San Francisco is now a memory, I'm back in Utah and getting ready to tackle Austin, Texas at the end of next month. I'm currently in St. George, (Utah), going to see the doctor tomorrow to see if I can get my anxiety under control. Anxiety is never a problem with me if I'm in the midst of chaos and work, its when things are calm and good that it rises. I won't go into particulars of what it does to my behavior, but I'm realizing I have always been this way. As I get older, creating the 'big sweep' of action gets harder to maintain, and therefore more difficult for me to control. I have always worked in a manic state, which begins to wear on the body and spirit as you age. I do know artists that also work under this influence, and even though I believe I have a rational understanding of it, I still have trouble controlling it at times. I believe years of doing theatre is part of the manic structure for me, it takes a delusion of grandeur to believe that you can write a play and then put it on, followed by weeks and weeks of rehearsal, mania, and chaos. Finally, the rise to euphoria, and then that awful drop into despair. Still, I am hopeful that I can at least take this play to a place that has been difficult to take some of my other plays, as there is always a closing day with the others. This play has been an open ended run for me, but with long states of calm in between. I think once I get settled into another long run of this play, I will be alright.
For now, its 'stop the bleeding', and focus on the next part of the journey. Its a very difficult pattern to explain to people, especially if you have not experienced a certain level of anxiety. I think humans are always ladened with some anxiety, and its why most people create a sense of security in their lives, to quell the anxious nature of being human. From my own living experiences, I have come to believe that complete security is not possible, and I think most of us know that, but for me, I can't create a vision unless I have a certain 'edge' to my life. And so people worry about me. And truth be told, sometimes I worry too, but living this kind of life enables me to see certain things that one would not be able to see unless they were doing the same thing, in the same way that I can't see the point of view of working to maintain complete security. I'm not condoning 'risky' behavior that is self-destructive, but I do get that most people are not going to understand what I'm doing and why. Its also important that we work to 'understand each other', and let their be some liberation in 'making the choices' that we each make. Translation for my detractors: This is what I've done for the last twenty-five years, and I try to respect and understand the choices you have made with your life. I think being an artist can sometimes be as offensive to some people as being any kind of zealot. And I am a zealot in my art and craft. I have noticed at times while I'm performing, that its difficult for people to even watch or listen to what I am saying. It is the nature of confessional theatre, its not for everyone, but I believe it is important. I confess to strangers, family, friends, and foes alike, and its what keeps me living. Being on stage is the one place I don't have anxiety attacks, ironic, but necessary for me. Art is necessary for my deep need to understand what happens around me and through me. I can't help, nor will I be ashamed about what I do. Please don't try to urge me to get a 'real job' or come in from what you percieve as 'the cold'. This is as real a job as there can be, and trust me, its really hard work.
However, if my behavior becomes self-destructive, I do understand your critisism, and I'm working every day to arrest any kind of self destruction that effects you or me. It may not appear to you that I am making progress in this regard, but I am, but it may be difficult for you to understand or see. I am never without HOPE. That is part of my character, I am like the little league coach whose team comes in last place, who knows exactly what to do to win next year. The next year the team comes in fourth place, etc... and the years press on.
For my students that read this blog, even though I taught for many years that art was the way, the truth, and the life, make no mistake, you must endure or don't do it. Many years ago, a college teacher and one time mentor taught me a valuable lesson. He was also the same one who told me that he thought I had a talent to be a theatre artist, but I would have to work very hard. The first full length play that I wrote and directed, 'Under the Desert', opened to a small audience in Phoenix, Arizona. I was ecstatic. Two days later, a review came out in The Arizona Republic, (the primary paper in Phoenix) and the headline of the article said, 'Actors Give Play More Than Playwright Did'. Needless to say, I was crushed, devastated, really... The critic called it a 'pretentious' play, at the time, I didn't even know what pretentious even meant, (I looked it up in the dictionary). I went to this mentor and angrily complained, close to crying. He looked at me and said, "If you can't take it, get out now, it won't be the first or the last time this will happen in a very public way..." I felt embarrassed and misunderstood, but I got the message. He was right. It was many years before 'my public criticism' started to get more favorable, but he taught me that I must persevere. That same play, 'Under The Desert' is scheduled to be produced some time within the next year in Los Angeles, (after many rewrites) and I don't have any idea how it will be received, but I know I worked harder on that play than any of the others, because I believed in 'the kernel' of what I had written.
I know and understand that many people don't have any idea what I have endured to arrive in this place I'm in, and I can't say its any easier, (in some ways its more difficult). The reviews I got in LA for this show, (as hard as it is for me to believe) were notices that I worked for years to achieve. I tell people that 'I got lucky' and yes, there was some luck involved, but trust me, I have put in my 10,000 hours, (Outliers). Still, it is the life and the process that are the most important. In the art world, (I suppose like other worlds) process and result may be simbiotic, but I'll always take 'process' over result. For me, result will get me drunk every time, but process keeps me sober. So, I press on to Austin, and continue to work on my anxiety, but really, its always been with me...