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An Open Letter from Ira David Wood III

Ira David Wood III

Ira David Wood III

EDITOR’S NOTE: On Nov. 4th, shockwaves rippled through the Triangle theater community when Theatre in the Park executive and artistic director Ira David Wood III announced that he would not be playing Charles Dickens’ malicious old misanthrope Ebenezer Scrooge in the 2010 edition of his madcap musical-comedy version of A Christmas Carol. Wood, who turned 63 on Nov. 19th, has been hamming it up hilariously as Scrooge since December 1974, when he was only 27. Wood’s movie-star-handsome son and namesake, Ira David Wood IV, who celebrated his 26th birthday on Nov. 20th, played Scrooge this year; and Ira Wood co-directed the show with his 23-year-old movie-star sister, Evan Rachel Wood. As corny as it may sound, when Ira Wood followed David Wood in the role of Ebenezer Scrooge, it wasa bit like following the late, great Laurence Olivier in the role of Hamlet.

David Wood is a long-time friend of, and sometimes contributor to, Triangle Theater Review. On Nov. 5th, he submitted his first open letter to the Triangle theater community in response to our get-well e-mail. Several updates have followed. — R.W.M

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UPDATE: Sunday, Dec. 19, 2010, 11:10 a.m.

Hello, Robert Claus!

Thanks for your kind inquiry … as well as the blood, sweat, and tears that continue to flow into all your reviewing efforts! I’ve been keeping up … with some amazement … at the sheer number of shows you’ve been covering. In the midst of it all, I hope you do realize what a service you provide to the local theater community and to the public in general. Please know too how deeply it’s appreciated.

My recovery continues to move (slowly but surely) forward. I can already tell such a difference in the amount of oxygen I’m getting in my system because of improved circulation. I haven’t gotten all the wind back in my sails just yet … and had to turn down a role in North Carolina Theatre‘s The Producers because of that fact. Most days, the energy is there. Some days, it’s simply gone and you have no idea where it slipped off to. So … I take it a day at a time. I exercise and rest … and try my best not to be too over-anxious to have all of those recovery efforts behind me too soon.

I’ve learned quite a bit about the procedure and recently revisited “my” floor in Wake Med … to share a few hugs with my nurses … and to once more see what has now become very familiar “territory.” I’ve also discovered what a unique bond a heart patient develops with his surgeons. They become part of your life … fixtures of quiet reassurance and strength. I’ve also indicated my willingness to serve as a “counselor” to anyone who is preparing to go through heart surgery. Three men did that for me, and it meant so very much. I’d like nothing more than to be able to return the favor.

The number of prayers and messages I received were so humbling. Each thought … each prayer … was truly and sincerely appreciated. I remain deeply touched by such a remarkable outpouring of love.

I continue to feel such pride, too, in my son [Ira David Wood IV]’s incredible job as Scrooge in this year’s production of A Christmas Carol. As a dear friend said, there is now indisputable evidence that the show will live on and hopefully continue to entertain and heal hearts long after I’ve taken my last curtain call. That knowledge is such a precious gift. He stepped into the role with such dedication, ease, and grace. I marveled at the job he did … and continue to do so. I will always be in his debt.

My daughter [Evan Rachel Wood]’s presence was also a unique blessing. Her relationship with her brother is such a strong and sincere one. It was a joy to watch them work together … sharing notes, ideas, and suggestions. They work together as a fine team … old souls joining together in such pure joy and happy dedication … and there is much for a father to celebrate in that knowledge.

I’m also deeply grateful to our audience … those who attended and gave Ira David IV such incredible support and encouragement. Seeing the show from out front for the first time was an awesome experience — and I was able to do it more than once! All of it was such a wonderful learning experience.

I’m deeply grateful to this year’s cast and crew … all of those wonderful people who fell in behind Ira David with their support, talent, and generosity of spirit. I’ve never been prouder of a group of people.

My deepest gratitude and love goes to my wife, Ashley, for being there with me every single step of the way. In those occasional moments of discomfort, her gentle hand in mine meant the world to me … calming all fears and apprehensions. She was a pillar of quiet and enduring strength. She continues to make my new heart smile!

All in all, I continue to see the world through a new pair of eyes. Little moments, grabbed here and there, become such celebrations of life! Colors seem more vivid; sounds are sweeter; the music is more lovely. In fact, all of my senses seem more attuned to life and all of its rhythms. My own personal transformation, like Scrooge’s, has been a unique blessing … and I look forward to where all of it will lead me in the days to come.

I took my first professional theater job because someone said to me: “I’m looking for a young man who wants to change the word and thinks theater is the way to do it.” I know I’m no longer a young man … but the dream remains the same and the challenge is still there. Through all of the ups and downs, this is still such a unique and inspiring “business.” And there’s still “no people like show people!”

The holidays will be truly celebrated in the Wood house this year — and for many days to come!

I send warmest wishes to you and yours. May this Christmas be the best Christmas yet.

Sincerely,
Ira David Wood III


UPDATE: Wednesday, Nov. 24, 2010, 9:17 p.m.

Dear Robert,

I am HOME and recouping nicely. I’m walking every day and building a bit of stamina back.

I went out last night for sushi … and it was the best I’ve ever tasted. But then again, I think that the entire world has become more vibrant in my eyes. I find myself drinking in sights, sounds, and smells. And what a wonderful time of year to be able to do that!

It’s also grand to be able to grab a nap here and there when it’s called for — and to do it with no guilt at all.

