Monday, August 16, 2010

The Albatross

Hello dear reader. Please forgive my absence; I have been off celebrating my sister’s nuptials and not celebrating the tempest storm leading up to them. But I shall save all that for another day-though I assure you, totally worth the wait. Suffice to say, the wedding was spectacular and I will not go into great detail for fear of karmic repercussions. However, for today, I have another matter entirely to discuss. I was on my way back from the wedding, lying in bed in a hotel in Akron, OH, feeling itchy and worried about bedbugs. So I got up to take a bath with some aroma therapy stress relief sea salts and as I lay there breathing in the eucalyptic air, I had a revelation. But before I can give you the weight of my thoughts, I must give you the barometer by which to measure them.

The first thing you need to know, or remember is that I am a performer, an actress. Also a dancer, singer, choreographer, director, aerialist, teacher and artist consultant, but that is neither here nor there. Except that it is because I have worked for a particular theater for 12 years which has never really believed I possessed any talent. It’s strange, I know, that they hired me, but as I thought through the years, it became more and more evident that I was a continued afterthought. I have done shows for them which I loved, I have jumped into roles with but a couple hours notice, I have even gone on in roles which I wasn’t cast in, learning from scratch in the morning to go on in the afternoon.

So, I know, wah, wah, wah, the world is hard and theatre is harder. But here is the kicker. This discrepancy in my talent to recognition level was brought screamingly to my attention recently when it was rumored I’d been cast in a show. So I contacted the theater, because twice they have cast me and forgotten to notify me and several times they didn’t cast me and didn’t call. It isn’t that unusual, except that they did call my husband to notify him one way or another, knowing we do still reside together. So let me quit my whining and get to the point. In the last couple of years, really since my Mom passed, I started branching out and working at other theaters with other people. They treat me well, they seem excited by my presence and they appear to think I bring something vital and important to the process. It’s a great feeling. But I realized something. It is also intimidating because in being treated like I matter, I want to give more, be more and the stakes are so much higher. So, what was this great revelation?

Well, recently I received some rather unexpected accolades for a performance I did. And the first thing I wanted to do was send it to this other theatre to let them know that someone else thinks I’m special…talented. So I started thinking, why did I want them to know? Why should I care? Because I want to go back and show them! Because despite the fact that I know how they are going to treat me, I want to go back and prove them wrong. But I can’t because in that environment, I wither. I don’t strive to excel because in showing up, I’ve already exceeded expectations, and that is sad.

It’s a metaphor for bad relationships. We seek acceptance from the ones who will least likely give it and in whose opinion we should least commit ourselves. Yet, the fact that we are rejected makes us want so badly to prove that person wrong that we make someone who should not even be on the radar vitally important to our happiness. And in doing so, we create a self-fulfilling prophecy of despair, desperately scraping for the shreds of approval doled out at intervals designed to keep us close and wanting. Designed to keep us so uncertain of ourselves that we never ask for more, never realize the potential which we are squandering. It is only when we walk away, cutting off the supplier from his demand that we can take back our dignity and our power. It is only when we walk in, expectations in hand, unwilling to bend in our resolve that we are able to meet on level ground. So for now, in art as in life, I shall seek only the approval of me, myself and I and this theater, the albatross around my neck, may go to hell, where they have abandoned me for so many years. So I ask you, who is your theater, and when do you walk away?

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