Can we make art that we are passionate about, nurture that art to the public eye, and live balanced, sane lives while we do it? That is the grand life experiment that Kate and I embarked on when we decided to usher our first documentary piece Big Work into the world. It hasn’t always been easy.
If you have been following us on social media or the blog, you probably noticed that we rescheduled our workshop reading of Big Work from November 2015 to March 5, 6, and 7, 2016. Plays are postponed all the time, usually because of something negative – a major casting issue, a challenge finding rehearsal and performance space, or a problem with funding. Fortunately, our decision wasn’t driven by anything negative; we were simply having too much fun to be rushed or to allow this play to become something on a checklist in our “busy” lives.
Really? Too much fun working on a script? How can that be possible? Aren’t artists supposed to thrive on the pain of producing work? And we’re talking about having too much pleasure to want to rush?
When we founded The Perpetual Visitors Theatre Company, we spent a lot of our time talking through not only the kind of theatre we wanted to make, but also the way that we wanted to make theatre. Although we don’t elaborate too much about this belief on our website, these values drove not only our decision to postpone, but pretty much everything we do.
1. We wish to dismantle the belief that artists need to be tortured and the creative process needs to be painful. Regardless of whether you are a musician, actor, writer, or creative of any kind, we can all agree that somewhere in our collective history, we decided that to be a “serious artist” meant you have to suffer for your art. Yes, the creative process has its ups and downs, and of course, there are challenges to be met along the way. But in the end, isn’t it vital to derive pleasure from whatever glorious, beautiful thing you are making? We think so, and we’re not afraid to let everyone know that crafting this play has been one of the great pleasures of our recent lives. We are daring to love our play and our process, and we are daring to savor it.
2. We believe that the way we make art is just as important as the art we make. As human beings and as artists, Kate and I have had countless conversations about how process is equally important as product when it comes to creating. Often when we make something, there is a gap between what we say we value and what we do in action. It has been our goal from the start to be very mindful of this during our process. For example, if you are working on writing a book about health, balance, and spiritual awakening, but allow the creation process to deprive you of sleep, joy and peace of mind, aren’t you defeating your own purpose? Similarly, we are striving to create a play that explores our relationship to our jobs and the rest of our lives in a balanced and meaningful way. So wouldn’t it be nonsensical for the play itself to be the very thing that deprives us of balance and peace of mind in our own lives?
3. Art isn’t made in a vacuum, and we have to change when life changes. We’re all familiar with the saying “The best laid plans….” We cannot control the timing of many opportunities that come our way, but we do have control over how we choose to engage with these opportunities. Big Work was originally slated to premiere next month, and at the time we made that decision, both our fall schedules were virtually wide open. Then Kate was invited to teach a course at a local university and I was asked to teach a documentary theatre workshop out of state. Our personal calendars began to fill up as well with things we wanted to be a part of, and during an incredibly honest and thoughtful conversation, we decided that the universe seemed to have a different idea for our timeframe.
Could we have taught our classes, stuck to our personal commitments AND produced the premiere of Big Work? Of course. Would we have enjoyed any of it? Probably not. And the only reason we could think to push forward on that timeline was because of the tape that runs in our heads that says we should be able to do everything at the same time, perfectly, and never sweat.
Kate and I have always agreed that perfectionism is an ugly master, but we are taught to strive for it and to be silent about the constant sense of failure and deprivation that breeds. We don’t want any part of that anymore. For us, the most important question became: After deriving so much pleasure from the playmaking process so far, would we be willing to push through and sacrifice the joy we are finding in writing this play for the end product of simply producing it quickly? Absolutely not.
Our fall is now devoted to the luxurious wide open expanse of exploring the landscape of our play even further and for that we are very grateful. We hope that when March comes around and the play is premiered, that those of you in the audience will be able to not only witness the incredible debates amongst the characters about work and life, but sense our own conversations about how we choose to live and create as artists.
*A note to all of the amazing and generous souls who supported our Indiegogo Campaign: our venue transferred our full deposit from fall to spring, and rest assured that every dollar you donated is still going exactly where we said it would – just in March instead of November. We couldn’t be doing any of this without you, and we are forever grateful.