There’s Always a Choice

Those who operate in near-Travis orbit will hear me repeat phrases and motifs repeatedly as I hammer out a life’s philosophy before I die. “All we have is time and people” for instance. Or lately there’s been a lot of “design for your budget dammit, don’t design as if you had money and build halfway”. On-line it’s a gentle thrumming of “the repetition of asynchronous communication drives me crazy” and #neverbedark and being an advocate and talking about what’s good.

I understand that I’m repeating myself and I promise it’s not some sort of crazy-uncle disease where I just keep telling the same stories over and over again. Consider it me getting off book for The Show. And forgive me for another recurring theme: my repetition of the fact that I don’t have a career. I’m trying to figure out what that means to me and for me.

As a long time generalist I don’t really fit anywhere. It is after all a system made of specialists (on the paid side). But more to the point, only the work qualifies you for the work, and frankly I haven’t done enough to qualify me for anything. I also am unwilling to give up my security for an unpaid internship at this point in my life. That choice limits on-ramps to the paid universe.

Kate Powers asked:
Do you feel like it’s too late for you to dive into a position at an institutional theatre? (assuming that path interests you)

The answer is

Of course I feel that way,
of course it’s not too late, and
I haven’t invented the position and institution that I will be part of yet.

I am not the me that will be hired somewhere yet.
The me that is ready will have 51% answers to 49% questions.
The me that is ready will have an answer to “what do you want?”
The me that is ready, in knowing what it is I want, will be ready to sacrifice something for it.

I believe that the best fit for me will be in an umbrella or ASO type institution that advocates for new work and new work creators. That position will come about as a result of work that I initiate on my own in support of my desire to advance new work.

The obstacle is: That advocacy is rewarding for me. It is ultimately rewarding. But it isn’t fun. Part of my hesitance to move in that direction is that theatremaking is still fun. The idea of giving that up to advocate for others still rankles. It harkens back to my days at the Exit Theatre guarding the doors while others made art.

That’s the sacrifice I’m afraid to make.

There is a place for me in the machine. But that place isn’t as a theatremaker it’s as an advocate and I’m not ready to leave Neverland just yet.

  • Kat

    Do you have to choose?  I once thought that I had to choose between educational/social outreach theatre and playwriting and I’m doing both at the moment.  Not making money off of the playwriting, but still creating theatre AND working in the ‘real’ world in a way that satisfies most of my interests. 

  • Anonymous

    My first thought is that my heart breaks a bit as I read this: I completely understand that feeling of not wanting to leave Neverland, of not wanting to advocate for others instead of making art yourself, and all that goes with making that choice.

    My second thought is that you have such powerful and palpable gifts as a theoretician, a practitioner, a strategic planner, a maker of trouble AND an advocate, that I cannot wait to see what happens next.

    My third thought is stolen, wholesale, from Peter Gabriel: “Don’t give up, don’t give up, don’t give up.”

  • I look forward to the day that someone gives you a platform and an opportunity to use all of your skills – the advocating and the creating – in a way that benefits the theatre community as a whole.  I can’t wait to see what that world looks like.

  • Kat, I really hope you’re right and that this is just my fear and immaturity
    kicking up dust. I have my fingers crossed.

  • Kate Foy

    Now, this sounds all terribly Mother Superior-ish, but I have found that the path opens up when least expected; it’s a question of being ready to go when it does. There is also no ultimate life plan – I tend to believe this after many years – and you create the journey as you go. And here’s that hug …

  • Kate Foy

    Now, this sounds all terribly Mother Superior-ish, but I have found that the path opens up when least expected; it’s a question of being ready to go when it does. There is also no ultimate life plan – I tend to believe this after many years – and you create the journey as you go. And here’s that hug …

  • Brandon Moore

    Since the ASO/umbrella/helping-others world would be much richer for having you as part of it, let me try and offer my own experience, hoping there might be something in it you can grab hold of.

    I don’t think you have to choose between two binary states: rewarding or fun.  For me, the choice was “how much fun can I have?”

    I’ve been fortunate to find the rewarding ASO/umbrella/helping-others job.  And I know exactly what you’re talking
    about: sometimes it’s hard not to envy those who are “doing” while I sit on the sidelines quietly “helping.”

    The fun theatre-creating work I can only do occasionally.  I direct one show a year, and I try to act in one show a year.  I don’t get paid for it.  I do it on evenings and weekends with other people who don’t get paid for it.  While I’m doing it, there’s very little time for other interests.  People who came before me built a place for me to do it.  The infrequency makes it hard to keep getting better at it, but I do my best to do it well because that’s part of the fun. (And I have enough validation – internal and external – to know that I do it
    well.)  And thankfully I’m engaged to someone who loves to do it with me.  And so every moment of it is fun.

    I don’t see it as Neverland.  It’s an amusement park.  I ride the roller-coaster and pig-out on junk food and play mini-golf.  And then I go home.  I don’t have to sacrifice going to amusement parks; I’ve just decided I can’t go every day.