Post graduation and pre trying to find an apartment in New York City, I had the opportunity to spend five weeks as a member of the Core Company at The Orchard Project. My days were filled with classes and workshops, surrounded by theatre artists who are inching towards beginning their professional careers (like me) as well as artists who have been doing this for years and have figured some things out (unlike me), as well as everyone in between.
The Orchard Project takes place every summer in the tiny town of Hunter, New York, nestled among the stunning Catskill Mountains. It was the perfect place to hide away for a while, ask some big questions, cry some real tears, sing by bonfires, and collaborate with and learn from some really magnificent humans.
I very much love the world of academia, where there are rules to trust and measurements of success that are very reliable in their concreteness, but I also know that life beyond the walls of my college isn’t like that. I am going to have to set my own rules, and choose when to break them. I’m going to have to figure out what success means to me, and not to anyone else. I’m going to have to decide how I’m going to move in the world. There’s no deadline on any of these things, but that doesn’t mean I’m sleeping any easier.
My word for 2014 is “Confidence.” I want to push ahead with a belief that what I’m doing matters and I’m the one who should be doing it. I wouldn’t say that I’ve mastered the art of confidence, but also think if I were 100% confident at the age of 22 I would end up with my foot in my mouth more than I already do, so I’m not too worried. I’m getting better, though, which is all I can really ask for.
Right now, I’m trying to confidently allow my field to fallow. This was an idea that was introduced to me this summer by a teacher and mentor—if I mine my resources every day without allowing myself to rest and return to my natural state, I won’t be able to sustain my creativity or happiness. I always worked against this idea, because I’ve felt that if I’m not always working, I’m not progressing, and my purpose is to progress as far as possible in as little time as possible. I think my mentor is correct—that’s not sustainable. But fallowing is not my nature, hence why this is a challenge. It requires some strength to avoid pushing myself, and to declare that I’m doing so with confidence.
I’m working on it.
I allow myself to be creative every day, to write part of a new draft or notate some music or research things. At the same time, I’m talking myself out of the “eye-on-the-prize” mentality, that I can write for writing’s sake and not for some greater purpose, and be perfectly happy with it while at the same time doing myself a favor in the long run. It also means allowing myself to stop revising a rewrite and, say, watch an episode of House of Cards and go to bed at a reasonable hour.
Life is going to be unpredictable in the next few months, as I move to a new city and try and figure things out. Hopefully letting my field fallow for the remainder of this summer will pay off with a bountiful harvest. I have a strong inclination that it will.
One of the activities we did as a Company was write our own artistic manifesto. It’s an assignment I’ve done before, but it was nice to revisit where I was a year ago and write something new from a different angle. It was particularly exciting to me, also, to hear what my fellow Company members believe in. I jotted down several things they said—affirmations, ideas, fears, pillars of thought. Here are some of my favorites; when I miss them (which is always) or when I need to get out of my own head and hear some friendly words, I read them over. I think they’re worth sharing, because these humans know what they’re talking about.
“Pledge the ‘yes’ muscles and sustain them.”
“I believe in theatre that believes in itself.”
“Make art that is bioluminescent.”
“Always be 1% unfathomable.”
“Be like a cow.”
“Gibberish is a language too.”
“Your body likes you.”
“You cannot be the artist and the architect at the same time.”
“Don’t try to be interesting, just do the work.”
“I like honesty.”
“A firework, damp or lit, is built to ignite.”
“Failure isn’t really failure if you went for it.”
“Sometimes I need to make my hands into fists.”
“Empathy is a muscle and it must be exercised.”
“Theatre is a playground for your heart.”
“Work hard to move people, or help the movers do the moving.”
“I should widen my vocabulary.”
“Laugh and think at the same time.”
“Answer with verbs and not with nouns.”
“Share your snacks with your neighbor.”
“Link yourself to optimism.”
“We shall pool the bounty and swim in it.”