Thursday, July 12, 2012

Why do you keep doing this?

Guest bloggers: Hank Boland and Jess Hutchinson

Every day, each of us makes the choice to be a member of the Chicago theatre community.

Whether we do this consciously or not - every day - we choose.

It’s not because we can’t do anything else. There are a thousand ways that the skills we cultivate and utilize as artists and arts administrators are applicable to other pursuits, both professional and personal.

But we stay here. We continue to write the plays/cast the actors/audition for the directors/make the set models/write the grants/organize the board meetings/get the coffee/write the blog posts that are - by our own choice - contributing to the work of this community.


We’re not asking “what keeps you going when times get tough?” We see each other at the bar and on the internet enough to know that there is coffee and whiskey and cat videos and the encouragement to Hang In There. There are other things that we talk less about, too - fear, expectations of others, commitments made that need to be kept, habit.

But remember. We choose this. Every day.

So, again, why?

Why do you go back to the rehearsal hall/your writing desk/the conference room/the copy machine/the coffee shop? What is it that drives you to be part of what we and many, many others consider the best theatre community in the world?

So why? Why do you choose theatre? Why do you choose Chicago?

5 comments: said...

This story from TAL helped me discover the real reason: when people who are new to it discover that they love it and start to understand themselves and the world a little better because of it.

I don't get that feeling from anything else.

Meg McCarthy said...

I do it for entirely selfish reasons - I am a better person because I do this. I am more empathetic, interesting, patient and smarter. Yes, I could also evolve through reading, absorbing the visual arts, joining the peace corps, etc., but by creating theatre, I'm physically and emotionally ENGAGED IN LIFE everyday in such an expansive way that I don't know how I could live otherwise.

What a great question. Ask me again in 10 years.

Jess Hutchinson said...

That episode of TAL is killer - it gets me every. single. time. Isn't it amazing how our work can open up the world like that? As an arts educator, I totally get that drive.

Meghan - your articulation of that enhancement of self gets me where I live, too. I've been thinking a lot about theatre as civic engagement, since I believe we are uniquely placed to illuminate empathy and inspire compassion. The need/desire for true engagement of others grows from my own need/desire for that.

Unknown said...

I have a theory... You remember the FIRST theater experience you were ever apart of? When you felt a hundred pieces of the story come together for the first time? For most of us this probably happened in our teenage years or earlier. Remember how everybody loved each other? The community you felt apart of?

As we mature as artists or administrators we spend time refining our craft, our technique, our organizational skills, our message, etc. We find new passion in the process (or burn out... it happens). But at the core of it all, the collaborative nature of theatre requires us to work towards a greater purpose.

My theory though, is that before we knew anything about process, or discipline, or technique, we just had some AMAZING experience with a group of people who genuinely cared for each other. I think once you know that feeling is possible it is hard to not want again... and again... and again. I think we are all in a way (not literally), just trying to re-live those first moments of exposure to theatre, and ultimately recreate those feelings.

-Aaron Shapiro

tomburch said...

About a year ago, during an interview for a design gig (which I didn't get) I was asked a similar question, and -- as always happens-- the answer came to me 10 minutes later in the car on the way home.

The botched interview forced me to re-articulate to myself the question of WHY, and for myself, it boils down to two separate points on engagement. The first being, I LOVE a good story. It doesn't have to be Shakespeare, I can find something intriguing in a well-crafted non-spoken tv commercial... that's how story-hungry I am.

and the second point is that I LOVE being a part of the storytelling process. As a designer I work better with a pencil and a paintbrush and 3dimensional space that I will be ever be able to do with words, and so I support those who DO have the words, those who have the conceptual powers to bring the myriad points together, those who CAN act and embody characters, and by being a being a small part of that whole, I find a fleeting sense of that belonging, of community, and that why this business... and specifically Chicago... has meant so much to me. the ability to see and do so many different things with so many different companies is like a smorgasboard of orgasmic storytelling happening all over the city EVERY DAY OF THE YEAR.
I understand that New York will always be a theatrical CENTER, and rightfully so, but the more exciting work, in my humble estimation, is happening elsewhere and getting transported there, Chicago being one of it's main ports of call.

which is why the fact that I'm about to move away, even more difficult to accept. I will miss this smorgasboard, dearly. I'll miss the fiery and ebullient and vital personalities that make it up, I'll miss the "misses" as much as the "hits", BECAUSE of the fact that someone went to the trouble to TRY something different.

I am a much better designer, theatre artist, husband, father, human being than i was before I came here, and I owe a large part of my own self-definition to this community.