The Best of Us (4)
Updated: May 16
The world is a much less bright and wonderful place today.
My dear friend Camilla Schade, the very embodiment of loveliness and joy, left this earth last night. Her life was much too brief, and many who loved her will miss her radiant smile dearly.
Camilla was a challenge and a pleasure to collaborate with. Years ago I directed her in a 10-minute play (that we had one day to pull together). During that process when I'd come up with an idea or direction, she was not only receptive and eager (“Okay! Great!”) but added something to it, some little move, some minute vocalization that gave that moment more emotion, gravitas, truth. You could see her assessing the line in the script and putting it through her particular filter and coming up with something only she could have thought of. And it always came out better.
In my play "And They Lived Happily Ever After," I wrote the part of Mixie with her in mind. It was the first time I'd crafted a part for a particular actor. I remember thinking that with Camilla in the role, I had the freedom to attempt almost anything. Her first scene was outrageous: Bounding onstage in nothing but a hospital johnny (her character had just escaped from an observation ward), Camilla performed what is probably the nuttiest performance of the worst piece of slam poetry ever written. Holding nothing back (she almost never did—in anything), Camilla howled, growled, and prowled the stage ejaculating complete nonsense as if it were Holy Shakespeare. And that was only the opening scene. She made my idle comedy so much better than it had a right to be.
A few years later, she and her beloved Bruce bestowed on me the great honor of officiating at their wedding. Of course, I take every ceremony I officiate at very seriously and, since she and Bruce were my very good friends, I felt this to be even more exceptional. But...because it was Camilla and Bruce—and because it would be in front of many of our mutual friends—I took extra care to prepare a homily virtually dripping with devotional meaning, inspiration, and personal reminiscences. That lasted pretty much four minutes into our planning meeting, when Camilla announced that during the ceremony everyone would be wearing red clown noses. “Including you,” she added. A beat of silence. I looked at Bruce, who just grinned back at me. Camilla wanted (ordered, really) the wedding to be fun, joyous, anything but a dour, solemn occasion. And so it was. But silly red clown noses or not, the looks of love between Camilla and Bruce completely usurped both solemnity and hilarity by what every wedding should have more of: absolute joy.
I use the word “joy” a lot here. There really isn't another word I can find that sums up Camilla as well as that. Her life, her presence, was a special one-in-a-million gift to all who came within her sphere. Her smile was infectious perfection. We only get a few people like this in our lives—if we are lucky—and while we mourn their loss we have to remember those many times when their innate joie de vivre enhanced our days and taught us that life can always be special if we genuinely desire it so. Because that is exactly what Camilla was all about: JOY. (A recent episode of Onstage/Offstage features Camilla; you can hear it here.)