It’s been a while.
This summer has been a bit of a hiatus from this space. It’s been a lovely and hectic and busy time. And it’s filled me with lots of new thoughts about making and doing.
And I’ll be honest, at some point after being away for a while I started to feel a little guilty. This is par for the course with me. I like to do things perfectly or not at all, and once I start to get that, “I haven’t written anything in a while…” feeling, my first instinct is to find some kind of distraction – a stupid show or a silly game – that keeps my mind off the fact that I’m feeling a little overwhelmed because something I care about isn’t perfect.
This is the same perfection/ignore cycle that resulted in my mom threatening to cut me off if I didn’t call her to say hi during my junior year of college. Because once you feel a little guilty about not doing something it just builds and builds and builds.
Back then, I just worked more to keep that feeling away and at bay. And surrounded by other workaholics, that seemed like the norm, just what you did – put your personal problems on hold – so I never questioned the impulse. Now though, whether it’s because I don’t have the stamina (negative view) or I’m less able to give in to the self-destructive impulse (positive view) I just don’t tolerate the punishing schedule ad nauseum anymore.
Which isn’t to say I don’t work hard. I do. We all do. But it is not with the frenetic blind need from before. I can’t work and work and work if I don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, if it seems like it’s working for working sake alone. And this summer has been an interesting case study. It’s one of the first times in years that I’ve had as many things going on. But it’s also one of the first times that I feel like I’ve given myself a process in which I actually have all the resources I need.
The Ballad of Joe Hill which is running currently at FringeArts has, in particular, given me some food for thought. The first iteration of this show had a kind of magic. It was brutal, produced on about $1,500 of cash and a whole lot of sweat and heart, begging and borrowing. There was a tiny core of people and we did everything. We carried each object into the space with our hands. We rehearsed in dribs and drabs when we could fit the time in between jobs. We changed where we performed. We hauled dirty, heavy risers in and out of tiny storage spaces. We printed fliers and begged the press to come. We made change for the audience and stored our money in a cigar box.
The stuff is still carried, the space is still dirty, but this time Joe Hill has a small army of folks – a full time SM, PM, riser and light crew and more. Our equipment was delivered. We have real bathrooms. Our box office is taken care of. I have not once had to think about marketing. We have had full 8 hour day rehearsals in lovely controlled spaces. And – and this really is the greatest of all the things – I haven’t worked a single other job since we started working full time.
If I had to imagine what I really needed for this show when I did it that first time, this is close.
And I have to remind myself of this. Last time, the crap that seemed out of my control the first time – the money, the resources, the time, etc – gave me a mental pass on making my best work:
“If only I had real money”
“If only I had everyone all the time”
“If only I knew someone with more expertise with lighting”
“If only I could just concentrate on doing my job”
The problem with “If only” thinking is that it puts you in the past (“If we’d only had…”) and the future (“If I can only get…”) but never in the present. And theater in particular as a medium is about the glorious immediacy of RIGHT NOW. It’s our biggest superpower – the ability to require another human to “be” with you, right then and there. “If only” stops you from seeing what’s really there and instead what could have or might be if only you were a different person in a different place with different stuff.
I don’t have that pass anymore.
I have myself and the work.
And in a way, that makes this project a bigger win. Maybe even harder fought. Because it’s not a battle with tangible limitations. It’s just a battle with myself and all that empty space. If I fail, there aren’t other excuses to blame. It’s not because I didn’t have what I needed. It’s because of me.
It’s been a while.
I hope to be here more often. And I’m going to try and not let myself get too caught up in the “If only I had more time to write this” feeling I’m having right now. I’m going to attempt to work through this lesson and simply do the work that I can do, right now, and let that be good enough.