Jenna’s New Years Resolutions:
Get more involved in NYC theater
Find a job that is fulfilling
Get into a PhD program
Convince my slummy landlord to fix the heat in my apartment
Keep up with the laundry
VOICE: Why a life in the theatre?
SYDNEY: To empower, to question, to re-imagine myself and the society I’m a part of. What greater life could I live than one that is filled with “doing” and “enacting”
…Theatre has always been my first love because somewhere along the way it has become one of the only communicative forms that I am truly comfortable expressing my personal views and opinions. Perhaps this is because there is a greater risk in the theatrical realm than a one-on-one conversation; perhaps, greater rewards as well. I understand the essential aspect of theatre as not only an expression of an individual’s or people’s values and meanings but it is more extensively an opportunity to re-imagine how our society could be. What is our most fantastical utopia and how can we put this vision on its feet and into our bodies? Or in other words, how do we stage a production? I am a firm believer that thoughts become actions. With this in mind, I jointly recognize the power of the images that the arts and media fields transmit to society; at times, in ways that we could not expect until after the fact. We have the power to open minds, shift behaviors and ultimately rush a ripple of energy through our society.
This thought leads me to my own personal political agenda within the theatre, if I had to pinpoint only one. In my acceptance of a life in the theatre, I dually propose and promote roles, plots, themes, and hierarchies that empower women to become and see themselves as leaders and active, powerful citizens in their lives and the world around them. It’s an understatement when I say that women in American culture are flooded with disempowering images and pre-determined values that define womanhood. Just a few months ago, I tried to think of well-renowned women leaders because I was in search for a role model and an empowering book to read. Quite sadly, I could hardly think of 10 powerful and well-known women leaders. However, I have no doubt that this short list was not a result of the absence of brilliantly strong and bold women, but it was more a symptom of the reality that their stories are not the ones being told – or even worse, skewed perspectives of women are being told. This truth directly influences my involvement and dedication to the theatre. It is the will to envision and embody (by means of theatre-making and community interaction) a socially, morally, and economically equitable utopia for women that keeps me absolutely hooked to theatre.
Once a performative act is committed it cannot be undone. I’ve come to know theatre as not only being a magical experience but a corporeal, very real process of effecting and being affected. I’ve come to understand the “magic of theatre” as more than simply the “liveness” of it. Rather, it is the transmission of ideas from real experiencing bodies on stage to the real subjective audience members. A change, or reaction, occurs in this transaction of thought and image. If we accept this understanding of theatre, imagine the real-life everyday magic that could unfold throughout our society if we shared stories where women are the leading voice of their own experience, not used a mere accessories or ingénues. Imagine who young women in our country could become if they received this gift of image theatre. This performative power is what keeps my heart in the theatre. It’s time to act, to perform, to create, and to empower.
It is, but it shouldn’t be.
The way of the world.
There must be a list somewhere.
Somewhere where all our thoughts collide, where our reason has seen.
And somewhere everywhere we just sit on them.
go on with what is
although it shouldn’t be.
we do something
we start something
we imagine something
But who are we?
We, us, who care
We, us, who see
We, us, who do
Who are we?
Because we are not everybody, although we should be.
It is, but it shouldn’t be.
I don’t want to sit
and just partake on what is.
I want to imagine,
to do something,
to re-humanize this world.
But, since, how, should?
It is too complex
to even begin to think
of what would be
the ideal becoming of the world,
to even think of why should it matter
to think whether is worth it to think so much
to have the blurred clarity of all which is so evidently wrong.
As my next impulse becomes to start a list of all which is but shouldn’t be,
I am a coward.
I’m not one for New Years resolutions. Change doesn’t have to wait for a prompt by a calendar, and any true change is a continuous challenge that will need to be refreshed and begun again. I do, however, welcome inspiration always—New Year or not. At a New Year’s Eve party, a friend read this poem to me, and it was as if the universe reached out a gentle hand and lovingly shifted my direction. And so, I leave you with the inspirational words of Lawrence Ferlinghetti.
Invent a new language anyone can understand.
Climb the Statue of Liberty.
Reach for the unattainable.
Kiss the mirror and write what you see and hear.
Dance with wolves and count the stars,
including the unseen.
Be naive, innocent, non-cynical, as if you had
just landed on earth (as indeed you have, as
indeed we all have), astonished by what you
have fallen upon.
Write living newspapers. Be a reporter
from outer space, filing dispatches to some
supreme managing editor who believes in full
disclosure and has a low tolerance level for hot air.
