Back Like a Found Penny

Once again, a longer pause than intended. Any number of reasons that don’t require listing off–at least not in a “justifying my absence” kind of way. There may indeed be a few of those reasons that get unwound as threads of exploration in future days and weeks.* But only because they warrant deeper examination in my ongoing life/growth journey.

So let’s start with the elephant in the room, the primary thing that demanded a majority of my extracurricular time & attention: stage managing that production of Into the Woods.

(Yeah, I might as well just out the name of the show. I like to pretend some basic anonymity here, but let’s be real: anyone with an ounce of google-fu could likely piece together my identity. So even though I’m still not going to advertise my Self here, I’m not going to be excessively/annoying coy, either….)

So: stage managing.

stage manage lightbulbI’d forgotten how much work it took. I’d forgotten how good I could be at it. I had no idea how much I would learn and grow from the experience.

You see, when I first agreed to the job, I hadn’t really thought through what a beast of a show ITW is, technically speaking. (Costume changes, complicated lighting designs, intricate vocal/miking textures and quick scene changes–including that damn Rapunzel’s tower!**) Now, my strengths as SM are much more on the performer’s side of the equation. So I won’t deny that tech weeks got a little scary. In one moment of comic despair, I even remember joking with Mr. Mezzo about the hubris of it all: “Sure, for my first time back in theater for 13 years, why don’t I stage manage one of the technically toughest shows in the entire Broadway canon. It’ll be FUN!!

But, for all the mistakes I made, and all the private tears I cried in my moments of greatest intimidation–and I made and cried my fair share–the bottom line is this. I buckled down, I upped my game, I learned how, and I did my best for this cast and this show.

And that’s a perfect segue to the deeper learnings of the experience: the practice of generosity.

The other times I stage managed productions were similar to this one in that I’d auditioned for an on-stage role, not made the cut, and then been asked to help out backstage.

The energetic difference from then to now, though, was huge.

I recall those past SM tours being ones I quietly poisoned with an undercurrent of jealousy. Not that I did a lower-quality job or anything like that. But, looking back, I’m aware how there was always at least a small part of me playing the comparison game. Feeling embittered because my “greater singing talent” wasn’t weighed as valuable enough against someone’s prettiness, or because I suspected someone had left me out of the loop of the audition announcement because she hadn’t wanted to compete with me for a part. Jealousy and judgement infecting my attitude and actions.

I have a gentle regret that I was so limited in my younger self, so lost in the pain of my not-enoughness, that I brought that energy of jealousy and bitterness to the work of creating theater.

And this time around?  Pure revelation to me. This cast was so undeniably talented, so creative. Each one of them dedicated in their own way to creating these beautiful, sweet, funny, tear-stained moments from this show’s textures. There was no space to get caught up in comparisons, jealousies, the “what might have been” had my audition gone differently. What I knew for sure was that I loved the show this cast was creating, and I wanted nothing more than to support that creation.

It’s amazing how different the hard and scary work feels when it’s rooted so purely in generosity like that. I mean, it’s still hard work, and it still has its low moments. (What human endeavor is ever free of that? None I know of.) But with that rootedness in being on mission and on purpose, there is an inextricable joy in the work, too. Even the hard bits.

Once of my favorites poems ever is “To be of use,” by Marge Piercy. Its concluding lines:

Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.

Stage managing again, and coming at that job from a place of generosity, was such a potent reminder about what I love about this poem. What I love about doing “work that is real” in my own life.

Though I will freely admit: I’m hoping that the next couple of shows I audition for end up with me getting a small part in the chorus. I don’t think I need to be stage managing more than once every year or two….

*Assuming I rebuild my posting momentum, of course.

** Also know as “the bane of my existence.”


Image found on: Twitter.

3 thoughts on “Back Like a Found Penny

  1. Pingback: Pick Yourself Up, Dust Yourself Off… | A Will for Will: The Shakespeare Project

  2. Love this poem, thank you for the link!
    And I LOVE how you describe the way this whole experience unfolded for you! (Welcome back, btw, for however long or short this sojourn is.)


  3. Pingback: The Missing Ingredient | Self-Love: It's Just Another Lifestyle Change

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