Next month, I’m planning to go to my hometown of Winnipeg to visit friends, family, and take in some of the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival. I’m quite looking forward to it!
Being at the Fringe Threatre Festival is going to be interesting since I haven’t performed in nearly two years. I’m not exactly sure how I feel about that. When I take in live theatre, I tend to start thinking about diving into creating a new show and performing again. That said, I don’t really have a burning desire to get back on the stage again and perform. …Well, not really, but maybe a little? It’s complicated – but I’ll try to explain what I mean.
When I sit down and think about it, it seems to me that acting for the sake of acting and getting deep into a role has never really been, shall I say, my impetus for getting involved in theatre. I don’t think it was ever my true desire to be an actress. I just sort of fell into it, and then went along for the ride. And I’m glad I did, because I believe it to be a very important part of my life journey!
I think one of the reasons I was was whisked away by theatre was because I desired to prove to myself that it was something I was capable of. I shied away from the stage and certainly experienced varying levels of stage fright. Yet despite that, I still had a calling to be on stage. And so, I answered that call and sought to be the kind of person who would overcome that fear – or, at the very least, feel the fear and do it anyway.
I love theatre as an art form as a whole, but I can’t say I was ever truly in love with the acting / performance facet more than all the other aspects of theatre. I was initially much more drawn to directing and design in addition to playwriting. Theatre was to become my preferred medium of expression by creating, producing, and performing my own independent plays.
Sometimes I find myself missing the process of creating a play and bringing it into the world, sharing it with people, and interacting with an audience. I like knowing that I’ve made an impact on someone else’s life. I’m not sure if I’ve given up on my past theatre career just yet. (Although it hasn’t really been that much of a career for the past 8 years or so, since I haven’t been deeply involved in it for quite some time.) Even so, I’m simultaneously a bit reluctant to get back into it.
My last show, which I only performed in one city, was vastly underdeveloped by the time opening came around, and of course I bombed my opening performance and got a horrendous review based on that horrendous opening show. That’s been a pattern I’ve had for a while:
- Have lofty ambitions for a show.
- Book a slot in Fringe festivals when the play is merely an idea.
- Work on creating the show for the booked performances… but then inevitably get stuck in the creative process.
- Fall WAY behind schedule because I hold myself to really high expectations and get overly critical of everything I write.
- Scramble to get the show ready, somehow, in time for the pre-scheduled performance date so that I don’t have to bear the embarrassment of cancelling the show and losing all the money I had already invested in festival fees and props and costume pieces and advertising, etc.
- Focus way too much on the production details (like sound, costume, poster and flyer design, etc.) because I find that part so much easier and more grounding than the difficult process of trying to be a creative genius and prove to the world that I have something important to say. Plus, it makes me feel like I’m actually making progress and being productive.
- Calm myself down from stressing myself out (like you wouldn’t believe) and somehow pull a performance out of my ass on opening night.
- Kick myself over and over post-opening-night show for missing various key points that I had intended to make due to getting too nervous (not to mention being underprepared.)
- Get depressed about the inevitable review from that horrendous premiere performance. (I’ve almost always had the wondrous ‘luck’ of having a reviewer attend the very first performance EVER of a new production or at a theatre festival… and of course the very first performance rarely goes according to plan.)
- Try to continually improve and tweak the show throughout its entire run.
- Stress myself out during the festival.
- Mop up my splattered self-esteem (and you can image how much of a mess it can get when one’s own grandmother expresses disappointment over that bad aforementioned review and refused to see one’s show because of it).
- Reassure myself that I’m capable of so much better.
- Remind myself that, although the show was vastly underprepared and nowhere near my initial vision and ambition, it was still something that many people were touched by (at least as the show continued to improve).
- Tell myself that there’s no way I can let that be my last production because if I were ever to “retire” (so to speak), my ego wants to go out with a bang. i.e. a show that’s garnered tons of praise and wonderful reviews.
… And that pretty much brings us back to the present – or, to just under two years ago when my last show wrapped up at the end of July, 2017. I’ve had too many of these frustrating experience, and I know I’m to blame. You’d think I’d learn. Maybe I’m fearful of trying again because I’m fearful of repeating the same dreadful pattern. But that doesn’t stop me from thinking about it every so often.
Now and then I’ll find myself thinking about potential show ideas that I could, just maybe, attempt for next time. Although next time I want to ensure that I’m beyond prepared. That would certainly be a refreshing breath of air!
One of the show ideas I’ve tossed around in my head involves a format I’ve never done in my life, and it sort of terrifies me: Portray myself on stage. Not a character, not a work of fiction. Portray my real self and share stories about life. Share my actual thoughts and fears and demons. You can see why this might terrify me.
Part of me desperately wants to attempt this type of show. I’ve never done anything like it, ever. I have no idea if it’d be any good. Have I even led an interesting enough life to warrant such a show? But the very fact that this scares me tells me that I should probably explore it.
If I did a show based on my life (it’d be a storytelling style play, I believe), I ask myself if I’d have the courage to be blatantly transparent about my self and my life. I truly want to. But would I have the balls to do that if I knew my family would be there in the audience?
Ultimately, I’m pretty sure this is something I’d like to explore. I don’t have a specific idea as of for the theme I’d want to explore for this type of show (aside from daring myself to be as authentic and transparent as I could be), nor for the stories I would share. But it’s definitely something that’s been on my mind, and I’m so curious to discover what kind of show I’d come up with if I were to pursue this idea.
I suppose I could consider this bog post as a means of “leaning into it” – “it” being the idea for this storytelling show in which I’d portray my unabashed and unadulterated self. Hmmm…
How comfortable are you in sharing your true self with the world? What stories would you be afraid or nervous to tell? What kind of stories do you think others would relate to best? …And especially: What kind of stories would you love to hear? <3
This above all: To thine own self be true.― William Shakespeare