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Lynn Spruill: Beyond our comfort zone


Lynn Spruill



The Starkville Community Theater recently performed "Steel Magnolias." The play version is similar in story line, but very different in execution from the movie. Unlike the movie, the play is an all woman show with a cast of six characters. It was a wonderful show and one that the theater and the community should be very proud of having in its complement of theater productions.  


This one was special for a different reason. It had several new participants to the Starkville Community Theater acting family who were selected to play the roles of these fascinating women. Paula Mabry was the director who saw in these new participants the right stuff to make the play what it became. I had a particular interest in the wonderful lady, Judy Leonard, who played Ouizer. Her participation came after I hounded her mercilessly about trying out for any role and particularly this role once time had come for casting.  


It was a casual conversation that led to my continued haranguing of her on the idea of her acting in our local theater productions. Over dinner one night we ended up talking about her enjoying drama in high school productions which led to the inevitable question of: "Why not participate in the Starkville theater group productions now?" There were several excuses, but no really good reason why not. My thought was if it is something that you loved doing once then it is worth trying again. She did and she was fabulous. But it came with the price of being out of her comfort zone in probably more ways than I can imagine or she would even want to reveal. We are the richer for it and, according to Judy, so is she.  


I have to admit that I have become addicted to a couple of shows that I refused to watch for their first several seasons. I couldn't imagine why I would want to watch either one of them. Live and learn. One is "American Idol" which is currently into season 13 and the other is "Dancing with the Stars" soon to be into season 18.  


Let me first thank human ingenuity for video recording and fast forward. What I discovered about each of these productions is that after you push through all of the silly hype and promotion you distill it down to the human urge to be better and do better and push beyond personal limitations.  


Dancing provides an art form that is undeniably beautiful when it is mastered. From the first weeks in each new season of the dancing competition there is the uncertainty and awkwardness that come from having minimal experience in the new endeavor. As each week progresses the emergence of refinement and skills become so obvious that it is inspiring and wonderful to witness.  


By the end of the season when the competition has winnowed the participants down to the few, those who remain have essentially made the transition to legitimate ballroom dancers. There is beauty in the performance all right, but the real beauty lies in the triumph of the dancer in passing beyond his or her comfort zone to achieve that distinction. That triumph is not just for the winners, but it is also for all of those contestants who were willing to strive well past their existing personal boundaries.  


The American Idol season is now fully underway and there are 11 contestants remaining. Once again I defer to fast forward as the way through the delays and fillers and silliness, but the performances are beginning to take on the magic that creates the essence of artistry. The voices richen and the performance skills are refined, so that by the end of the season there will be someone who will have transformed their lives by reaching for the dream which lies beyond their comfort zone.  


I like an eclectic mix of music and so each of the American Idol performances provides something beyond just the refining moments of the craft. The deepest pleasure is in witnessing the growth and hearing the beauty that emerges from those who yesterday were waitresses, farm workers, students -- anything but performers for audiences of millions. Their reward for getting outside their comfort zone will most likely be disproportionate to those of us not fortunate enough to have their vocal skills.  


Nonetheless, comfort zones are exactly that, comfortable. They are places that you want to vacation not places that you want to take up residence. Whether it is going back to school or taking up a musical instrument or learning a new language, the reward may not be a million-dollar recording contract, but it will surely be the opportunity to learn and ultimately be better today than you were yesterday.  


Lynn Spruill, a former commercial airline pilot, elected official and city administrator owns and manages Spruill Property Management in Starkville. Her email address is [email protected]



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