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Sometimes, when he introduces me to his friends (or to his girlfriend who, for about an hour, I thought was his cousin) he tells them how I don’t put up with him. How as he makes our job his practice stage for life, mostly with too much talking, I sarcastically shut down his banter when he expects me to listen. It turns him on or something. As he soaks the social spotlight, I laugh with his informal audience and wish he wouldn’t let them in on the little games we play.

Truth is, I think the kid’s pretty creative. Genius often, when it comes to art. Performance. Passion. He perplexes me, which keeps me coming back for more. And without trying, I have the same effect on him – whether he’ll tell you that part or not. The problem is—he can’t turn it off.

Tonight, I watched this friend of mine put his acting where it belongs—on the stage. Though most of my interaction with him as been offstage, he’s always still acting. He’s an actor on Saturday nights when we’re all hanging at the bar; he’s an actor at work, while we wait tables in all black; he’s an actor in his own home, perched comfortably on the couch with company. When he takes this permanently post-“action!” life to the stage where it belongs, the results are astounding.

Truth is, you’re lucky to ever get the truth with him. His thoughts come out in jokes, his desires in false pick-up lines, his insecurity in ridicule. But tonight’s truth was plain from thirty feet away, him on the stage with his suit coat tucked into his pants like any movement teacher from an online college would, of course, do.

This time I laughed with the formal audience that I sat among, trying to pick out lines and movements that he’d added himself. He transformed into characters I’d never seen in between familiar personas that come to work all the time. Some were more him that others, all were clever and quick like I suppose he truly is, somewhere in there. The truth tonight was that he fulfilled a dream, crushed a fear of failure that I assume he carries like baggage through this life of performance. And while he held a stone-straight face on the stage, I laughed to penetrate the stage presence, to congratulate the real man behind the actor.