By Shirley Knight
As a teenager growing up in Houston, Mark Price went to midnight showings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Alabama Theater.
As an out actor on Broadway, Price played Riff Raff in the Rocky Horror Show alongside Joan Jett, who starred as Columbia.
Price says being in a Broadway show “is thrilling and exhausting at the same time.”
“You’re working at the top of your game with some of the best people in the industry,” he says, adding that it requires a lot of strength training and vocal training to do eight shows a week.
Price is currently featured in the Alley Theatre’s production of The 39 Steps, which he says is “a complete blast to do.”
“I play everything from a bush to the female wife of a dictator. The 39 Steps is a beast of a show,” he says. “There’s a lot of logistics, a lot of costume changes, a lot of character changes. It demands a lot of physicality and creativity, and there’s such a feeling of accomplishment once you do it. At the end of the show, it’s such a high — taking the ride that the show demands.”
Price has worked as an actor for 20 years, including performing in 10 Broadway shows, in film and on television. In addition, he teaches both acting and meditation.
“I have several different hats, but whether it’s performing or teaching creatives or teaching mediation, they all culminate in the same thing,” Price says. “The thing that I do best is helping people awaken to the idea that they’re enough. I get to do that for myself when I perform, and I get to do that for other people when I teach. In that respect, all three of those things are connected.”
As an actor, Price says one of his greatest assets is being able to reflect both “the light and the dark.”
“What I do best is find humor in the absurd,” he says. “Most of my roles are freaks, geeks, oddballs and people on the fringe who don’t necessarily fit in, so being able to find the humor in that, that’s what lights me up the most.”
In theater, his most memorable experiences are “when the process has a certain flow to it.
“It’s effortless, and it doesn’t have a lot of friction,” he says. “That’s my favorite, when you get a group of people together in a room and cohesively find a sense of flow together.”
For this to happen, “there has to be a much larger reason why you’re doing the project, and it’s not just for vanity’s sake,” he says.
“It means everyone has to be on board about why you’re in the room, and it takes a really good director to establish that from the get-go,” he says.
In addition to acting, Price has a passion for teaching.
“The whole purpose of teaching is to awaken possibility in other people,” he says. “There is no greater feeling than being of service, and I think that’s why I love teaching.”
One place that benefits from Price’s expertise is the New York Film Academy. Price also teaches master classes by request in New York City.
One thing he tries to impart to his students is that an actor’s job is “to tell the truth and engage in real human behavior.”
While this “is an easy concept to grasp, the application is difficult because we have layers of filters we have to weed through. With younger performers it’s sometimes all polished; it’s not organic and spontaneous, and therefore it’s not truthful,” he says. “It’s like handing someone a gift that’s already been opened. The core of acting is learning how to access impulse.”
One reason Price is able to embody what he teaches is because of his compassion and empathy. A pivotal time in Price’s life came when he experienced the suicide deaths of two family members within a year. He says he employed “a SWAT team of healers” to help him deal with feelings of grief, guilt and shame. This is when he found meditation.
“What I thought I was looking for is a way to let go,” he says. “But what I was really looking for is a way to move forward. You can’t let go of the experience. The experience will always be there, so the only thing is to move forward so you can access more present-moment awareness and enjoy all the good stuff that is happening.”
Price says meditation gave him “a larger frame of reference to identify with other than my pain.”
Price is now a dedicated proponent of the American Society for Suicide Prevention. In events called Overnight Walks, he was able to meet people from every demographic. “Being connected to other survivors helped erase the stigma in a massive way,” he says.
Another factor that led Price into meditation is that he wanted to “stop rehearsing disaster, which was exhausting.” Price says he tried numerous techniques before he settled on Vedic meditation, which involves meditating with a mantra twice a day for 20 minutes.
“All other styles of meditation seemed to have a reverse effect for me,” he says. “A loving-kindness mediation made me feel very unloving and very unkind. There was a lot of chaos going on in my brain when I first learned.”
Price has now been meditating for over a decade, and because of his desire to share what he’s learned, he invested 15 months and over 4000 hours into becoming a meditation teacher. He has taken classes both in New York and in India. He has also founded a practice called Alchemy Collective.
“Some doctors are calling stress the Black Plague of this century,” Price says. “So I wanted to be able to give people a tool to help dissolve that, to be able to turn that stress into something else.”
Along the way, he is creating a community of people who are interested in making meditation a part of their lives. While Price is in Houston, he will offer meditation courses in August and September. He begins with a free and required introductory class, which he says is “an hour to debunk the myths about meditation, the main one being that I have to clear my mind in order to meditate.”
