PUBLISHED Thursday, September 24th, 2015

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Surrendering Still 0

      Shannon Moore sits on the wood-paneled bench in Central Park. Moss-green paint chips along the top of the bench framed by rod-iron legs curling up from bolts in the concrete. Shannon shimmies a little to get comfortable as she peers about to take in the very crisp afternoon. She releases a deep breath, then jumps back into the conversation at hand. A subtle smile settles on her face. Shannon knows these next words define her entire life.
      “That’s when I finally surrendered and said, ‘Okay, God, I can’t do it anymore. You step in. You take charge now,’” she says.
      The ground does not tremble at this. The bench does not shatter under these words. And the sidewalk does not split into a cavern. No, not in the physical reality, at least. But all of that happens inside Shannon as that statement comes out. Because for someone who has trudged (i.e. walked, breathed in, fallen, cried, celebrated, stumbled, skipped) along the streets of New York for 14 years as an actress, “surrender” can be like running in wet cement only for it to dry and leave that person statuesque and unable to move.
      Shannon stands as a beautiful statue of surrender.
      She feels like God has kept her in this place. A girl from a small town in North Carolina, Shannon had longed to be in New York and then promptly hated everything about it once she arrived. But she’s never left. This city is her own now. For richer or for poorer, she has stuck it out. Stories galore lie in the wake of her adventures in Manhattan. And these stories all lead her to this moment of surrender.

***
      A distinct Shannon moment happens every time Ms. Moore speaks. A charming Southern accent unfolds in absolute glory.

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charming Southern accent unfolds in absolute glory. Endearing comes to mind when she converses. And the brightest smile to hit a person’s day follows right behind. When people meet Shannon, they will usually walk away murmuring something about that beaming burst of joy they just got smothered by. Shannon’s positivity has often trumped her circumstances. This is a key characteristic for someone who has had to audition countless times in the city. No matter what, just keep smiling.
      Shannon’s pursuits have ranged from the screen to the stage and many things in between. And her approach has certainly helped her adapt, even when the gig lands a bit out of her comfort zone.
      One audition always comes to mind when Shannon remembers monumental gigs in her career. It was that one time they asked her to do the waltz. The waltz? Sure, that is an easy one.
      “I had an agent call me and say, ‘Shannon, can you do the waltz?’” Shannon remembers. “And I’m thinking, of course I can waltz. Who can’t waltz? Anybody can do the waltz. And they told me that they had an audition for a film, and you just have to go do the waltz. So I get there and everything is going well and then, come to find out, we are Viennese Waltz-ing. Well, who in the world knows what that is?”
      She showed up ready to slowly float from one old-fashioned waltz-y step to the next. But once the music began, her partner grabbed ahold and led her in a slightly different direction than the waltz. Shannon quickly knew she had the wrong waltz. This audition was for dancers who knew how to elegantly glide along the floor doing the more difficult version of the classic ballroom style.
      Shannon practically popped with laughter when she realized she had no idea how to do the Viennese Waltz. For a split second, a thousand thoughts of backing out hit her.

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of backing out hit her. But then, as if a sweeping cloud of calm came across her face, she smiled at her partner and surrendered the moment. She gave it up to God. And God promptly urged her to just keep smiling.
      “Well, I start dancing, having the time of my life, pretty much laughing at myself,” Shannon explains. “I hadn’t had a formal dance audition in six years. I am partnered with some guy, and it’s for one of the world’s top choreographers. After it is all said and done, they said callbacks will be tomorrow. I had a job in Boston the next day, so I’ll just take it that I had fun and I learned from it. And that was that.”
      The next week, her phone rang with news about getting the part. The part was a lead dancer in the blockbuster hit Enchanted. That movie played in every city in America, and Shannon glitzed and glided in a Renaissance-style ballroom scene for all of her pals to see. Her smile shined brightly, of course.
      That was one of many moments where she had to let go and just trust that she stood in the right place at the right time. Other moments, unfortunately, were not always like that.

