Pressure Makes Diamonds

I love the moment when a heat spell breaks and we return to seasonal temperatures. At 2:39 a.m. I woke up, padded downstairs to turn off the AC and open the windows. Ahhh. Joy!

Returning to Joy, to lightness after coming through a dark or heavy period, is such a blessing. One can almost appreciate the storms of life when they give way to clear skies.

Yesterday, we traveled east to Port Chester, NY. Our destination was a movie theater, just a few miles from the home where I spent my boyhood in Rye Brook.

Our friends, Anthony and Stephanie, were in Port Chester to premiere a cinematic version of Anthony’s play of the same name, “Pressure Makes Diamonds.” It’s a character piece where Anthony brings to life a dozen or so of the colorful relatives and locals who influenced him in his youth.

I’ve known Anthony since 2011 or 2012 when I was fortunate to play Professor Harold Hill in a production of “ The Music Man.” A mutual friend, Regina, was also in the musical and I met Anthony and Stephanie at one of Regina’s parties. They were all “theater people,” loud, funny and emotional. We’ve all remained friends during the last decade, hanging out at hootenannies or at some of the plays Anthony directed for a community theater, The Harrison Players. I haven’t seen them much since we left the area, so it was great to reconnect and support their creativity.

Anthony and I share a connection to The Harrison Players. My parents acted, produced, directed, built sets and served on the HP board when I was a boy. My brother and I were newsboys in a production of “Gypsy” and we pulled the curtain, sold orange juice at intermission and spent many years backstage or in the theater as children. These are some of the most positive memories of my youth when our entire family enjoyed the arc of putting on a play with friends. Simple times. Simple joys.

In addition to both of us pursuing a family-inspired start in the theater and music, Anthony and I also share the ups and downs, the real comedy and tragedy, that is inherent in having a career in the performing arts. We both have more famous family members (my brother, Craig, and Anthony’s son, Anthony Vincent) and we each have known success in ways that we didn’t anticipate in our dreams. I’d offer that Scott and Anthony are both real versions of Mr. Holland, less renowned than we planned, but very much people who were lucky to teach, inspire and enjoy the satisfaction of having tenaciously followed our north stars – wherever they led us.

That’s the main reason I wanted to drive two hours each way last night. It wasn’t to see a movie or visit with good, old friends. It was to honor a huge effort. Making a movie on a shoestring budget over three years is a major life accomplishment and that’s something to celebrate. I am so proud of Anthony and Stephanie.

Throughout the movie, a smile was frozen on my face. It wasn’t just that the film was funny (it was) or engaging (yup). It was something that transcended enjoyment. It was something closer to familial pride, the feeling that comes up when one of my tribe marries, graduates, gets a big job they love, finishes a CD or struts their stuff on a stage. It’s unrelated to traditional measures of success (money and fame) and more about a momentous passage, a journey completed.

As Anthony said in the Q and A after the film, “I’m sorry to say this to the young people in the audience, but life is hard and it continues to be even when we’re older. The trick is to keep going.”

So true. Pressure does, indeed, make diamonds.

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