A theatrical production is such a temporary thing–a living, breathing, but temporary thing. Shows come and go in a way that is nearly poetic–a magical story brought into physical existence by the intense labor of a dedicated community of artists, and then deconstructed seemingly into thin air by the work of the same hands.
Summer stock, it seems, is the true epitome of this defining characteristic of theater. We closed show #1 (“For Better”) last Sunday afternoon, and by Monday evening we were running tech rehearsal on a completely new set for show #2 (“The Swan Song”), which opened to the public that same week Wednesday. Thursday scripts were passed out for show #3 (“Black Comedy”). In a whirlwind, the text, set, costumes, lights, and sounds that we’d poured our efforts into for our opening show of the season vanished, and without a glance backward, everyone shifted gears into the next task at hand. When we opened “The Swan Song” on Wednesday, the only hint of our rapid changeover was the not-quite-dried sticky wood upstage left.
With a schedule like ours, it makes sense that Mr. Henderson reminds us every morning, “Revel in the moment!”
And what an applicable lesson in all areas of life.
Early in the semester, I received a book in my campus mail called “The Inner Voice of Love,” by the late Catholic priest, Henri J. M. Nouwen. What a wonderful text. If I could profusely thank the anonymous sender, I would. “This book is my secret journal,” Nouwen explains in his introduction, “It was written during the most difficult period of my life.” His book is eloquent and thought-provoking and motivational. It has walked with me through some troublesome times, and continues to ride in my backpack to work every day.
“You have to keep moving, as you are doing,” I read this morning. “Live a faithful, disciplined life, a life that gives you a sense of inner strength…You are not yet there, but you are moving fast. There will be a bit more pain and struggle. You have to dare to live through it. Keep walking straight. Hold on to your chosen direction, your discipline, your prayer, your work, your guides, and trust that one day love will have conquered enough of you that even the most fearful part will allow love to cast out all fear” (55-56).
The ‘powers-that-be’ at the Barn often tell us to “hold onto the seat of our pants, because the summer is going to go fast.” And they’re right. Nouwen says it too–we’re “moving fast.” But there’s plenty of important (exhausting) work to do, plenty to clean and fix and memorize and rehearse. We’re never ‘there’ until the next show opens, and then we immediately have a new show to jump into and tediously tend.
But you hold on. You hold on to your discipline, your craft, and you keep pouring whatever you can into the work ahead of you. You do the best you can to give a great performance every night, regardless if the house is full of older audience members that want to commentate aloud, or if there’s a pesky fly that keeps buzzing on your face perfectly on cue with your lines, or if you’re exhausted and have to push more then ‘let be’. Because you know that the end result is worth it, for you and for your audience.
Because you know that, no matter what you’re doing, life is too short not to ‘revel in the moment.’