***
      “You know the closer you get to God and His son Jesus, you become more submissive to His will instead of your own,” Shannon says. “But of course, we are still human, so we still have to battle all the time.”
      Audition studios should all look the same. Wood floors, mirrors on three walls, and maybe a piano in the corner. At the front should sit the director and casting director of whatever production is at hand. A classic dance studio often sets the scene.
      Shannon assumed as much when she ascended a few floors up an old Manhattan building for an audition. As eager as ever, Shannon beamed as she opened the door. But her normal big smile crimped into a confused half-smirk because the room stood about as spacious as a large closet. Well, maybe even smaller than that.
      But Shannon is a pro. Her smile perked back up, and she got her game face on. The audition was for a small part. Nothing major, but she needed the work and felt good about the script. After handing over her credentials and headshot, Shannon readily waited for the cue to start auditioning. The people running the audition looked back awkwardly. She reciprocated the look. Finally, they asked her to get into her bikini, as if she should have known that. Shannon’s Southern twang roared as she said, “Excuse me?”
      “In this case, it was just two guys and me in a room about the size of a closet,” Shannon laughs. “And they have this little jambox—this is before MP3’s and stuff—and they start playin’ music. [They] ask me if I brought my bathing suit. Well I said, ‘No.’ And then they told me to go change into a bathing suit and just start dancing. I literally said, ‘No’ and just walked out.”
      That wasn’t the first time she had to walk away from a gig because it crept too closely to the borders of her integrity. Thankfully, her integrity often precedes her before ever walking onto a set.
      During a movie shoot in 2002, Shannon waited around as the writers and director discussed a script change. She chatted with the other actors, two women she had worked with before. Everyone on set knew each other. The familiarity came from a previous project that featured much of the same cast. After a few minutes, the director came back to discuss the scene. They had mentioned the idea of going in a more sensual direction with the women but quickly nixed the idea.

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but quickly nixed the idea. They subtly mentioned that they knew Shannon wouldn’t be okay with it.
      She felt something burst inside. It was gratitude. Throughout her career, Shannon has not been shy about her faith, her beliefs, and her moral compass. Following Jesus can sometimes be shunned in the city and in her particular industry. But people also respect her pursuit of faith. And in this moment, it was that openness about how she chose to live her life that protected her from an otherwise compromising situation. Shannon has had to let go of the desire to make money and instead tightly grip the promise that God will provide. Jesus will protect her, and the Holy Spirit will speak to her in a timely manner.
      The group discussed an alternative, and they all finished feeling very happy with the outcome.
      “I was on a film set, and there was supposed to be a sex scene, and I was just kind of like, ‘Nope, this isn’t gonna work,’” Shannon says. “And thankfully, because I had stepped up in all of my other films and work and stuck to who I was, the directors had my back and even spoke for me and told the producers that Shannon won’t be able to do that.”
      God has truly taken care of Shannon. An acting gig usually means two things to her: another notch in her long career belt and a paycheck. Living out a life of denying or accepting roles based on her integrity and beliefs often means leaving money on the table and walking away. This is not easy. But then, every so often she gets reminded that she really is taken care of. Only if, however, she just lets go of control and accepts the moment at hand. Surrender is a pretty good word for that.

***

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      The landlord casually waved Shannon over to his office as she passed by. She walked up to his desk knowing exactly why he had called her over. Her rent was due. She had no money to pay it, and she had already told the landlord as much. A gig had not materialized in a while, and she sat empty-handed. This encounter happened early on in Shannon’s career, and she was still waiting tables to pay the bills. Her life was based on the inconsistent generosity of tips. Each step toward the desk was a reminder of this fact. But Shannon trotted over anyway, accepting whatever may come.
      He held up an envelope with her name on it. It was delivered to the building that morning. The landlord shoved it into her hands and urged her to read it.
      “Hurry up!” he said. “Open it, open it.”
      She flipped the envelope to check the address. Handwriting in the center of the envelope read, “Forward to Shannon Moore on the Westside.” I’m Shannon Moore. I live on the west side, she thought to herself. But the actual address was for someone with the same name on the east side. Shannon split open the top of the envelope and slowly peered in as if looking into a wishing well. Nestled down in the envelope was a check. She slipped it out and looked at the name on the check. “Shannon Moore” was scrawled across the top line.
      She looked back up at her landlord dumbfounded. He looked back with a big sloppy grin, happy she could finally pay her rent. But Shannon shuddered at the idea. She knew for sure that this check was not intended for her. She hadn’t worked a gig or expected any type of royalty check anytime soon.
      She gave the check a second look. It had her name, her address, and the perfect amount for rent. As her head searched for some logical reason, her landlord stuck a pen right in front of her face. He pleaded with her to sign the check and use that money to pay her rent.

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check and use that money to pay her rent.
      “I know it wasn’t me, but I signed it because the manager said I could and that was that,” Shannon says. “But that just shows you that somehow some way, Jehovah Jireh is gonna provide you with some way. He is the ultimate provider.”
      Shannon chalked this one up to a minor miracle in her life. And also another moment when she had to just trust that God was going to take care of her. She surrendered it. And just about a year later, a government-issued letter arrived and explained that Shannon owed the amount of that timely check. At this point, she had the money and gladly paid it all back. It all worked out. Another New-York-God moment in the books.

