You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world, and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand. — Woodrow Wilson
Looking around at the world around me, I can feel myself getting frustrated.
Is frustrated the right word? Maybe not. Listless? Looking that up right now: “Lacking energy or enthusiasm”. That feels closer than frustrated. In March we closed down the Williamston Theatre building to public performances, hoping for a few week hiatus while the world sorted out the virus.
That, of course, hasn’t happened.
And as the months have dragged on, I’ve found myself having a hard time maintaining my energy, my drive to create or produce or explore. There are some things I’ve done, like worked on being more fit (I’ve been walking between 3 and 5 miles a day since Spring), and I’ve been using a couple of apps and podcasts to work on learning the Italian language. But my frustration with the virus, the poor national response to it, the inability to produce live theatre, the question of HOW and WHEN to re-open the theatre… it’s been energy draining. (I know this is not a phenomenon unique to me, also!) I know that this whole year is an anomaly, and that we have to allow ourselves a little slack, but as someone who runs a small institution devoted to “making the world a better place through storytelling”, I am frustrated by my inability to do that, as well as by the fact that over the last few months I just can’t muster the energy to do much. Listless is probably the better word. I feel like I should be doing MORE. But I have no interest in re-inventing theatre for online consumption… maybe that will change in the future, but honestly one of the things I love about theatre as an art form is the presence of a bunch of people in a room breathing together with the performers. Anyway, that’s a whole topic that I could ramble about…. but instead I’m going to change the topic. Listless and frustrated is not something I want to be.
So, often, I find myself taking note of the things I have that I am lucky to have in an effort to make sure I’m not just being whiny and petulant. Here are a few of the things I’m grateful for this afternoon:
My wife will be donating a kidney to me! We find out recently that Jeanne and I are a match, and she can donate a kidney directly to me. She decided a long time ago to get tested and be one of the people to see if she was eligible to donate, but we never expected that she’d be able to give one directly TO me. Turns out that only happens about 5% of the time. I’m just overwhelmed with her generosity! It probably won’t happen for many months, because they’ll wait until my kidneys have given up the ghost, so hopefully the pandemic will be cleared up before the big event.
This past Tuesday, on December 1st, we had a wonderful “pandemic version” of our annual Giving Tuesday Play-a-Thon at Williamston Theatre. It was terrific, the plays were great, the performances were great, Zoom was mostly adequate with only a few challenging lag issues. The most wonderful part was seeing faces of people I hadn’t seen in months, chatting with them about the plays, stories, and seeing people who were looking forward to the theatre coming back in person.
Ted Lasso. YES – if you haven’t yet watched the tv show Ted Lasso, please do. It did not originally seem like anything I would be interested in (American football coach gets hired to coach soccer in England?), but after having many people give strong recommendations, I sat down to give it a try, and was HOOKED. I watched the whole series with Maggie, and then we convinced Jeanne to watch it and she fell in love so we rewatched it with her! Go watch it. It’s just one of the most hopeful, funny, heartfelt things and is a great remedy for the current…. world.
Decaf Chai Tea with Honey. Yeah, everything in my life is decaf now, and I’ve been enjoying tea more than ever. Even peppermint tea, which I expected to hate. But lately the decaf chai with a bit of honey has been a go-to favorite.
Today, I’m doing a couple of Zoom chats with people, and then I’ll be taking my walk. Then I’ve got a date with the couch and a good book. How do you fight off “listless”? Not sure, but I’m going to try!
That is our challenge: To cultivate lives of reflection, love, and joy and still somehow manage to do our share for this beautiful broken planet of ours.– Mary Pipher
One of the chief privileges of man is to speak up for the universe.– Norman Maclean
We have to look deeply at things in order to see. When a swimmer enjoys the clear water of the river, he or she should also be able to be the river.– Thich Nhat Hahn
I very much enjoyed Mary Pipher’s book Writing to Change the World. Thoughtful, inspiring and practical, it’s been one of my favorite reads of this pandemic “down time” I’m having with the theatre being closed. I love her take on storytelling, and making a difference in the world
Okay – This is fascinating! A few years ago, in Amsterdam, they had to excavate a riverbed that ran through the city. During the excavation, archeologists took advantage of the dig to see what they could find. What they found was an amazing array of things lost into the river dating from now and going back thousands of years, and they catalogued them all!
Dice, dated between 1500 and 1200 AD! Some gambler lost THAT bet!
