Theatre: what it’s taught me about love
This short note is completely inspired by Sam Strong’s recent Griffin newsletter:
Dear Theatre Lover,
Working in theatre is at once romantic and pragmatic.
I was reminded of the romance on Saturday with dual closing nights: Angela’s Kitchen at Griffin and the Sydney Theatre Company show I directed – Les Liaisons Dangereuses.
During a show, a team of people form an intense, unique and – in most instances – never to be repeated bond. When this ends it is of course incredibly sad, and a good reminder to wring everything you can from that finite experience.
But if theatre is a relationship then it rebounds brutally quickly. This was also on display on Saturday. As I walked up to Angela’s Kitchen I passed the truck parked in stage door ready to take the set on its national tour. Over at STC, by the time I stumbled home past it, the dressing room was already stripped ready for its next inhabitants.
For me, it’s back to planning a year’s worth of those unique bonds for 2013. Ideally, these translate to a year’s worth of unique experiences for audiences when they complete the relationship.
I’m looking forward to sharing it all with you soon.
There are of course the obvious things to say about love in the theatre. In one rehearsal many years ago directing Paul Weingott and Jessica Chapnik, Paul has said with the wisdom that elders in our community possess: “All theatre is about love, the pursuit of, or the lack of.” And in that moment – so much of my perspective changed. I stopped believing that theatre was based on conflict… I had forgotten to go one step further. All conflict comes from the desire for or the absence of love.
But that is content. And as an observer I’ve learnt a lot about love: the mess and pain of it – the universality of it.
But the practice of theatre has taught me something else.
The special and momentary connection between people: intense and completely focussed and engaged in a Piscies gaze: director/actor, director/SM, SM/actor, actor/audience.
Commitment and dedication: to turn up, despite the weather or internal fluctuation. The discipline of staying to hear what’s being said or shown- even when it is difficult or ugly or confusing. the importance of being open and honest to make sure you are on the same page, travelling in the same direction for the same goal.
And of course, letting go – that Sam speaks of in the final moments of lights dimming and bump out completed, props and costumes packed up to be stored and maybe revisited some other day. But in that also the letting go of initial concepts, first ideas, expectations. The surrender to what is and will be – the surrender to other people’s notions or experience. And also to forgive – short comings or missed expectations.
It’s easy to be in love. Warm glowing brightness – lovely words, beauty everywhere. When the you are in love with the theatre – and it makes you feel good, and validated and supported and when you feel like you are and will conquer anything – it’s easy.
And other times it’s not. It can be lonely and harsh and brutal and confronting. Foyers can feel like suffocating deserts as much and as often as they can feel like a fairy flossy cloud in a Katy Perry film clip. It’s easy to feel used up, ignored. Easy to feel envious of what others have in their love.
But I think the thing with love – deep love – the type that is not reliant on the moon or beautiful things – is that it endures – sometimes a little tarnished, or knotted or ragged, it endures.
Sometimes I flirt with other jobs. I fantasize about being a lawyer – or a florist. I weigh up the pros and cons of my relationship with the theatre. I envy what others have in their relationships with their jobs that aren’t in the theatre. Sometimes I might even holiday in another artistic genre. I might take a “break.” Dabble in adventure in other worlds.
But I seem to always come back.
And what it has taught me is that regardless of the momentary struggle and mess, the times when I feel my heart in knots, my thoat full of lumps, when I feel too tired or too old- when I think I’ve fallen out of love with it. When it seems pointless and directionless and unending, I pause. I will continue to go, continue to make and engage with it until I fall back in love again.
And of course, I do.
And I know I will.
Because it is true love – not a fling or a distraction. Not an infatuation, nor obsession, or a brief lustful dalliance. But quiet, strong, stubborn love. Because I know for certain, I am indeed, as Sam refers to us, a theatre lover.