MY THIRD ACT

words OLIVIA VEGA  | nbsp;photography SUZANNE SHERIDEN


Last summer the man who is now my fiancé nearly died.

By way of background, let me say that we live on Peaks Island and run our company, Liv for Events, from there. We didn’t have any big summer events lined up so we said, “Let’s go to Mexico.” We rented a little beach villa in the fishing village of Chelem in the Yucatan.

Three weeks into our six-week trip, Jason forgot to use bottled water when making ice cubes and by sunset he was massively ill. He had a fever of 103.8 and experienced a three-minute seizure. I thought I had lost him.

After a long road to recovery we got him home. Then I broke down. My doctor said when everything was finally OK I could process everything we did to get him home safe and sound.

My doctor recommend I see a therapist. I realized much of what I was holding onto was from further back than my summer in Mexico, and I discovered what I really want in life is to act. “Acting?” my therapist asked. “To be a successful actor you have to be in New York or LA.” All I could think was “Watch me.”

I am passionate about lots of things. In high school I wrote and published poetry, was on the swim team, in musicals and took as many languages as I could find. Professionally I tried to break into the New York fashion industry and ended up working for Heineken beer. I fell in love with and moved to Maine, getting a job at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute before starting my own events business. My first event was the Fourth of July celebration on the Eastern Prom. I loved helping to bring 50,000 people together to honor this great nation. I have relished each experience, but something was always missing: me, and what I wanted.

As with many life-altering moments, I had a dream. In mine, I was in a gorgeous Baku-like modern and medieval city. I was at a new university and realized I was going to be late to my first class. I started running across campus and got there just in time and slid into an open seat. I took a breath and saw we were being taught by Nicolas Cage and Diane Keaton. I was in the wrong room. It was an acting seminar but I just went with it and started to read lines. I messed mine up but kept smiling toward Cage. As the girl beside me read her script he stopped her and said “I’m sorry, I am just so captivated by the smile of the girl sitting next to you.” I smiled from inside out and woke up.

Then, in real life’s bright morning light, I remembered. As a child living outside New York City all I had wanted to do was act. I loved movies and television and wanted to be on screen. My mom, a newly retired organist and choir director, was a borderline nun at the time and we only watched “Masterpiece Theatre” and read the news. How could I explain to her what I wanted to do? So I didn’t. I shoved it down deep inside until a near-death situation, recovery and a dream happened and it erupted out of me like molten lava out of Vesuvius.

I am a planner, not just for events but for life. I have made huge goals and accomplished all of them. In this instance, I came up with a plan: I reached out to all my friends in the movie and TV business and got their advice. Now I have started to do it!

I organized the Actor’s Intensive Workshop at Portland Stage with my friend Rozanne Gates. Gates was Kathy Bates’ college roommate and became a successful New York talent agent, launching the careers of Edward Norton and Chris Noth, among others. I did my first stand-up set in the Peaks Island Variety show. I also wrote a one-woman show, Olivia Vega Talking to Myself: A Story About Love, Life and What It All Means, that I will be producing this fall.

Anyone can pursue their dreams. A third act is described on Wikipedia as “the climax… leaving… characters with a new sense of who they really are.” I hope to have many acts on this amazing stage we call life. Whatever act you are in, know it is a great one. Break a leg!

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