Lost Among the Trees (Again)

Verse daily featured a poem I didn’t want to like. The diction, I guess. Might have been the form itself. A poem a day is a reminder to slow down.

Morning coffee, dates and the blackbirds’ singing in the dark. Saturday. The final weekend before the students’ premiere, I have a few minutes before the working day.

Lear is tucked away until next Friday. And I am scrambling until then.

All these years of student productions, I have learned to do everything in the last minute. I’ve learned to trust. And we’ve always stumbled through. Teenagers are simply amazing.

So there is that.

And there is a kind of personal/professional satisfaction in the work – in the creative demands of chaos. But I think I don’t want to do it anymore. I am stuck in a pattern of panic and pulling-through. The find myself only maybe reaching the same level of artistic competency every year because I’m not even aiming to be better at this particular thing that I’m repeating: the panic and the pull-through.

I love the brainstorming that happens while devising – the whole process is energizing and fun. But then when I am ready to put the breaks on and focus on the details – well. No. Because 15 or so complex lives are being played out in the rehearsal room and the bathroom and the wardrobe room. Because 200 minutes a week for 8 weeks is too little to hold the demands of a full-on from-scratch production – with amateurs, no less – and I have no interest in using students as übermarionetter. I respect their creativity too much to have them mimic my preconceived production. I would lose out. Everyone would. That is not where my strengths or interests lie.

I have always been a person who sees the trees and not the forest. I am realizing how true that is of pretty much every aspect of my creative work.

There are paintings of landscapes with forests or cities that you only see at a distance. Close up – nothing individual exists. I admire them for many reasons. But there are also paintings that give you the experience of sap on a tree branch. That allow you to zoom out on your own: bring the big picture from your own perspective and experience. Even if that means that you say, “this thing, this doesn’t exist in my world – how beautifully strange”. I like juxtapositions. I like intimacy.

When I first began teaching, I worked with creative dramatic teachers who were interested in the theatrical process as a holistic learning process. I have never thought that way. And to be clear, I still don’t. But I realize now that I am interested in process – as a creative, artistic process that is still at heart l’art pour l’art. I’ a’m beginning to understand exactly what I enjoy about collaboration – and what I don’t.

What a weird thing to discover after so many years: to identify what it necessary and what is not. What I am doing this weekend? It is time for me to finish up and move on. There are other ways.

2 Replies to “Lost Among the Trees (Again)”

  1. In truth, I have always thought there was a huge conflict between teaching creative arts and being a creative artist. I don’t know how they go together when it’s more than a gentle nudge in this or that direction. I admire that you’ve done it well for so long.

    1. I appreciate this, but I don’t think I have done that. I have a lot of emotions about it all, the joy in teaching, yes, (working with my students this year is a seriously healing experience) – but I do have resentment, too (not of the students – not of any students). If I had put more of my creative energy elsewhere (for so many reasons) I might be healthier mentally. The shrink has helped me see a lot more of what I do need to do “as a creative person”- where I have often thought that thinking that way was arrogant and grandiose: “a creative person”. I am sad that I am only figuring this out now – so old 😉 I don’t have to see myself exclusively as a jack to lift other people all of the time. I have this overwhelming fear of “using” my position to step on students for my own ambitions. I’ve watched teachers do that. What do you do with your own ego when you are teaching? How do you keep from squishing it until it is permanently deformed in the back of the closet? Honestly, my colleagues think I am an idiot for worrying about this. Deluded that there could have been an otherwise. Geeze, my little stream of consciousness is like a Catcher-in-the-Rye for high school teachers! hahaha


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