Lionel M. Macauley 1991-2020
I woke up early yesterday morning, and there was a silent peace to the world. It being Sunday there wouldn't have been much hustle and bustle anyway, but it was more quiet than usual, and to me, there was something peaceful about it. I wasn't ready to get up, and had plenty of time before I had to start my day, so I did a quick glance of Facebook, checked some other correspondences and rolled back over to get a little more rest, embracing the silence. When I woke up later, there was still calmness, but the peace was gone.
I had awakened to the news that Lionel M. Macauley was no longer of this earth. It was the very first post I saw made by Diane L. Parker of NJCAC as I opened Facebook. My initial thought in the current time we live in was he became another victim of coronavirus. It was not the case. Lionel and another person were victims of a shooting at a house party on or near the New Brunswick Rutgers campus. Diane called me just as I was finding this out; around 1:30am an SUV pulled up upon the party. About four persons dressed in black got out, entered the home, shot up the place, and rolled out. That was all I knew, and essentially all I needed to know, and yet, I had trouble understanding. My heart was erupting with sadness and rage, one emotion fighting the other, all while preparing for two performances on this Sunday afternoon.
I met Lionel in 2015. Villagers Theatre in Somerset, NJ was putting together their production of Fences, and was still looking to cast the role of Bono; we were already two weeks into rehearsals and the original actor cast wasn't working out - didn't vibe well with the rest of the cast. director Jerome Arthur John brought in Lionel to read a scene with me, and although he read from the script, as he spoke you felt the silence in the room. The cast and crew felt his presence as he delivered his lines, and out of the corner of my eye I saw the head nods of agreement. Bono was cast. The family was finally whole.
I, myself, was still relatively new to acting at this time, Fences being my seventh production, and my first lead role. If I had learned nothing else by then, I learned how to create familiarity with my scene partner to make our convos seamless. Lionel and I clicked right away, as we had been friends all of our lives. On top of that, he was as encouraging for me with all of the dialogue I had to learn, which I told him (half kidding) I did it out of fear - I was trusted with this monster of a role and I didn't want to disappoint. Other actors I come across that I had love for I refer to as my little brothers and sisters. Lionel was my partner in crime. That relationship remained well beyond Fences.
The relationship was brief; a few months shy of five years, yet our relationship was as true as Troy & Bono. I'm amazed what I've learned in that time. Acting was the next mountain for him to climb. This high school football standout who loved to dance was broadening his horizons before my eyes. His first love was spoken word, something that I low-key have been interested in for a while. He would always drop me a link whenever he put pen to paper and scribed a masterpiece. His best work, in my humble opinion came when Diane L. Parker called upon us for her Motown Revue. I was asked to emcee, and Lionel was asked to create a piece in celebration of the label. I was already in awe of him from work I had already heard, but the first time I heard him drop this piece... the style, the flow, the way words were interwoven and remained connected would have made Berry Gordy proud. A part of me made me retire my pad and bow to his greatness, yet his passing has somewhat kept a fire in me to attempt the craft in his honor. I haven't decided yet.
We had always wanted to work together again post Fences, but the opportunity never arose. The last conversation I had with him I tried to get him to come on to Mister Rickey Calls a Metting, He was preparing to go abroad. Always on the move, always seeking that next hurdle to climb. He started every morning with the social media post, "Blessed and Grateful", and he truly was. He was an actor. He was a dancer. He was a spoken word talent. He was a producer. He was phenomenal... and he was nowhere near his apex.
Had I known the serenity of this Sunday morning was your transitioning, I would have appreciated it more.
Sleep well, my Partner in Crime.