Write an endless poem about your life on
earth or elsewhere.
Read between the lines of human discourse.
Avoid the provincial, go for the universal.
Think subjectively, write objectively.
Think long thoughts in short sentences.
Don’t attend poetry workshops, but if you do,
don’t go to learn ‘how to” but to learn
“what” (What’s important to write about).
Don’t bow down to critics who have not
themselves written great masterpieces.
Resist much, obey less.
Secretly liberate any being you see in a cage.
Write short poems in the voice of birds.
Make your lyrics truly lyrical. Birdsong is not
made by machines. Give your poems wings
to fly to the treetops.
The much-quoted dictum from William Carlos
Williams, “No ideas but in things,” is OK for
prose, but it lays a dead hand on lyricism,
since “things” are dead.
Don’t contemplate your navel in poetry and
think the rest of the world is going to think
Remember everything, forget nothing.
Work on a frontier, if you can find one.
Go to sea, or work near water, and paddle
your own boat.
Associate with thinking poets. They’re hard
Cultivate dissidence and critical thinking.
“First thought, best thought” may not make
for the greatest poetry. First thought may be
What’s on your mind? What do you have
in mind? Open your mouth and stop mumbling.
Don’t be so open-minded that your brains fall
Question everything and everyone. Be subversive,
constantly questioning reality and
the status quo.
Be a poet, not a huckster. Don’t cater, don’t
pander, especially not to possible audiences,
readers, editors, or publishers.
Come out of your closet. It’s dark in there.
Raise the blinds, throw open your shuttered
windows, raise the roof, unscrew the locks
from the doors, but don’t throw away the
Be committed to something outside yourself.
Be militant about it. Or ecstatic.
To be a poet at sixteen is to be sixteen, to be
a poet at 40 is to be a poet. Be both.
Wake up and pee, the world’s on fire.
Have a nice day.
From “Performance Scores for the Struggling Artist”:
12. Ignore any artwork you may be doing, including this.
17. Fail. Fail again. Repeat until desired outcome is reached.
When I wrote my performance scores last month, most were done tongue-in-cheek, with an angry/bitter undertone of sarcasm. Number 12 was one such score. I added it because I had moved to New York to find more creative outlets, to do more as an artist than I had ever before, to find a gold mine of inspiration. Instead I focused on making sure I had the necessities to live, worried about finding a permanent home, and worked full-time at a retail job and no-time on my writing or anything else artistic that I wasn’t already committed to with six other (brilliant and wonderful) women. If The Grace Period had been a solo venture, I say with full confidence that it would have fallen by the wayside, just like my own personal artistic endeavors did when I came to New York. As of my last blog post, I was well aware of the inconsistency between the amount of writing I had planned to do and the amount of writing I had actually done. Thus was born performance score #12. The worst part is that, a month later, I have just barely begun to reverse that trend. And not only that, I’ve been a horrible artistic partner. In my struggle and my worries, which I won’t detail here, I had/have ignored my fellow artists and collaborators and become a non-presence in the group, something I’m not proud of but won’t deny. Ignore any and all artwork? Check.
Number 17, rather than out of bitterness at what I was already doing, grew out of fear of what I might do, of what might happen if my New York (Dream) Life fell through. It would be a failure. If I couldn’t get things together and had to move back home, I would have moved and tried to make it here (because then I can make it anywhere, right?), and failed utterly. That was failure on the biggest scale for me, though it could also easily apply to ignoring my artwork. After all, if you come to New York to be an artist, and you don’t do any art, you’re failing, aren’t you, at least in some respect? But I digress, slightly. The fact is that, one month later, I have inadvertently achieved the first part of score #17: “Fail.” Long story short: I will not be staying in New York. Not for now. Home again, home again, jiggity jig and all that. (I’m sorry to my fellow bloggers who are hearing of my departure in this format. Right now, given my penchant for being reclusive and uncommunicative, I don’t know how best/how else to say it, so this will have to do. I hope you can forgive me.) For many reasons, which again I will not be detailing here, I can’t make it work right now. And that’s okay. I don’t mean that to sound as though I’m okay with rolling over and dying, here, though several weeks ago I would have seen it as such. This is not a failure. Yes, my plan failed, but this is not a failure; I am not a failure. I go home; I regroup; I improve (as an artist, a person, an adult); I try again. After all, the score does say to repeat until the desired outcome is reached.
Fail again? Let’s hope not (but that’s life, and I’ll get through it again if it comes).
Repeat until desired outcome is reached? Still in progress. Report to follow.