Disclaimer: If you are an artist reading this, or anyone whose financial security is being threatened by the current shutdowns due to coronavirus, PLEASE know that this post is in no way meant to discredit or ignore the severity of that. I see you, I hear you, and I am sending you endless love and strength to make it through. This post is meant to reflect on my feelings about my current production and how I am processing the situation to relieve my own sadness and anxiety.
Two things I believe: I get the roles I am supposed to have exactly when I am supposed to have them; There is always beauty to be found in tragedy, even if it takes a while to find it. I have never really considered how those two beliefs may be intertwined…until now.
Last night we had final dress rehearsal for our play: Conversations About an Empty Suit, by Madelyn Sergel. We open tonight, March 13, 2020. Because our little black box theater only seats thirty people, we are still going forward with our performance. The remaining eight performances? Well, that is yet to be seen. While I knew it was a possibility that the run would be shortened, postponed, or canceled, hearing the news hit me hard. My immediate reaction was sadness and anger. To quote my character, Abby: “All this work, all this time…all this me.” How unfair to have spent the last eight weeks working my ass off, away from my children, to perform only once or not at all. I hated it. I hated the feeling. The energy felt bad and it made me want to cry.
Last night I laid in bed after I got home from the theater (where I sat for an extra hour after we were done rehearsing because I could not get myself to walk away) and reflected on my feelings. My inner dialogue suddenly became a battle ground: one side feeling defeated and overwhelmed; the other telling me that I was being selfish for being so sad about a play when other people are canceling events like weddings or Bar Mitzvahs or relying on the money from performances to pay bills and eat. After a few deep breaths, I was able to honor both voices, allowing myself to acknowledge and feel my feelings (it IS okay to feel disappointed), while keeping in perspective that this pandemic is affecting everyone and I am endlessly grateful for what I have and that my children are safe and have what they need in our home. I do not take that for granted.
About the play…Remember the part about getting the roles exactly when I am supposed to? So, this play is about success: who defines it, what does it look like, how do we know when we have achieved it, and how does our own self-confidence or self-doubt play a role in “making it.” What brings us back again and again to do something we love even if the odds are stacked against us? This seems like a pretty perfect time to examine exactly that.
What if no one sees this play? What if I spent the last eight weeks becoming a woman named Abby that no one will ever meet? I sincerely believe it would be a shame for this play to be unseen because it is lovely and relatable and honest. I think Abby – and Suzannah, Gregory, and Peter – are all worth meeting because they are interesting and funny and insightful. For those reasons, and to miss out on nine more chances to play with these talented actors on stage, I would grieve the cancellation of the play….and those feelings are valid.
Then I had it…my big epiphany – my HOLY SHIT epiphany. Why do I keep coming back again and again even if the odds are stacked against me? Why do I keep doing this? BECAUSE I FUCKING LOVE MAKING THEATER. And you know what? The last eight weeks spent with three other actors, our brilliant director, our magnificent playwright, and the rest of our production staff, cannot be taken away. I have been blessed to create art in the last eight weeks that will stay with me forever. I have grown and learned and have become a better artist. Abby will always be a part of my heart and soul because I needed her now. I needed to learn from her. I needed to learn how I define success and what that looks like to me. I needed her to teach me to let go of fear and to trust that I am enough. I needed her to teach me to reflect on the tiny moments that make it all worthwhile. I hope others get a chance to meet her, but I am forever changed because I did.
When you look for blessings in tragedy, they don’t need to be huge (here is where it all comes together). They likely will not be….they will be small moments of light in the darkness. Right now, in the midst of the chaos and fear, I am choosing to focus on light: I make art…whether for a day or a week, one performance or nine. Art makes the world better. How lucky am I?
To all of the theater artists out there experiencing shows closing, to everyone feeling fear of the unknown, I believe down to my core that we will all get through this together and more and more we will see the blessings that will arise.