The course proceeds over four consecutive days, 90 minutes each day. After the course, Price offers ongoing support and group meditations to help people continue their practice.
One of Price’s messages is that “the biggest myth is that fulfillment is outside.” He says we fall into the busy trap because we buy into the “I’ll-be-happy-when” syndrome, as opposed to finding fulfillment right here, right now.
He says that when he attended a large neuroscience conference on the topic of meditation research, “it was amazing to see all these doctors from all over the world start to catch up with what a bunch of Indian dudes have been saying for thousands of years, which is, ‘It’s not out there.'”
“The Veda says that there’s only one thing, and it is consciousness, and you and I are it,” he says. “Now unified field science says the same thing.”
In meditation, one of the goals is to connect with what Price calls “the essence of you.
“There’s nothing Shirley MacLaine or groovy about it,” he says. “It’s just the essence of you outside of your stresses, worries and struggles in the full-functioning capacity of body, mind and spirit. What we want is to be able to serve the higher Self more, as opposed to constantly feeding the small self which says ‘mine, mine, mine’ and sees you as completely separate from me.”
Price says that fulfillment and bliss reside in the larger self, and he defines bliss as, “not euphoric states of happiness, but supreme inner contentedness, that feeling that all will be well, even when there’s curveballs, even when massive poo storms are going on.”
Price says meditation “kick-starts the body’s ability to produce the chemicals that are present when we experience well-being.
“Meditation helps us experience more joy,” he says. And when we bring that feeling into our waking states, “then all of a sudden the quality of our relationships start changing, we start choosing partners who have more emotional viability, we start being more truthful with ourselves, we start looking at people for what we can give to them as opposed to what we can get from them.”
“All these benefits start happening without us even manipulating or having an agenda for that to happen,” he says.
Another thing Price emphasizes is alignment with “nature’s intelligence.”
“You can fill in the blank for whatever you want to call that — God, Buddha, whatever,” he says. “Cultivating a personal relationship with that is going to help refine your nervous system so you can pick up what the next right action is. Most of us are constantly engaged with more action, more action, but that’s not useful. What we want is right action, and that’s what a practice like meditation allows us to do is to tune in to those subtle cues that tell us, ‘Go there, do that, pick up the phone and call that person.’
“Because we have that direct relationship, we don’t have to second-guess it,” he adds. “We don’t have to constantly cross-examine and be like, ‘Does that make sense? Should I do that?’ And write out 20 pages of pros and cons before we make a decision. When you have a connection to nature’s intelligence, you start to understand that your desires are nature’s GPS leading you where you’re needed most.”
“Choose your adventure,” Price says.
Price’s adventure has him combining the art of the theater with his passion for teaching. From his high school days in Housto,n where he studied with Tim Driscoll at Stratford, to majoring in theater at Ithaca College in New York, to moving to New York City in 1996, to becoming a Vedic meditation teacher, Price says he’s learned that “creativity and spirituality are pretty much the same thing.”
“It’s not a process of adding layers,” he says. “It’s a process of removing layers. It’s about getting to the core of who you are, and really moving through and examining and detaching and releasing all those layers that are just getting in the way.”
Price says that as a gay teenager in Texas, theater “helped me find compassion and acceptance for myself.
“Theater was such a safe space for me,” he says. “I think it is for a lot of creatives. As a teenager, I always felt like one of the toys from the island of misfit toys. Theater gave me a safe space to grow up and find an identity, which included an identity outside of my sexuality because my sexuality was just a fraction of all that was possible.”
Price says he loves the opportunity to return to Houston. “It’s always an honor to work at the Alley Theatre,” he says. “The Alley is one of the best theater companies in the country. You have some of the best plays ever written with some of the best directors and designers working on those plays. Also the resident company of actors is exceptional.”
Price also applauds Gregory Boyd, the artistic director, and the recent renovations to the theater. “It’s just incredible what they’ve done with that space,” Price says.
The play in which Price is featured, The 39 Steps, has been extended into September, which Price finds fitting.
“I don’t think you’ll find a finer company doing this show,” he says. “It really is one of the best productions I’ve ever been a part of, everything from the designers who worked on the show to the company of actors.”
For more information about Price’s acting and coaching, visit http://aboutmarkprice.com. For more information about Price’s meditation classes, visit http://www.alchemycollective.org.
Shirley Knight is the founder of AwakeNow.org