In other news, we’re about to open the final show of our 12th season at Williamston Theatre. We started previews last night of Memoir and it’s the kind of show that the word “Delightful” was invented for! Work has been wonderful. I had the chance to direct a terrific show, Significant Other, at the MSU Summer Circle. That was an absolute treat. Script was fun, it was outside and fun, and the cast and design team were top notch – truly a bunch of young professionals now graduated with MFA’s and heading out to what I know will be great careers in the industry.
Despite work being really good, and family life being wonderful (one kid in college, one graduating high school, and an amazing wife keeping me sane), it’s been a challenge finding the motivation to write – either in my personal journal or here, on this site. It’s been frustrating, because I’ve been in a bit of a slump. A handful of life things and personal things, stuff we all deal with, have been weighing on me. Along with those, the incredibly divisive and vitriolic political mess here in the U.S. has just left me feeling burned out, and I’ve also (either because of that stuff of just along with it!) allowed myself to get more chubby and out of shape physically than I’ve been in a while, and that’s been frustrating – it’s also just not good for me, especially with the variety of health issues I already have – so that’s been weighing on me too. (Hah. “Weighing.” Literally!) So all of that has meant that lately I’ve found myself MISSING that sense of loving life that I normally have – and have had for especially the last few years, now that I’m in my extra-innings of life!
Fortunately, life and family and friends and the universe have been there giving me reasons to perk back up. Spending lots of QFT lately, which has been nice, doing some more bike riding and exercising has been good for me. I’m now prepping to direct our fall show, Silent Sky, by Lauren Gunderson, which is a GORGEOUS piece of theatre and I am absolutely thrilled to be working on it with an amazing team of people! That, and a handful of other projects which are coming up, are pretty exciting. I *am* getting nervous because in a couple of months my son is heading to Germany for a year long Exchange Program: I’m thrilled for him, but I will worry the entire year he is gone!
OH! Plus – I’ve got a little vacation time coming up. More on that later, but it’s going to be a wonderful trip and I can not wait!
So – thanks for reading! And if YOU’RE having any kind of slump, like I’ve had, hang in there. Look around, find your joy and embrace it. Then go help others find theirs – I think that helps!
Every time this shows up in the mail, I think of my Dad.
I think back to when I was in high school, and told him I wanted to go to college for theatre. I was ready to be told I should find something more stable, I was ready to be lectured about responsibility and the future.
Instead, all he asked was “Do you think you can make a living at it?” When I said I thought I could, he just nodded, and said “Okay. Great. Your mom and I will help any way we can.” And that was it.
So when my membership card from SDC arrives I, naturally, get a sense of pride that I’m following my dream and making it work, and I’m thrilled that I’m contributing to the world the way I’d hoped to… but I also feel like I’m keeping a promise to my Dad. I know he was proud of me, of all his kids, but putting this card in my wallet every year makes me feel worthy of the trust and faith he had in me on that afternoon, sitting together in our kitchen, over 30 years ago.
On Tuesday I start rehearsal for Doublewide, a play about a guy who spends his life working in a factory and doing everything he can to provide a good future for his family.
Thanks, Dad. This one’s for you.
In Preacher, written by Garth Ennis, John Custer gives his son, Jesse, the words he will live by for the rest of his life. Before being murdered in front of his son, John hugs Jesse, tells him that he loves him, and gives him some advice:
“You gotta be a good guy, Jesse. You gotta be like John Wayne: you don’t take no shit off fools, an’ you judge people by what’s in ’em, not how they look. An’ you do the right thing. You gotta be one of the good guys, son, ’cause there’s way too many of the bad.”
I’ve had this post saved as a draft for a long time, because I’m not sure how to finish it. So I decided “the heck with it”, and I’m just posting it. I like this quote. I like the scene, and the imagery. I like the way the quote has stuck with me for a long, long time.
I hope anyone reading it likes it too!
We must look for ways to be an active force in our own lives. We must take charge of our own destinies, design a life of substance and truly begin to live our dreams.
Your life is the sum result of all the choices you make, both consciously and unconsciously. If you can control the process of choosing, you can take control of all aspects of your life. You can find the freedom that comes from being in charge of yourself.
-Robert F. Bennett
“Slow down and remember this: Most things make no difference. Being busy is often a form of mental laziness – lazy thinking and indiscriminate action.” – Tim Ferris
“If I’ve learned anything in my shaky life as an artist, it’s that you must stop talking and spinning and whining and start making your thing today. Pick up a camera. Pick up an easel. Open your laptop and turn off your Internet connection while you write. Find a starting point. Ignore the voices. Ignore the critics. Reward yourself for having ideas by valuing them enough to believe in them.” – Shane Nickerson
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” – Leonardo da Vinci