I struggled with writing this post this week. Since we have changed the blogging policy to where I will be blogging once a week, I have really liked thinking ahead to what topic I might try to tackle. While I am running in the morning, letting my mind wander, or sitting in the office, working on whatever task is currently occupying my brain space and a flash of inspiration comes and I’ll say, “Oooh, that’s it!” But like I said, this week was a struggle. Not because I didn’t know what to write about. I did. I knew exactly what I wanted to write about, just not how to do it.
My grandmother died last week. She was 90 and awesome and my family and I were lucky and blessed to have her in our lives for so long. She will be missed.
If this blog is an opportunity for our patrons (or really anybody with a computer and a connection to The Playhouse) to have more access to what Gulfshore Playhouse is doing and the people doing it, I realized that talking about such a personal experience might not fall within the parameters of The Playhouse Perspective. And yet, any time I revisited subjects for my post and watched my swiftly approaching deadline drawing nigh, I couldn’t shake the impulse that writing about my grandmother’s death was exactly what I should be doing.
So let me try to put this in perspective.
The heart of what we try to do in theatre is tell a story. This story might be moving, or comforting, or funny, or harsh, or provocative, or alienating, or reflective, or familiar, or foreign, or classic, or modern, or any combination of these things, but no matter what, it’s a story. And we have high hopes for these stories. We want them to right wrongs, and give a voice to the under represented, or take our audiences to unknown and exotic climes, to make them think new and important thoughts, or as Con says in Aaron Posner’s new adaptation of The Seagull, Stupid F***ing Bird, “Theatre that can actually make you feel like living better or fuller or or or…MORE!”
So how is this related to my grandma, you might be asking. Patience. I’m getting there.
Soon after I heard about grandma, I found myself turning to plays for words that I might use to eulogize her, or might comfort myself with, or that might give me perspective. Turning to plays is what I do. I’m an actor, I look to words written by others to help me tell the stories I am trying to tell. And as I turned to these plays, I started to feel weird. Why aren’t you using your own words? Why do you want to say what someone else wrote? Can you not find something from your own heart?
But of course I can. I will find plenty to say from my own heart. But what on earth is wrong with turning to written texts? Song lyrics, poems, religious texts, plays. These things are where we turn in the face of enormous upheaval, both good and bad. And one of the reasons we continue to look to these words is because they were written by someone else. There is reassurance in that, a commonality, a balm for the soul in knowing that someone else, somewhere, some time, has had a similar experience to you, and that it was meaningful enough to them to write something about it.
And this is my point, and I don’t think I am stretching too far in making it:
These stories we have high hopes for? These words we continue to look to? These shared and collective experiences? I am so proud to practice a craft that can put these words on display for people and offer them to the world in a way that might make someone laugh at a recognized moment, or smirk knowingly at a similar mistake, or feel excited by a new perspective, or feel validated by a shared idea, or move them to tears, or offer hope that a new day will dawn.
Stories can do many things. And they will help me through this time. And I will continue to practice my craft. And I hope that I will help someone, sometime, too.