I am sitting in my Introduction to Theatre classroom, showing the movie “Show Business: Road to Broadway.” The picture is a little warped, as I can’t use the regular video screen/projector, but instead I have it projecting on a swash of silky fabric that is intended to be a shadow screen for the play I am directing which opens next week.
Part of my set lies hidden in the darkness behind the screen . . . much of which still waits (im)patiently to come to life with many coats of paint. I am trying to ignore the lurking bareness which haunts me even though I cannot see it. I try not to worry about how or if everything will get done.
As I watch the movie, my mind inevitably moves to the question “what if?” What if I had been braver, and tried to make it on Broadway? What if I had not buried myself in academic theatre (with an occasional foray into the professional world)? What if I had made different choices in my life?
Of course, the “what if” questions then lead to the “whys” and the “hows”. Why do I continue to work in academia, when I have to deal with things like:
- students who don’t realize that doing a show is a COMMITMENT and that you can’t miss especially during tech week/run
- the egos of academics (which can be worse than the egos of artists)
- limited budgets
- rules that come from the institution which can make some choices more difficult
- sharing my space with classes
- the split focus of the collaborators, who divide their time between classes/designing/meetings/building/advising/and life–and often seem to prioritize life.
How would life be different if I could dedicate myself completely to my creative work? How does one do that, when you have to worry about things like paying bills and supporting family? What if I had chosen to pursue the “professional” world of theatre, would I be able to have a family and a life or would I be working all the time?
Of course, there are no easy answers to these questions, and I really shouldn’t be asking them. But it is that time of the production where worries compound on each other–will the set be finished? Will I ever get all my props? Will the costumes be completed on time? Is it funny? Will my troublesome actor ever get it right? Will the audience like it? Will the magic work? Will anyone laugh? Will anyone understand?
The panic and worries build. I need to stop the whirling questions in my remind. I need to focus on the things I love about working in the theatre. I need to focus on the things I have already achieved.
When I focus on the bigger picture, I realize my questions don’t really matter. I don’t need to understand why I am doing things, I just need to live the journey . . . one creative moment at a time.