Many of us in the theatre, in major urban areas, are scrabbling out a living, and practicing our craft – creating solo shows, and plays and other works of art. Those of us in NYC have chosen one of the most competitive places in the world to call our homes – we are surrounded by talented, hard-working people trying to get attention in the city that never sleeps. It’s only natural, when things become challenging, to start to wonder what you could do differently.
I recently counseled a friend who had decided to leave the venue where she had been performing her show for over a year, and to seek direction about her show from someone new. She was going to “move on” from the fairly cozy nest she was in, where the production details were handled by others, and to take a workshop where she could learn how to self-produce. Despite the audience-building and rave reviews that had occurred as a result of the run at the venue, she was looking to do her show on another stage. She confided that she was not unhappy with her show, that she was happy with the direction and the dramaturgy. She volunteered that her director had been instrumental in creating the show. Confused, I pressed her for a reason that she wanted to seek new direction, but she couldn’t come up with one. “Moving forward” was the best way she could describe it. I asked, “Have you seen a director’s work that inspired you to want to explore with that person?” She said no.
“Have you done any research – gotten any input from possible directors about your work?” No.
“Have you found a venue that excites you or is offering you some kind of good deal?” No. She just had a feeling.
So this is what I see. With no analysis or due diligence, she has made the decision to sever professional ties with a theatre and a director. With no destination in mind, she has made the choice to “move on.”
I counseled her against it. I urged her to think strategically. But as she thanked me for my input I could see she had already made the decision.
Some people might call her action courageous. But is it? Is it courageous to look outside ourselves for reasons we don’t have what we want? If so, then “moving on” to new pastures, no matter the cost, might be the best choice. In theatre, however, where strong allies are in short supply, it may be a more courageous choice to look within, to spend some time searching for the source of the discontent. Once we can identify that, we stand a good chance to make a smart decision about how to address it. On this difficult road to success, we all need a little help to get where we’re going. And when secure bridges are in short supply, it’s probably wise to refrain from burning them.