They say I’ll need six to eight weeks of recovery time. I’m told I should look forward to good days as well as not so good days for a while. Still, what a miraculous journey this has been! Open heart surgery and home in less than a week! It’s still almost inconceivable to me.

It’s been so wonderfully comforting to have Ira [David Wood IV] and Evan [Rachel Wood] close at hand — and I’m so very proud of the work they’ve done together on A Christmas Carol. I look forward to joining those in the audience this year!

I am especially grateful and humbled by all of the prayers offered in my behalf before, during, and after my surgery. The loving support from so many friends (as well as complete strangers) has touched me deeply.

The quiet times during recovery have provided much quality time for reflection and contemplation. The words from A Christmas Carol come back to me often and have such resonance to now: The thing is to do the most you can with the time you still have left on this earth. That is my goal. There is no better way to sum it up.

I look forward to returning to life, to the stage, and to a world where every day is going to be a very good day!

I send best wishes to you and yours, and hope you have the happiest of Thanksgivings!

Warmly,
Ira David Wood III


UPDATE: Wednesday, Nov. 17, 2010, 1:40 p.m.

Dear Robert,

Recovery has been a mixed bag of good and not so good news. The main thing now is for my heartbeat to remain in proper rhythm. It has gone in and out. I’m told this is not unusual, but I may have to be put under one more time, so the heart can be shocked into its proper rhythm. It’s beating correctly as of this time today. If all remains the same, they say I will return home tomorrow.

Warmest regards,
Ira David Wood III


ORIGINAL E-MAIL: Friday, Nov. 5, 2010, 3:20 p.m.

Dear Robert,

When a very respected cardiologist looks into your eyes and says, “This is serious,” you do not take the words lightly. After the initial shock wears off, your enemy — aside from a heart that is not functioning properly — becomes the torturous waiting.

I have a week before open heart surgery … a week to lie in bed and think about a zillion things … not all of them pleasant.

Of course you think of dying, and why not? They stop your heart from beating during the surgery and keep you alive by machines!

The next thing that happens has to do with your emotions. You tend to cry at anything … anything. And you do it often.

You think about the life you’ve lived so far and what you’d most like to do with what will be left of it after such major surgery.

You look forward to feeling better. Those who’ve had the procedure say you’ll feel livelier than you have in years. I hope that’s true.

If I have 20 years of life left to me, I’d like those years to be enjoyed with as much energy and passion as possible.

You’re so thankful for family … and the fact that they gather to be close to you. Sitting with them by the fireside takes on new depth and meaning.

You reach out often … just to touch a wife, a son, a daughter … just to stroke them in silent celebration and appreciation.

You don’t want a lot of noise and commotion around you. It becomes an incredible thing just to hear the normal world continue on its course outside your bedroom window. The distant hum of a leaf-blower. A passing car. A barking dog. Joyous affirmations that life goes on … and the knowledge that it does so with or without you.

Somehow, there is reassuring comfort in the thought of nature’s continuity. And, strangely, it’s a very healthy thing to discover that you were never irreplaceable.

The outpouring of loving words from friends near and far humbles you beyond description. Someone leaves balloons in your front yard. Another comes to anoint you with Holy Oil before the day of surgery. Their expressions of encouragement, Facebook messages, e-mails, the offering of prayers, the sweet and unexpected words of loving support lift you to healing heights.

Then I think of the recovery period … after the surgery … once the dreaded ordeal has passed.

For 35 years, my life during this time of year has centered around a single theatrical production. What will life be like without those particular demands that always gave my daily existence its motion and purpose? It’s been over three decades since I’ve been able to simply enjoy the holidays … attending a church service, taking a drive through the neighborhood to see the Christmas decorations, watching the usual holiday specials that annually spill from the television set into everyone’s living room. Things that most people take for granted will be entirely new experiences for me.

I’ve never seen [A Christmas Carol] from the audience. Will I be able to do that? What will my new heart be feeling?

My son will be up there! He’ll be taking my place. His well-deserved turn in the light. I know one new heart that will be swelling with pride.

You see, no one else has ever known … truly known … what it’s like to do that role in that show … what the physical and emotional demands are … how it wrestles with you and begins to shape your life. Now he will know too. Now we will be able to sit together and talk about the experience. Now there will be one other on this earth who will know the same feeling … who will finally understand. There it is again … that reassuring comfort in the thought of nature’s continuity.

Will it be a Happy Thanksgiving? A Merry Christmas?

I certainly plan for it to be. In fact, it will … for me … be the most blessed holiday season I’ve experienced so far.

Even a sick heart already anticipates that.

To be well … to be whole … to share life with those you love … and to hold in your heart thoughts of the One whose birth we continue to celebrate at this special time of year.

It is my prayer that the season will mean … somehow and in some special way … the same things to YOU.

From one heart to another …
in gratitude and love,
Ira David Wood III

LINKS:

Ira David Wood III: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ira_David_Wood_III (Wikipedia), http://www.theatreinthepark.com/theatre_staff_board.html (Theatre in the Park), and http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0202796/ (Internet Movie Database).

Theatre in the Park: http://www.theatreinthepark.com/ (official website) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theatre_in_the_Park (Wikipedia).

NOTE: Get-well wishes may be e-mailed to David Wood via info@theatreinthepark.com, or snail-mailed to him at Theatre in the Park, 107 Pullen Rd., Raleigh, NC 27607.

EDITOR’S NOTE:

This Letter to the Editor is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.

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