I attempted to start a separate blog with words on it, but I can barely keep up with one, so this is a repost of something I wrote at the end of October and am still feeling.
Feeling valued and validated as an artist/creator-person is really hard, and this month has been full of feeling both devalued and so supported. Who am I supposed to listen to? The people who blow me off, don't understand what work I do (dramaturgy, of course), and don't support my projects? Or do I listen to the people who invite me to events, come to me with questions or work, and want to collaborate?
I don't know!
And do I trust myself enough as a person who is trained in art and kind of understands the weird world in which we live to actually set out and accomplish what lofty goals I have?
I don't know!
A bit on my trajectory as a creative person:
When I was a kid, I used to engage in what my mom called dumpster diving. By this I mean that I would hoard trash and make projects with it, like a caterpillar out of an egg carton, etc. Then I started writing, short stories, mainly. I have a vivid memory of making the decision to perform a musical revue of The Lion King for my parents. This was pre-Arizona so I couldn't have been older than seven. I put two chairs in my room, set up my stuffed animals and a ceramic zebra on the ground while I timed a flashlight beam to the opening song as a sunrise. During Hakuna Matata, I held a baton and did a little dance that ended with me stepping on and crushing my zebra, thus ending my first attempt as an actor/director in a fit of tears. As time heals all wounds, that wound was healed when I joined the drama club in high school, thus sending me on a path to obtain a BA in Theatre Arts (and Film, but that's another story). I wanted to act. Then I found out directing was a thing. Then I learned about dramaturgy (oh yeah) and devising (heck yeah) and ensemble-work (woo-hoo). And worked at a regional theatre. And got really jaded by the system. And season programming. And unearthed all these big and lofty ideas about theatre and what it could be and should do and simply isn't.
And now I'm looking at grad school and don't think a theatre masters would help me - a masters in the ONE thing I have been doing since I was 13. Can I even make the art I want to make if I don't deeply understand different disciplines? How can I make art to make change if I don't understand public policy or lawmaking or irreconcilable anthropological differences in culture or the structures in place to avoid allowing all the nonsense going on to continue? Is it enough, for me, to sit in a room and make art and feel things and read theory without fully integrating it into the world we live in?
I don't know! But I'm going to try.
I was lucky enough to be invited to the Network of Ensemble Theaters' National Gathering and Symposium at no cost beyond my AirBNB (which had a cat. His name was Joe).
It was a really important event for me because, not only did it teach me many tangible actual tools of creating democratic and ensemble-based art, it showed me this is a viable and tangible way of making work. I've recently been struggling with the hierarchy of traditional art-making as someone who recognizes my preference and indeed thrives off of collaboration and sharing. I feel that while there may be talk of non-traditional hierarchies, if the production itself supports the current popular/accepted/whatever agenda of the big regional theatres, then there will continue to be that unfair distribution of power and artistic agency. It will continue to be the director's show and we will continue to devalue the work done by other members of the collective group. But that doesn't need to continue to be the case, I learned as I was exposed to this vibrant group.
In addition to the focus on democratizing, decolonizing, and creating an equitable way of creation, additional topics were accessibility and consent, especially with regards to audience interaction or breaking down the first wall, which is vitally important in not only the work I personally do, but as we continue to try and be inclusive and considerate of our audiences.
It gave me a lot to think about that I am still working through. It also really inspired me, so expect to see me generating my own work in the near future.
I know I've made posts before, but this is an accountability post, darn it.
I am going to tell you what I am doing.
I am going to tell you thoughts I have if they're worth sharing. If I've learned anything from this week at the Kennedy Center, it's that you should know when to speak.
Oh, yeah, I just spent a week at the Kennedy Center under the tutelage of Mark Bly! Learning about new play development and how to be in the room. It was a fabulous space, filled with fabulous people that I am so glad to have met and hope to keep in touch with for a long time. These people really made me feel supported and helped me to look in new directions for my own work and way of living. Look how knowledgeable (read: exhausted) we all look. I'm so glad to be back, especially after my detour to Richmond where I got eaten alive by bugs (con) and became best friends with the cats at the Poe Museum (pro).