I’ve been performing since I was a little girl, and it’s hard work. There’s lines and blocking and the possibility of stage fright and expectations. Yikes. When I write that all out I wonder if we performers just like to torture ourselves.
This past semester, I was on another side of the production life, and I learned a lot. Producing and directing a show (nonetheless, a show that I’ve wrote) was hard work. No duh.
Through this process of writing, directing, and producing a show, I learned that I could totally do this for the rest of my life. It was in either late January or early February when I said to Demetrius, “I’ve had a revelation today. I realized that I could totally go on making theatre without all the glam. If I’m not famous a day in my life, I’m totally okay with that, as long as I’m making theatre.” Now, that’s not to say I’ll shun fame if it so happens to find me. It’s just not a major goal for me anymore. It took me writing a show and then realizing that I was going to actually direct it to feel the creative theatrical experience from the beginning.
As actors, we come into the process after the conception of the ideas, tons of drafts and re-writes, and then after someone else has read it and chosen a vision for it. Then, we carry out that overall vision. There’s nothing wrong with this, and I enjoy acting very much. I actually miss being on stage after about two months after being in a show. What I’m trying to say, though, is that there was always something more that I craved from the experience.
I thought it was fame. I thought that being recognized everywhere I went or just by a medium-sized fanbase would fill that hole I believed I had. I wanted fame and recognition. And then I wrote a play and had the means to direct it.
This was no small task. There were so many bumps in the road (which I expected), and I learned a lot about how I work as a creative, as a leader, as a director, and as a person. I think the main thing I learned very early on in the process was 1) it’s hard being the boss and 2) I have a no-nonsense attitude when it comes to running a production. These two facts were probably the most difficult ideas I had to grapple with, and I surprised myself with the type of person I am. Before putting on this production, I had of course been in other leadership roles, but none of them were as personal to me as this one was. I felt very protective over it, and I bristled everytime someone or something threatened to destroy it. Basically, my play was a baby, and I learned that I’m a very protective mama bear. 😅
Being the boss means making the decisions. I’m not an indecisive person by nature (at least I don’t think so), but I like having time to think things over and review my options. I didn’t always get the luxury of time during this process, though, which forced me to make quick decisions and stand by them. It was scary doing this, and I learned that I used to be afraid of making quick decisions. What if the decision was wrong? What if I regretted it later on? What if I didn’t spend enough time thinking about it? What if I wanted to change my answer? This also applied to when I was blocking scenes and answering questions from actors. In the beginning, I felt like every decision I made in terms of blocking was set in stone. Yes, I was a director, but who was I to be giving direction?
I think this is a concept a lot of people my age deal with and not just with theatre. We are so used to being told what to do or having to ask for permission that we doubt ourselves and our capability of decision-making. We also doubt our right to change our mind, which is something that stems from high school, in my opinion. In high school, you come in at 14 and leave at 18, which are crucial years of development and change, but yet, we’re expected by our peers to still be the same person from freshmn to senior year. Being a director and a producer forced me out of this thinking super quickly. I realized very quickly that I had to made decisions with a certain amount of backbone. I couldn’t let the fear of people not agreeing with me or wanting something else make me doubt my own decision-making. I knew what I wanted, and that was it.
There were many times during this process where I thought I was in way over my head. I considered calling it all off and trying again next semester. Like I said before, I was having serious doubts about myself: Who was I to be giving direction? Who was I to think that I could write, direct, and produce a show? When the process all started I was a nineteen year old college student. Was I qualified enough to do this? Did I have the skill set it took to direct a show? Was my writing good enough to even put on a stage? I was having doubts about every aspect of my involvement: as a playwright, as a director, as a producer, and as an overall theatre-maker.
Why did I keep going?
The main thing, first and foremost, was pride. Cancelling Orchestra Seats would mean admitting defeat, and I’m never one to do that. As twisted as this mindset is, I’d rather go down with a sinking ship than abandon it, especially if I’m the one who built the ship and is captaining it. The second thing that kept me going was all the hardwork and dedication the cast and production team had already put in. Too much stress had gone into it to stop. If I pulled the plug, I’d be disregarding all the energy that everyone else was putting into it.
The last thing that kept me going was the feeling of accomplishment I felt during the rehearsal process. I was seeing scenes start from nothing and gradually become better. My vision was being actualized, and I was finally taking something from my head and allowing others to see it. I was living out a dream, and who wants to cut a dream short?