Acting coach Flo S. Greenberg and her student who will love and miss her forever
In the end, you think about the beginning. If you are me, you also think what Harry Potter thought on Dobby's funeral. You, too, deserved a funeral like Dumbledore's. I'm sorry I wasn't there to make sure you had one.
And while your life ended peacefully, my career is beginning chaotically. No. My career began the day I met you.
In July, 1998 I walked into your class wearing a strappy and striped shirt from Limited Too. I hadn't even gotten my period yet and you only taught adults, but my aunt called everyone in NYC until someone took me in, until anyone accepted me in their class. She promised you I'd be mature and responsible and you agreed to let me try for just one class.
At the end of the class you asked me if I had an agent. And I asked what that was, because I honestly didn't know. Yes, I was bilingual, yes, I understood English perfectly, yes, I read as much as I read to this day but that word I was unfamiliar with. You patiently explained what an agent was, as you explained everything else, with patience and love and empathy, with the voice of a woman who was put on the Earth to teach lessons that were never to be forgotten. I remember thinking I wanted one of those, ASAP.
When my uncle came to pick me up you said that coincidentally, someone had called you that very afternoon to ask if you knew a girl my size, my age, and with my hair and skin color for a part in a movie and if they would let me audition. He said he'd have to ask for my parents' permission and after they said yes, we went out to celebrate I was going to audition for my very first movie role. 12-year-old me was walking on sunshine.
The Prince of Central Park needed an Indira and you had to coach me. You had to explain how an audition played out and how to build a character. So I sat on your living room for the very first time of many on a Wednesday and you helped me prepare the role. I don't think I had listened to anyone with that much attention until that day (or ever since). I went on several callbacks, you said they loved me. You were my first agent, too. I continued training on my regular hours with you and tons of grown ups. They were all over 18 and I was 12. I was so scared, so intimidated every time I got on that elevator to get to class.
But then you opened the door and I was home. You were kind, firm, smart and you loved us all. You respected us all. You encouraged us all, but especially me.
I auditioned with two or three boys, I auditioned for the casting director, for the director, for the producers. I remembered every class, every lesson, every word you kindly spoke to me. Every trick you passed down, every bit of technique you had taught me over two hours and then some. I got the part, but we couldn't get the visa on time.
The last day I was there, you explained that this was the business I was getting into. Sometimes it just doesn't work out, but it doesn't mean other auditions won't. It's about endurance, resilience, not speed. It's a marathon. I keep repeating that mantra "es un maratón, no 100 metros planos," for me and for anyone else who will listen. I've been running for 20 years and I'm so, so tired.
Don't you see, Flo? I'm still running because you were the first person who told me I could. I'm still working because whatever you saw in me and commented on, has given me the energy, the drive and the will to KEEP GOING. Every time a casting director says I'm no good, every part I don't get for whatever BS reason, it's your voice in my head telling me to move forward. It's because of the miracle that you picked up the phone twice and the second time said yes to a Venezuelan pre-teen acting student.
Part of your legacy is my now well-polished talent but specially my stubbornness. The fact that YOU sent me to my first NYC audition and I almost got it, the fact that a seasoned, experienced, respected NYC acting coach believed I could get a part in a movie shot in NYC, nada más y nada menos, gives me the courage to keep trying to get other parts that are far beyond everything I could have hoped for. That first glimmer of hope, that first break, that first flash of light... How could I ever repay you? Why didn't I tell you more often that I'm so, so, so thankful for saying that you believed in me, in my talent and in my brains to make this happen? Why didn't I thank you for making me better?
I should have said so, every day. I should have called you, long distance, every day to say thanks. I'm so sorry I didn't. I hope you can forgive me. You are the voice in my head. Eres la voz de mi conciencia. You are my drive and my engine and your words give me the strength to keep going.
For the next 20 years, you were still my teacher and when I wasn't training, we kept in touch. Not as much as I should have, I regret that now. I came to class or just came to visit. You helped me prepare so many parts, so many auditions for scholarships, for the VAF. We talked for hours about everything. I always brought coffee and dinner or lunch because you never let me pay for class. You knew how tough it's been, so you never accepted my money. How much I owe you, Flo Greenberg, is priceless. Nobody has the money to afford that. Confidence, motivation, drive y fuerza. Not enough money in the world to pay for that.
I'm not anywhere near quitting, because I've had it worse. But now I have a moral commitment not only to myself and my work, but to you. I can't quit now that I know you are gone. I wish you could have seen it in person. I wish you could be here. I remember how happy you sounded when I told you about Normal being shown in a NYC Film Festival and how you said it was a dream come true. I'm so proud that you shared that dream with me.
I can't quit because I owe it to your memory. I'll do this in your name. I won't quit, because I finally switched to 90% work, 10% talent like you said I had to. The picture above wasn't taken the last time I saw you and I'm glad it's that way. Because that last time in NYC, I was on my way to the first film festival I got to go with a movie I was in. I'm glad you at least knew that. I'm glad I was able to share that with you and not take precious moments from the conversation to take a picture. I don't need a photo to remember your face or a video to remember your voice, because you speak to me everyday.
I was wondering why I couldn't reach you or get in touch. I thought it was just because you were in Upper Nyack. I thought it was just bad luck I couldn't get you on the phone. I thought you were out for a walk, at the doctor or wherever and later I thought you were out of town enjoying your holidays. I should have known, it was just too many weeks on a row. I'm sorry, Flo. I'm so, so sorry. I still have so much to tell you, Flo. I still need so much advice. I still need so much guidance and, yes, I'll say it, I still need encouragement. Yes, your voice has kept me going for twenty years, but I need it so much still. I need your hugs and your stories, I need your laughter and your frowns. I know I can do this because you said so, but I know it would be much easier with you by my side. I wanted to make you proud and I don't know if you were. There's so much I'll accomplish, there are so many statues and awards I wanted to bring to your house, so many achievements to show you, so many roles I wanted you to coach me for.
Everyday I feel like quitting I'll remember all the days you spent working with me, encouraging me, giving me hope. I can't let your work go to waste. You laid the foundation over which I built my career. I never quit studying or training even though I only have one more acting teacher that has meant as much for me as you have. I won't quit, Flo. Ever. I promise. Thank you for lighting that first spark, that first glimmer of hope. I'll let it keep me warm, always. I'll let that spark lead the way. I swear. I'll be everything you hoped for me and more.
I will love you and miss you forever, but I swear I will never falter. I won't quit because you said I shouldn't. I will make you proud. That much I owe you.
Te quiero mucho y te voy a extrañar,