***
      The number of hours that Shannon has spent daydreaming is countless. She figured out pretty early on what joy the art and craft of daydreaming brings. This started in the small town of High Point, North Carolina, where she was born and raised. Once her teenage years began feeling the pressure to figure out what her 20-something-years needed to look like, New York City became center stage for the day dreams. The defining characteristic of Shannon, however, is that she truly believed in her hope for New York.
      She took her first dance class at the age of six, gobbling up the idea of being on stage. From that first dance class, through middle and high school dance teams, to youth musical productions, and into the college performing arts courses, performing could not be bottled up in Shannon. She had to let it out. And she did. There was never an extended period of time as a kid when she wasn’t working on some choreography or script for an upcoming show.
      But, of course, the more she developed her craft, that urgency to be in the big city developed as well. To a young performing artist, New York always looks within reach. She would have paid to be on Broadway, let alone get paid for it. Once her time in college wound down, every decision she made was based on if it would help or hurt her ability to make it to the big city.
      Shannon knew from the start that she needed a gig before she could even think about moving to New York. So when she got that first gig, it was memorable, to say the least.
      “I was actually working at a resort in Pennsylvania, and every chance I had I would come to New York and hit the auditions. [I would] couch-hop just so I could hit [the] auditions. And that’s when I got the show,” Shannon remembers. “Once I found out how great the theater was, I knew that I had to leave the show I was at in Pennsylvania. My friends were telling me that I couldn’t say ‘no’ because it was a huge opportunity. I didn’t realize how big it was. Which goes to show you how great our God is…”
      That first off-Broadway show gave Shannon the boost she needed to make the move. She packed up, headed north, and settled in. Not too many people were surprised. She was always a big personality in a small town with an even bigger smile. There was just one tiny, kind of big, problem. She hated New York. After her first contract ended, she was completely disgusted by the place.
      “I absolutely hated it here,” Shannon remembers of the city.
      In some ways, Shannon could have been a billboard for a small-town girl. Her hometown sprawled out to form a very rural country town. For most of her childhood, she was in the spotlight. Popular. Pretty. Praised. Where she came from, she was very much loved.

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from, she was very much loved. And she loved her town right back.
      So when the historically bad sewer stink floated into her nostrils, it triggered millions of neurons to her brain, saying: Nope! This is not the place for you. Her petite frame didn’t do well as she jostled between the hoards of sidewalking city folk. Her smile was not embraced, it was actually viewed as suspect. Every part of the weather came in more intense than in North Carolina, especially the winter. Her bubbliness got popped many times in those early months by the smothering nature of the city’s toughness.
      But it was the constant rejection that really took a toll.
      Shannon’s alarm would beep just as sunlight peeked over the East River, and she would scurry around her tiny Upper West Side room getting prepped for a day of auditions. After speed-walking to the subway, she would shuttle to some obscure section of the city, hurry up to a building with a dance studio, and get in line for the audition. Every audition, she put it all on the line. Everything. And then, she would move on to the next audition line. She often had two or three auditions on any given day in those early months of moving to the city. But she never received callbacks. This happened again and again during her first few months in NYC.
      She couldn’t take it anymore. Shannon felt like she had passed her breaking point a few times and stood ready to pack it up and head home. So she prayed. And prayed hard.
      “I told the Lord, ‘If You want me to stay here, You are gonna have to completely change my heart,’” Shannon remembers.
      After that prayer, she got a small gig. And then another. And another. Slowly but surely, her career rolled to a steady beat. She bonded with friends dealing with the same audition ups-and-downs. She began hanging with people at her church.

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people at her church. And most importantly, she began to find the good in the people of the city. That was no small feat. Her first impression of tough New Yorkers starkly contrasted the overtly friendly folks of her hometown. So once her charm broke through that tough exterior, she saw just how intensely compassionate and genuine people living in New York could be. And from then on, a little fabric of her heart changed daily.
      Shannon knows it was God changing her heart to love the city.

***
      Fourteen years later, Shannon still lives and breathes an actor’s life. She has been on T.V., the big screen, and on stage. She has hosted, MC’d, danced, and taught. She has been a spokesperson for major car brands since the early-2000s. These gigs and more have highlighted her diversity. She has the smile that lights up rooms, and she definitely enjoys showing it off.
      The city has always been tough, but always rewarding. She has certainly had to adapt, but she has made it her own. She may have contemplated moving away, but she can’t ever seem to make the move.
      Surrender can be like running in wet cement only for it dry and leave that person statuesque and unable to move. She surrenders it all. During the good and the bad, she perseveres with the Lord. With her church pals at her side, she endures the tough stuff.
      And yet, nothing is tougher than surrender. But Shannon will be the first to say that once you surrender everything to the Lord, everything gets a whole lot easier.
Copyright © 2017 re.write magazine. All Rights Reserved.

Surrendering Still 8 Copyright © 2017 re.write magazine. All Rights Reserved.

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