Making Something New, Remembering to Breathe

Over the past few months, I’ve made several hats where there never were hats (indulge me while I borrow a metaphor from Mr. Sondheim). Hat-making, I’ve learned, is a scary endeavor. If it weren’t for a mix of luck and some wonderful individuals, none of those hats would have been made. Fortunately, I happened to surround myself with people who push me and challenge me, so here we are.

I wrote a musical. It was produced, and it was an adventure. I learned a lot. It required a new kind of strength, and it required me to flex some muscles that have never been flexed before. I’m feeling good about it. It was a first; I don’t think it was a last.

I wrote a play. Who knew I was capable of that? It will open for the public tomorrow. I sat through many workshops while my words were read and critiqued by others. At first I resented even the smallest comment, but then I realized that those around the table genuinely wanted the play to be a success. I can learn a lot when I shut up and listen to others. There are only four characters, yet it was workshopped six times, so I’ve heard over 22 voices inhabit those characters. That’s something that I still haven’t gotten over.

 I learned to hand my play off to a director who could take it to places I didn’t even imagine, and to actors who are smarter than I’ll ever be. Last night, I got to sit and watch the world I imagined unfold, completely realized, in front of my eyes. I couldn’t bring myself to hug the actors. I had to leave the room and catch my breath.

The other play in the festival was written by one of my best friends. This whole experience keeps on getting better.

All week long people have been approaching me telling me how they reserved tickets, that they’re bringing their friends, that they’re so excited. My professors are coming. My family is boarding a plane Tuesday morning. My words are going to be spoken in a theater that has played host to Thornton Wilder, Horton Foote, and Samuel Beckett. I am certainly not worthy.

I am grounded by being back in the rehearsal room, working on Love’s Labor’s Lost. It is my first time co-directing, and it’s my first Shakespeare. I’m directing for the first time in a year, and it feels so right. It’s nice to be in at least semi-familiar territory after putting my abilities on the line as a playwright and composer. It’s nice to be working on a comedy, to have a cast that indulges my eccentricities in the rehearsal room, to attend a production meeting not as a writer. It’s a different type of challenge, and it’s refreshing.

Classes continue, work shifts need to be attended to, homework needs to be completed, emails need responses, friendships require nurturing, I have to call my grandmother every once in a while. Fortunately, there are plenty of distractions for when it all gets to be a bit much. Lately, it’s all been a bit much.

I keep thinking about the twelve-year-old boy who wanted to live in the world of the theatre. He never imagined a semester like this one. That brings more tears to my eyes.

Boom Country in rehearsal. Photo courtesy of E. Milanovich Photography.

It’s all been quite surreal—I wish everyone knew the nausea that is the result of directing a rehearsal in one studio while your play is being rehearsed next door. It’s unlike anything I could have dreamed, and I am convinced it’s all a big practical joke. It doesn’t need to ever happen again; I’m more than satisfied now. I’m overwhelmed with gratitude.

The work, of course, continues—I’ve begun another play, I have a project for next year that already requires work. Theatre is the gift that keeps on giving, even when I’m certain that I’ve had more than my fair share. I try to remain humble and appreciative, because I am; I want to work harder than ever, to prove that I value the process and effort. This semester has been an enormous surprise, and I don’t take a moment of it for granted. Honest.

This week is a big one. Performances interspersed with rehearsals interspersed with auditions, while remembering that I’m a student and classes are always first priority for me here. I want to work on savoring it all, remembering each moment. I do know this: when the excitement of the week is over, when my family leaves and Boom Country is laid to rest for the time being, there’s still that new draft that needs attending to; there’s still homework; there’s still so much more to learn and master. The work never ends in this world of theatre.

That’s comforting, and that’s awesome.