In the beginning, all I wanted was to do good work- at least it's nice to think I did. Being so long ago, it is hard to look back and remember what my true motives were. However, if I had to venture a guess as to my truest motivations, it was most likely for recognition and fame. No one would want to admit that. “I wanted to be the best, and for people to tell me that I was the best.” I don’t think that there is anything wrong with wanting to be the best or famous, that was just something that along the journey I realized I didn’t want.
I had a great childhood. I got to spend a lot of time with family- mostly because we lived so far out in the country that next door neighbors weren’t a thing. I was always different than the people at my school. Different in the way of our interests. Theatre classes didn’t exist in our small town. It wasn’t until my junior year of high school that my mother signed me up for a theatre camp in a town 50 miles away. If it wouldn’t have been for that program I would have never found my people. I had finally found a place outside of my own home that my creativity and willingness to be silly was embraced and celebrated. It was a great feeling, so great that I was willing to drive my old beat up truck with no working gas gauge or speedometer 100 miles everyday just to attend rehearsal.
Fast forward 14 years. I’m living and working in Chicago, Illinois as an actor. I have a nice apartment (with a washer and a dryer… big deal) I have worked really hard to get to the point of success that I had thought for so long was what I wanted. For some reason I found myself a not very happy person. It is strange to work for something for so long and then suddenly you think, “maybe this isn’t what I am meant to do.” It was terrifying. I wanted so much to figure out what it was that I wanted. Why couldn’t I find fulfillment in my work anymore? It was like being pulled through the darkness not sure where I was headed. The funny thing about all of that wanting was that I already knew what it was that I wanted/needed. I wanted to bring my experience and artistry to places that didn’t have access to it. There are over 600 theatres in Chicago… they didn’t need me. Nothing I was doing there would have helped anyone but my own ambition. When I was given the opportunity to come back to my home to teach theatre and perform, it seemed like the perfect thing to do. It was incredibly hard to make the decision to leave everything I had worked for, but looking back it is the best decision I could have made.
The result of heading south is that I met my amazing, beautiful, patient wife; teach theatre to kids and adults in 2 parishes; and most recently, I have started my own theatre company. Of course the road has been long, and there are four years separating me from when I moved here. The difference now being that I know with all certainty that I am where I am supposed to be- doing what I am supposed to be doing.
The problem with following the path your heart takes are those that you have to leave behind. There are the ones that supported and lifted you up, and then there are those that you realize negatively supported you for their own benefit. It is monstrously difficult not to resent these people because without doubt they will speak out against you. It doesn’t matter how much you tell yourself that these people are expressing themselves from a place of insecurity, the sting is just as deep. Along with the negative there is just as much, if not more, positivity. Forcing yourself to actively look for the positive can prove to be insurmountable. For me negative people and thinking suffocates my thoughts. Knowing this about myself, I have to try really hard to make sure that I am surrounded by the right people.
Writing all of this down makes it seem like it was nothing to get here. Like one of those montages from the 80’s or 90’s. There he is with this impossible decision to make. Some really good music starts to play and four years worth of struggle is laid out in one page. Starting Play On Theatre Company was a terrifying thought. Lexie and I were about to get married. I had just started a new job teaching, and I was directing Annie: The Musical, which Lexie was performing in. It is almost impossible to explain how amazing and supportive she is. Without hesitation we just started planning what we wanted to do. There is nothing like having someone in your corner that believes in you but will also tell you when you are making a mistake. While we have been working and creating everything we need for this company to be everything we want, Lexie suggested that I start blogging about the experience. So, here we are- two optimistic people trying to make a go of performing stories for people that need to be told. Tune in next week for some optimistic thinking, tales of how awesome our community and friends have been/continue to be, and of course a teaspoon of Greater Tuna rehearsal updates.