By Victoria L. Dammer
Significant moments of our lives that expose personal struggles from early childhood to adulthood can be told through humor, song, and sadness, and cabaret performer Rian Keating displayed that in his musical memoir Time Stamps: Life Fragments in Story and Song.
2022 MAC Award-winning Keating, appearing at the Episcopal Actors’ Guild with his Musical Director/Accompanist Darryl Curry, was a master at weaving his stories with songs he enjoyed, like those he admired written by Jacques Brel. Time Stamps follows a format from a set of assignments Keating completed in a memoir writing class with weekly prompts. It’s an interesting twist as we learn about his past adventures and how he got to where he is today.
Growing up in an Irish-American family in New Hampshire and being hard of hearing, Keating lays bare his struggle with his sexuality and Catholicism. After leaving high school, he headed to New York to make his fame and fortune, once taking a beating from an anti-gay person in Grand Central Station. After that, he wandered around New York from seedy apartment to apartment, sleeping on the ground in Central Park.
Keating revealed he had an emotional, sexual encounter with the wife of his hometown minister, which brought a round of overwhelming laughter to the audience. He followed with the song Summer, The First Time, by Bobby Goldsboro, bringing back heartfelt memories to those in attendance.
Keating reminded us he created the successful Spotlight! for Manhattan Cable’s public access channel, interviewing in a very informal format the likes of Gwen Verdon, Irish actor Milo O’Shea, and a very young Charlie Sheen.
Keating delved into perhaps the most painful and complicated part of his life, the story of his younger sister Moira, who had a mental illness and was cutting. The audience could sense his despair as he described how his sister lived with his mother in squalor until his mother died, and he was forced to place his sister in an institution. The story was heartbreaking.
Keating took us on his journey from lows to highs, ending with the intimate story of how he met the love of his life and ultimately married him.
Keating’s stories are everyone’s stories, and combining his voice and sharing his innermost emotions confirms that storytelling and song are remarkable crafts he has handsomely accomplished.
The Episcopal Actors’ Guild, 1 East 29th Street, New York.