Four days after the 2016 presidential election, my husband and I saw the national tour of Fun Home. The tension in the theater was palpable and when Kate Shindle gave her speech to raise money for Broadway Cares Equity Fights AIDS, she said:
“In times of uncertainty, the most beautiful art is created.”
The quote has stayed with me, but not since that evening has it felt quite as poignant as it does now in quarantine. As an artist, I can most deeply and sincerely express my feelings through my craft. While many people think acting is about becoming someone else, it is actually quite the opposite. Never do I feel as exposed or connected with my feelings as I do when I am digging into my own narrative to create a character; Never do I feel as calm in my soul and grounded into the earth as I do when I am singing. My best friend tells her story through paper collage, while another friend sees the world through a camera. Whatever the art medium, it makes sense to me that at a time when feelings are overwhelming and confusing, incredibly meaningful art is made.
So, naturally, when quarantine began, I felt compelled to make art…or so I thought. Turns out, I felt compelled to feel like I SHOULD be making art. My feelings were big. My feelings were consuming. Almost immediately, various artists were performing live on social media. Other artists were offering free classes and webinars. People were CRAVING art. I considered writing a blog post called: The Importance of Making Art in Quarantine. For some reason, though, I could never quite bring my thoughts together enough to write it. Then, one day, a friend wrote a post that resonated with me and helped me understand why I had not been able to put my words down on paper. She said the pressure to create art was overwhelming and all she wanted to do was curl up in a ball on her couch. My immediate reaction to that was, well, then you should curl up in a ball on your couch.
It is okay to curl up in a ball. The world is super complicated right now and maybe the creative juices are not flowing. If you cannot create art right now, then maybe breathing the art in is what you need: listening to music; reading a book; watching a movie; reading a play. Some need to create right now and some need to receive. Some need to lie in quiet. And it is all okay. It is all right.
Looking back at the first six weeks of quarantine, I felt stifled, but I see now that I have been creating all along. When I wash the dishes, I belt my face off listening to Waitress or Evita or Six or Wicked (the list goes on and on)…and I cry. The music pours of out of me and the tears follow. No audience. No applause. Just full-blown, leave-it-all-out-there, fuel-my-soul, singing.
As I continue to find more peace and grounding on a day-to-day basis (don’t get me wrong, some days I am just a hot mess struggling to survive), I am finding other ways to create and express myself artistically. I am participating in virtual play readings – some with friends, some with theaters; some with an audience, some without. A beautiful thing I have noticed is that while sharing my craft with an audience fulfills me in so many ways, making art for myself is healing in a completely different way. I am reminded of why I love the theater so much. I am reminded of how my insides feel when I sing just for the sake of singing. I am reminded of the deep connection I feel to other human beings when we bring a playwright’s words to life.
So, here are my thoughts: In these uncertain times, if you feel compelled to make art to share with the world, please make it. If you feel compelled to create art for yourself that no one else will ever see or hear, please create it. If you don’t feel inspired right now, please rest assured that the art is there – it is in you, in your soul, and it is not going anywhere. Just wait until you are ready and in the mean time, wear a super cozy pair of pants and do what you need to take care of your heart.
Hang on…I also suggest wearing a super pair of cozy pants while making art. Always wear cozy pants.