Tuesday, July 01, 2008

The Tradeoff

Some days I think that a life in the arts requires too much caring. There's a certain kind of job that lets you really detach at the end of the day (you know, like retail), and really not think about work until you walk through the door the next morning. Theatre isn't like that.
I've become a big fan of a TV show that aired awhile back in Canada, called Slings & Arrows. It follows a group of performers in a Shakespeare company, and profiles so many of the hysterical...and heartbreaking truths about the industry. One of the biggest is most artist's inability to 'compartmentalize.' You can't leave your work onstage. As one of the characters says, "My work is thinking. How can you stop thinking?"
And it's so true. So many of the challenges and problems get solved as you mull over them at the end of the day, seeking solutions, lying awake, or over coffee when you're trying to rev up for the day ahead. Stop that process, and nothing will get solved.

On the other hand...

When does it stop? When are you allowed to let it go and be a human being for awhile, eating ice cream, listening to music (that's not from your current show), diving in the lake, not thinking about your character or this scene change or how everything will fit backstage? There are brief moments I'm at work and I start to think that a job I can let go of at 6:00 sounds really good. I have other creative interests to pursue. I have a life (or at least, I want one...), and nothing is worth the compounding stress of putting together a blockbuster show.

On the other hand...

The reward of seeing the transformation from day one when they're sitting around a table reading, through music rehearsals, singing over and over again, repeating dance moves over and over again until they're sharp and really say something...truly understanding the work and struggle that goes into 'finding' a show...
...to seeing it up onstage under lights, moving like magic, and hearing the audience laugh - hearing the audience clap...to know that they're sharing it with you, finally seeing what all the weeks of struggle have been for, all the stress, the drama, the juggling, compacted into two hours of sweat onstage, and that maybe they'll walk out of the theatre singing or thinking about something new - and know that they love it?

I guess you don't get that in retail.

1 comment:

Lauren said...

Well said my friend, well said. I'm right there with you... and actually being in Bigfork the last two months really reminded me why I do what I do and gave me hope again that I'm in a good career. We just have to keep on truckin' sometimes, but it's always worth it for that one moment when everything comes together. :)