Leaves in the hills and honest patience

I gave blood today. There was a long line of people at the local Red Cross branch, but I didn't really mind waiting. I suppose this season of civic awareness makes people all bloodthirsty or something. The poor tired orderlies, overworked and understaffed, withdrew the needle after collecting my pint of rich red juice before they remembered to take the necessary sample vials, and so I was poked twice today. I found this to be quite funny in light of the Red Cross Halloween t-shirts with vampires chasing drops of blood that they're giving out, with the legend, "The Thirst for Blood is Unquenchable." To make up for it, they gave me a box of Krispy Kremes. Lord, even the Red Cross knows I'll do anything for donuts.

The sunlight on turning leaves, chased with rainfall, is quite striking right now here in Portland. On some streets, whole lines of deciduous trees are all exploding with richly vivid colors, layering the dark streets with fallen things. Thankfully, I retrieved my coat from the cleaners yesterday, in time for this Vermont Expedition coming up.

There was, understandably, a great deal of baggage to work through with my Hand2Mouth Theatre colleagues, who do feel that a certain amount of trust has been broken by my leaving for this approaching month-and-a-half. I can certainly see and acknowledge their position, as I would probably be of the same mind myself were circumstances exchanged. And I do regret going back on my word to them, as such.

But by the same token I feel that there is no clean "correct" course of action here. To have refused the VSC offer would have been greater cause for regret, for me personally. I was offered a part in a script which, upon close scrutiny, I found to be quite strong, with a company whose work I am aware and appreciative of and with people whom I have cause to respect and admire. Here in Portland, comparable conditions prevail, up to this point, with Hand2Mouth Theatre and their work.

The crux lies in that the Vermont Stage Company is the first Theatre to approach me with a fully professional and respectful offer, the composition of which does not rely on me to manifest anything other than my art for them. That is, it's not going to be expected of me to build things or create playbills or hang lights (although of course I'm willing and able to do all of that, cheerfully so, because I am a Theatre Marine [see below]). What clearly matters first and foremost is that I play my own discrete part in this production, for which I will be compensated, in what is for me handsome terms.

This is important because I've never been in this position before, in my brief but tumultuous theatre career. This kind of treatment has heretofore been only theoretical, a pleasant utopian dream that I never really sought, nor ever really expected. Recent theatre experiences have been successively more difficult as my abilities and ambitions have grown, but the commensurate artistic satisfaction I've drawn from these recent experiences has never been consistent. In many ways, I believe the hardscrabble, anti-professional, DIY-ethic prevalent in the theatre circles I orbit, is responsible for this.

For me, it essentially comes down to an issue of respect. I don't feel that more money means greater respect; I feel that a decent compensation is part of a larger package--discrete expectations, specific responsibilities, clarity of design and intention--that together feels more dignified, better managed, and more respectful of me as an independent theatre artist. We're wasting less time and energy making it up together as we go along, because we've got our ducks in a row and we know what we're doing and why.

To be sure, I have great affection and regard for the hardscrabble, anti-professional, DIY-ethic, which, after all, is responsible for several of the most satisfying works it has been my privilege to be a part of thus far. And it's gotten me this far to boot. But I need this piece, this experience of professional work, to complete myself as a self-respecting artist. This, and my regard for the script of "The Drawer Boy", is what impelled me to make the decision I've made.

I take all this time to explicate this decision for you, dear reader, for no real reason other than to clarify my own thoughts in my addled blood-deprived head, and publicizing such things through this weblog is good in that in this manner I can more clearly see who I am and who I am becoming, by using an audience to keep me honest. Hey, I bet that has something to do with why I do theatre in the first place.

So if you're reading this, dear reader, I know it's complicated and wordy but please hear me when I say that I'm not trying to be smug or conceited about anything. There's a great deal to work through with this whole "growing-up" business, and I appreciate your honest patience.

lost in the leaves somewhere in the hills,


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