Friday, August 13, 2010

Coming Up For Air

Sometimes I feel like I'm drowning.

There are times when I feel like the whole of my life is pushing in on me, and threatening to pull me under. Pull me into a place where I start to forget what's important, and how every part of my life feeds into what's important. As I have said before, my goal right now is to lead a creative life. To know that, when I pass on, something will be left behind to mark how I thought and felt while I was there.

I'd love to make a living doing that, but I've learned, through experience, that many times the things that will pay you are not the things you want to hang your soul, and your fullest efforts, upon. That, maybe, in order to give of yourself fully, in a creative sense, you have to accept that there will always be the things you MUST do, as well.

I also have become very aware that acting in the theatre is really a silly way to accomplish my goal. It's perhaps the most transitory of forms, gone before you even realize what it meant. Your greatest moments of honesty and connection will come and go without even a moment to savor them. To be able to savor them would mean they were never as true and connected as they felt.

Yet, I do love it, and I am fully aware it's the creative act I'm (probably) best at. Of all the things I have tried my hand at, it is the one that feel natural and instinctive more often than not. When things happen without conscious effort or planning. When you can set yourself riding on a flow of honesty.

I enjoy writing and playing music almost as much, as creative releases, but those are such solitary endeavors, lacking the moment when you look into the eyes of a partner and feel a whole world existing between you. Music could be like that, I suppose, but since my path has taken me away from a "band" situation for so long, it's become an craft of solitude for me. Not to mention that they do feel like WORK. I believe myself to be talented in each, but not even close to the facility I find in myself in the best moments on stage.

I make no secret of the fact that, on the acting front, the last year and a half has been immensely frustrating for me. Projects I was deeply invested in being a part of were lost, or denied, and the projects I did become involved with, while fun or challenging in nearly every case, never really connected with me deep down. I felt rudderless and adrift, auditions came and went, scripts were read, and nothing excited me. Or, if it did, I was let know, in one way or another, that "they" weren't excited about me.

My energy drifted away from me on the projects that I was excited about, in a haze of seeming apathy, and lack of support, from people around me. Even within my home theatre company I felt pigeonholed and typecast, looked at more for my physical size than anything having to do with craft or talent.

It was like fucking college all over again.

My work suffered. I was easily distracted, I lost focus. My skills seemed to slip away from me. I found myself unable to simply remember my damn lines, at times.

Perhaps I was spoiled. I had come off several shows in a row that I felt pushed me, and made an impact. Maybe they didn't sell like gangbusters, or garner awards, but I would remember them, and they would change me for the better. I was moving forward, career-wise, or in my personal development, and that made me feel very good.

Then, it stopped.

...And here I have been ever since. Projects thwarted, ideas rejected, feeling the sense that my "career," such as it is, was going to swallow me whole. That it would drown me.

Sometime during the middle of all this, my friends LeighB and DustinS came to me with a script Dustin had written called The Sound of a Yellow Flower. Leigh was directing a reading of the piece, and Dustin had, apparently, specifically wanted me to read the role of Nikolai. The script was based on t short one-act Dustin had done for the Loopshop Festival his company, Strangeloop Theatre, does every year. The original one-act didn't feature Nikolai, at all.

I'm going to be honest, I said yes more out of a desire to do SOMETHING at a point when I didn't feel I could pay someone to cast me. The character seemed more of the same, the big, thuggy guy. The heavy, the antagonist, the authority figure, the scary dude. I've done that. I've done it A LOT. I can't say that the reading changed my mind about it.

So when Dustin contacted me in, I think it was April, about reprising the role in a full production this Fall, I was a little hesitant. There's something to be said about beggars not being choosers, but there's also something to be said about an actor having only one power, the ability to say "no." Really, the only other thing on the radar was my company's Fall show, which featured...Yeah, you guessed it, another big, antagonist character. Rock and a hard place, is what it felt like.

Y'see, I hadn't even read the full production re-write Dustin sent to me. I hadn't read the new scenes, the changes, the way that Nikolai had changed and evolved. He'd become something new, and far deeper than what I'd read before. I hadn't expected the open hearts and minds from Dustin, and Director LetitiaG, to the ideas I had about him, and the play. I'm embarrassed to say I didn't expect to be challenged, and enjoy the role as much as I am.

I guess what I can say, at least on a professional level, is that, right now, I feel myself swimming for the surface. I think I can see the light from above. I think The Sound of a Yellow Flower is going to be a damn fine show, the cast is great, the people behind the scenes are great, and, if you live in Chicago, you'd be a damn fool to miss it.

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