Monday, January 12, 2009

Finding Joy

Apropos of really nothing, I'm thinking about why we go through all of this, why we deal with moribund theatres, crazy people, indifferent audiences, a hostile culture, all of that. I find myself yelling in bars at the top of my lungs about this stuff, buttonholing people to rail about What's Wrong With Theatre Today (or Tomorrow, or Next Year or Whenever and Always), and I stop and think, why the hell do I we do this? And then I remember: joy. There is joy.

I'm currently working with a young playwright who's come to town for her first New York reading. She is a bit younger than I was when I had my first reading, but not by too much. Sitting next to her in the rehearsal room, you can feel the waves of pleasure and joy coming off of her like a warm, comforting smell. It's a lovely, lovely thing to be in the room with. And a thing to remember.

We all make the same gallows joke about this life: none of us got into it to get rich, so we might as well have fun. But it's true. When we started, we didn't think we'd get rich. Ever. But we enjoyed it. Only later do we learn about royalties, box office, commissions and fees. We edge towards them, because they're shiny and pretty and we can buy food and beer with them. We try to keep one foot in the pool of joy we sprang from, but sooner or later, we slip out. If we're lucky, we land in a bigger, deeper pool, or at least a puddle of cash and comfort. Mostly, though, most of us hit the hard ground somewhere between joy and comfort. We want out of that no man's land, but don't know which way to reach. The best of us can stretch, one foot in joy, one hand in wealth. Too many of us crawl into cold comforts. Today, I'm trying to find my way back to the pool of child-like joy. If I make it back, maybe I'll forget that I ever have to leave it.


Lindsay Price said...

It's easy to forget, but so important to remember the joy of theatre. I work and write for student performers - there is no other group so energetic, enthusiastic, and optimistic. They have no idea what a life in the theatre can really be like. :)

Freeman said...

Thanks for this. Absolutely right.