On Art, Breaks, & Returning

How does poetry come into all this? By being an antidote, a sovereign antidote, for passivity. For the basic fact about poetry is that it demands participation, from the secret physical echo in muscle and nerve that identifies us with the medium, to the imaginative enactment that stirs the deepest recesses where life-bill and values reside. Beyond that, it nourishes our life-will in the process of testing our values. And this is not to be taken as implying a utilitarian aesthetic. It is, rather, one way of describing our pleasure in poetry as an adventure in the celebration of life.
— Robert Penn Warren

I love this Robert Penn Warren quote. It's about poetry, but it might as well be about theatre, the pursuit of which, in my experience, "nourishes our life-will in the process of testing our values." I've had a fairly long run of having my values tested in the last few years, but lately I've been working on remembering what it's like to have theatre nourish my life-will. Paradoxically, I did this by taking a break from theatre. I stopped reading (most) theatre news. I turned down some work. I thought a lot about why I wanted to do theatre now.

Jon gives actors notes during a scene I directed for the Take Action Workshop. This is a hilarious photo for many reasons, but I was super proud of this scene, from  Waitress.

Jon gives actors notes during a scene I directed for the Take Action Workshop. This is a hilarious photo for many reasons, but I was super proud of this scene, from Waitress.

Trace, Alyssa, and I on the set of  Misha.

Trace, Alyssa, and I on the set of Misha.

I learned a lot. I learned to direct on camera, courtesy of Jon Shear's wonderful Take Action Workshop. I creative produced a short film, Trace Pope's Misha, which will be finished in the fall and will be sent to festivals all over the U.S. The film is Trace's baby (he wrote, directed, produced, and starred in it), but I got to do a lot of on-set directing when Trace was on-camera, and I'm really proud of the work that resulted. Trace and his co-star, the talented Alyssa May Gold, gave wonderful performances, and I can't wait to see the finished product.

 

It was a good break. I saw some theatre, the best of which was Paula Vogel's Indecent, which made me cry multiple times. I went to the gym, worked a lot, thought about what it means to be an artist. I talked to my friends and mentors about what I have left to do in New York and in the theatre world. I thought about why art matters to me, right now, at this moment. I came up with a small, calm, personal answer. Art matters because it's the only way I know how to make sense of the world.

 

So I'm still here. I'm back from my self-imposed break and ready to work. I don't know what comes next, but I feel confident it's going to be good. I can't wait to get back in rehearsal or on set for the next project. I've got some ideas brewing, but in the meantime, think of me when you need a director. I'll be here.