Somehow I was able to go to all the playoff games EXCEPT the final game. I had a photo call and couldn't get out of it. I did follow the game on my phone, and managed not to scream out in joy when the Lynx won the WNBA championship in 2015. When I got home, I celebrated two things - the championship, and the acceptance that some version of retirement was right around the corner. I looked at that corner, studied it, and turned.
I've been fortunate over the past 40 years or so. I've been able to do the job I'd wanted to do since I was nine, when my mother took me to see the New York City Opera's production of La Boheme. It's still my favorite opera. I've been able to work with some incredible people in a variety of venues. Some of it has been bittersweet, but that's how I look at life and its transient beauty and finiteness. I appreciate what is in front of me, regardless of how brief it may be. I've also been fortunate to get to know a number of players and staff with the Minnesota Lynx. Yes, I'm a huge supporter and can talk endlessly about it. I'm also a big UConn Women's Basketball fan. If I were twenty years younger I'd become a basketball scout.
So that game in 2014 became the first step toward the path to...something. It wasn't work. A new mindset perhaps. A new perception of what it feels like to maybe, possibly, probably not be an actor any longer. In a way. In the universe. Unlike many other professions that tell you you're too old or that a computer can do your job better, this one just unceremoniously gives you a choice - keep going or walk away. I think you can do both. I don't know if there is a word that describes being somewhere between retirement and working. If something comes along, great. If it doesn't, that's fine, because the days now are filled with discoveries that were heretofore almost impossible while working full time. I have a lot of time for my grandchildren, going to out-of-town games, and going through withdrawal in the off-season. I'm lucky to live so close to the kids and not be relegated to a once or twice a year visit. I don't think I've ever been married to my work. Just a long, sometimes smooth sometimes tumultuous engagement. The line often got blurred. Now it's very clear.
It's been a long process, but worth it. For me it means taking a good look inside and seeing what's in there that is worth nurturing and bringing back to life and what needs to fall by the wayside. It's too easy to let externals get in the way and be the source of personal definition. We are all familiar with the process of reinvention. It's a necessary tool to survive in this kind of work. Fortunately that reinvention and accompanying curiosity (the real fountain of youth) has taken me from the stage to the arena, from performing to watching. It has been and is the most glorious of transitions.
The dictionary has basically two definitions of retire. The first is to leave and cease to work. The second, and probably the more meaningful here, is to withdraw to or from a particular place. I'm going with the second one. My only criteria now about work is that it has to be fun and it can't get in the way of the WNBA season. That's my idea of retirement. Potentially the best of both worlds.