Day: February 3, 2011

Can I Get Some Gobos With That Spotlight?

We are all the stars of our own lives. Everyone else is, usually, a bit player, a cameo.  If we’re lucky, we have a solid cast of regulars — and if we’re very lucky, we have supporting stars.  But our spotlight is usually firmly on ourselves.  More so if you are an artist (which I am trying to call myself without pretension or giggle.)  We are encouraged to look inward, downward, selfward. 

Know thyself.

Many of us take that too far, of course.  Some of us rarely look out, up, other-ward.  These types can be spotted by their oh-so-carefully crafted self-deprecating blogs humor…the painfully au currant witticisms…the absolute inability to take a compliment at face value.  Unfortunately, too many of us when self-examining not only don’t like what we see, but are fairly sure that when people see “good” in us or from us, we’ve done nothing but pull some sort of wool over their eyes.  Too many actors/improvisers/writers feel fraudulent…which is in constant struggle with the inner artists inside that insists we are talented, good, worthy.  Ego vs. art.  We want strident discipline — find and point out my mistakes, please…that will mean you are paying attention.

I say “we” but I am trying very hard to not put myself in that category.  I want to accept praise and criticism and hold them up to an honest inner mirror. 

It is, however, very easy to fall into the self-doubt pattern, particularly when surrounded by raw, wonderful, young, vibrant, eager, talented, self-doubting souls. 

I have returned to the show I choreographed.  It’s going to be remounted and I was asked to do choreography for every number now, not just the ones done previously — those I get to tweak.

I believe in saying YES.  I believe in finishing what I start.  I believe I can do this.  Most rehearsals will be “on me” as they say.

I am terrified.  Again.  The good terrified in that this is a challenge that stretches me beyond my self-imposed limits.  The bad terrified in that I have nightmares of some actors once again finding my vulnerable spots and “poking fun” without the fun part.  It’s not all the actors.  It’s not even most. 

That’s on me as well.  I am in a raw period in my life.  I do not want to use the show as my own personal therapy.  I want to work.  I want to create.  I want to express.  I want to laugh.  I want to work with so many people involved in this show…brilliant, dedicated, intuitive.  I need to stop inventing possible heartaches.

This must be what so many kids feel like going to school every day.

I am carving out found moments during the day to choreograph, to research, to literally dance through every actors’ part.  It’s eight-hours-a-day work crammed into 2 or 3 hours. 

And again, I have postponed my own project.  I will not work on both at the same time — the sacrifices to both are too great.  The sacrifices to my children are inexcusable. 

Yet, in all, I continue to say yes.  A big, sloppy, YES!  

The preproduction meetings have been glorious.  There were productive, honest, real, and wonderful discussions of what worked and what didn’t.  And why.  Not once — not once — was anyone’s talent questioned.  If musical staging didn’t work, it wasn’t because I wasn’t talented.  That didn’t even come up.  What did come up was “please do more of what you are doing” and “please fix this” and “now we have time to give you during rehearsal” and “what were we thinking?”  

This applied to all of us — me, director, writer, music director.  It was professional and without pretense.  I am, weirdly, honored by being given a ton of more work.  I feel up to the task.  I know what methods work best for me (short intense bursts over a long period of time rather than a dance in one or two days).  I know what works on the stage.  I know the actors can do it.  I know I’ll have rehearsal time.

 I know, without pretense, and without worry, that I can do this.  “Will I do this?” is a different question, of course.

The nightmares, the worries of a couple of cast members poking at me like a couple of naughty teenagers?  That’s me putting the spotlight on myself.  Blinding myself.

The converse of being the star of my own life/show is that I am but a bit player, a costar, a recurring guest in everyone else’s.  When I remember to get the spotlight out of my own eyes and turn it towards these wonderful actors, the musicians, the writers, the artists in my life…that is when I am at peace and energized and get in that wonderful groove where senses are heightened and everything flows.  When I keep the spotlight in my own face (No one thanked me.  Is this good work? Am I good?  Does this person even like me?  Then usually back to Is this good work?) that the work, my peace, my flow got all tangled up and painful.

Get some shades, folks.  It’s all about you…maybe us sometimes…mostly you.