I’m a 43-year-old Romeo. Seriously. At the ripe, sweet age of 43, I’m playing the star-crossed lover in the Shakespeare classic. It was a surprise to me when the director casting this production asked me to play young Romeo. When I stop to think about it, it cracks me up. I mean, this character typically is seen as a horny, brash teenager on the brink of becoming a man and discovering true love.
Ah, true love! It’s a common enough phrase and yet I do believe it’s not actually all that common in our world.
On our first day of rehearsal with the full cast together, the director asked us this question: “Where does the love live?” And it hit me: Love lives in everybody.
I know that sounds corny, but what I understood in that moment is that we all have the capacity to love — it’s just a matter of how fully we go there, how vulnerable we let ourselves be and how honest we can be with the love we share and let in our hearts. The thought makes me sad.
As a teacher at Crunch Gyms for 14 years, I’ve met a lot of folks through fitness classes and, frankly, I’ve met a lot of unhappy single ladies (and a few guys) trying to find that ever-elusive love that is true. I’ve also seen folks settle for relationships that don’t light them on fire, make them giddy or challenge them in ways that inspire growth.
I want everyone to experience that heart-filling, turns-ya-on, turns-ya-out love that makes you more of who you are. I believe that is the kind of love we all deserve and I believe we can all get it if we are fully open to it. It’s hard work becoming that vulnerable and honest. We spend years creating barriers to protect our hearts and feelings. We want to be strong but we can miss out on so much if we are always protecting ourselves and keeping that constant guard up.
I’ve become friends with a recently divorced, 60-something woman who dedicated more than four decades to her three kids and a husband to whom she never felt connected. She is such a cool lady. After her divorce, she put herself out there and got a job, made new friends and travelled. When I suggested that she start dating, her kids discouraged that thought, saying it’s too late for her. Meanwhile, I want to be her wing-man because I love a fighter. I see her fighting to be open and to experience new things. I see her fighting to make herself ready for love.
At that first Romeo & Juliet rehearsal, I told the director I want to make sure our production focuses on the universality of love and how we can all hope and strive for the purest of love in our lives — no matter what age. Being in my 40s, I want to play Romeo as an individual who has never stopped believing in that soul-moving, earth-shattering love. My goal with this production is to inspire others to believe that love is possible. It goes beyond hope … it’s actually a reality when we understand that it starts with us. For where does the love live? It lives right inside of us, and its growth is limitless.
Marc Santa Maria is an actor and the Regional Director of Group Fitness for Crunch Gyms. He is a former attorney and has travelled to nearly 50 countries. He lives in the East Village of NYC and is in love.
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