Over thirty years ago, I auditioned for my first play. My mom tells me that I asked her to audition (although I’m not sure how I knew about it in the first place since, as a five-year-old, I wasn’t reading the daily newspaper with my morning coffee. Um, Mom?). I sang my best version of Happy Birthday to You in front of a large group of kids and parents — an extra stressful experience because I was the very first auditionee (my dad asked if I could go first since we were on our way to the zoo). The big kids helped me navigate the script for a cold-reading. And, ta-da! I was cast in the chorus of The Littlest Angel. And ta-da! I became a theatre-kid and have been ever since.
With the exception of family members I’ve known since birth, I have known theatre longer than almost anything in my life. It’s the longest relationship I’ve ever had. Despite the fits and starts, the bumbling about, and the long long time it’s taken me to realize and commit to it…I’m a theatre-person. That’s what I do. The few years in my late 20’s when I was totally estranged from the theatre were some crappy disorienting times — like my internal compass was smashed and I couldn’t find true North.
Loving theatre is a tricky thing with sticky, complicated and mixed emotions. My theatre commitments have been challenging for my personal life. I’ve missed things. I’ve dropped out of real life. I’ve been unavailable to people — like that t-shirt that says “I can’t. I have rehearsal.”
I missed saying a final good-bye to my Grandparents because I was in a show.
My commitment to my personal life has challenged, and in some cases, de-railed my theatre work and the work of others.
I don’t know about theatre-life on Broadway. I don’t know about what it’s like to make your living in the theatre biz (well, not yet anyway) or even to do theatre that’s different than what I’ve done. Maybe it’s all similar to the spectrum of experiences I’ve had while theatre-making — mopping the stage, plunging the toilets (while being grateful the performance space has toilets), getting paid well, getting paid last, not getting paid at all, 12 hour tech rehearsals, fabulous reviews, not-fabulous reviews, amazing talent, amazing people, an amazing partner, an amazing amount of hard work, dozens of re-writes, untold late nights, much ‘why am I doing this? what are we doing? what’s going on?’, hilarity, adrenaline, schlepping, frustration, unexpected expenses, story-telling magic, buying toilet paper and glue sticks and 50 fake tulips, setting out buckets to catch the rain from a leaky roof, and being grateful-unhappy-happy-grateful to do it.
Yet and still, I love it. I love making theatre and all of its wonderful tendrils — creativity, collaboration, teamwork, communication, making change, inspiration, perspiration, entertainment, community-building, discovery, connection, story-making, etc. It’s important work for me; it’s an important gift we give to our community. Theatre stimulates our emotions and takes us on wonderful, meaningful journeys, but more importantly, theatre, done well, stimulates community. Live performance has the capability to expose, ignite and reconnect our shared humanity — quite literally bringing people together shoulder-to-shoulder with neighbors and fellow citizens on planet earth. Scary and vulnerable and wonderful.
Besides parenting, theatre-making is my work. Creativity is my work. It’s what I offer to the world.
I’m so glad and grateful for the opportunities I’ve had in the theatre, especially in thriving, art-making Durham. I’m so excited to see what’s coming next for me here. See some info on my work.
Last week, I taught at a theatre camp, and it rocked my world. Those theatre-kids loved story-telling and playing. They loved flexing their imaginative, creative minds. They loved the high-wire feeling of participating in a live performance. And they loved the sense of accomplishment that comes at the end of a successful show. It was beautiful, live-wire, joyful, exhausting. Their budding relationship with theatre was shaping them before my very eyes.
Last week, I also participated in a panel discussion about the female theatre artists in the Triangle area. That discussion was invigorating and fascinating for lots of reasons, including our different perspectives about available opportunities for women in the Triangle theatre community and about the competitive vs. collaborative mindsets at work. There’s so much still to be examined and questioned and clarified and discussed and solved, but one of the things that stood out to me was how passionate all of these women are about theatre-making. If we didn’t love it, then we wouldn’t care enough to have the conversation. The willingness to engage in conversations for art’s sake, for artists’ sake, is something to celebrate and to continue.
The tasks I have before me are to remain open and to remember that my connection to my creative-work is fluid and can be flexible. Like my life, my relationship to theatre is always unfolding. I may need to rejigger my theatre life to accommodate my personal life — perhaps creating new models, new approaches and new ways of working. I may need to rejigger my personal life to accommodate my theatre life — and who knows what that will look like. For me, the important thing to remember is that the love for theatre-making is still there. I’m still crazy for it after 30-plus years.
What are you still crazy for after all these years? How has your relationship to that changed over time?