I was sitting at Hopleaf on Saturday night with my boyfriend and his best friend, having great laid-back conversation about where we’d like to travel one day, what our plans for Christmas are, and, inevitably, theatre–when the bf’s bff said this:
“Theatre is one of the most important things you can do with your life; you are making a conscious decision to be a part of the story-telling experience that brings everyone together. That is what theatre is about. It is about sharing common experiences and making people go, ‘Oh yeah, I’ve been there, I’m not alone,’ or at least giving them a new common experience as audience members. It’s wonderful. It’s powerful.”
He was quoting John Green, who was the Chair of the theatre department at Columbia during our time there and is now the acting Fine Arts chair–a really fantastic person who understands and impresses upon others the fundamental need for empathy in people, and helped give us the tools to connect as actors.
Our little table was silent for moment after that–just for a moment; we are chatty people–but in that soft silence I felt so warm and validated. It’s very easy to forget, amid the expenses of tuition and headshots and classes; in the frustration of being slaves to day jobs so you can pay your rent and eat and have just enough time for rehearsal or auditions; when your family is still waiting for you to snap out of your daydream and apply to law school or at least look for a real job, one that requires a license and therefore guarantees security; that what we’re doing, or at least trying to do, is actually worthwhile. For most of us, it’s not a vanity project. We aren’t trying to be on magazine covers (though we wouldn’t mind); fundamentally, we are trying to tell stories. And people really, really need stories.
So I just wanted to share with you this thought: whatever you’re passionate about doing, do that. If you are in the arts in any way, don’t let anyone tell you that you’re wasting your time. Especially in the wake of the tragedies this past week, it is vital that we keep reaching out to each other. We are the makers of the connecting threads.
There is a gentle snowfall outside my window as I write this; there are lights strung up behind me casting a colorful glow on my screen. I am cheered and I am heartened by this season, and it is a perfect time to reflect on what makes us human, and why. I hope everyone’s Christmas is full of friends, family, love, and most importantly: making memories that will become your own story. We need those.
We are the music-makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers,
And sitting by desolate streams.
World-losers and world-forsakers,
Upon whom the pale moon gleams;
Yet we are the movers and shakers,
Of the world forever, it seems.
-Arthur William Edgar O’Shaughnessy