“I miss the Mountains/I miss the dizzy heights/All the manic, magic days and dark, depressing nights.”
In the Tony-Award winning Broadway musical Next to Normal, a bi-polar housewife on meds laments the loss of the ups and downs and craziness of her earlier, unmedicated life in the song “I miss the Mountains.”
I’m taking a serious break from theatre.
In fact, I’m gonna go as far as calling it my retirement.
And, I don’t think – despite all the heights and magic of the past 20-some years of my life – I’m going to miss it.
I started in theatre at the age of 5 on a whim and dove head-first into non-stop theatre when I was in the 6th grade. There really hasn’t been a break since, save for one year where I was immensely discouraged after 3 productions with an asshole director – who was also a drunk, and cast himself in leads, and tried to seduce his leading ladies, and just put a terrible taste in my mouth for the art form. I’ve always worked really super hard at theatre – rehearsals, classes, reading about it, reading news about it, listening to cast albums, seeing shows, etc.. it goes on and on. Theatre was life. Life became theatre. It wasn’t uncommon for me to be working on 2 or 3 shows at a time.
Some of the best times of my life were onstage or backstage. I’ll never forget shows like Into the Woods, Radium Girls, 4.48 Psychosis, The Fantasticks, and The Mikado. Some of the best friends I have come from theatre – Bob, Brent, Dan, Mal, Betsy, heck without theatre I wouldn’t even have Eric.
I’ve seen amazing things and been part of amazing things, and I’m grateful for all that.
I moved to Chicago five years ago and started POC and things grew and grew and then - around a year ago, the joy went away. The joy theatre used to give me no longer outweighed the incredible amounts of hard work that went into it anymore. I dreaded opening my inbox because something else was going wrong/needed me to deal with it. The endless rehearsal and commuting to rehearsal, not seeing friends who weren’t in shows with me, the fickleness of a great deal of theatre people, the selfishness of a whole different chunk, the flakiness of people and having to pick up their pieces, and the pure, slogging, hard work participating in theatre has become don’t make it that worthwhile anymore.
And, its being consistently proven, each time I think I’m wrong – Something else happens to make me more frustrated. (Just yesterday, in fact, it happened again, in fact.)
It’s even to the point where I don’t really enjoy seeing theatre anymore. Most of the time, since I know someone in the show, it feels like an obligation, and the rest of the time I’m just.. not there. (There have been recent exceptions – I thoroughly enjoyed the national tour of “Spring Awakening” and Hubris Productions “Bent.”)
Simply, it doesn’t make me happy anymore.
Frankly, it makes me unhappy. And super angry, too.
I hope I’m wrong about all this.
Maybe someday I’ll emerge like Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard, inspired again and ready to make some art. If another “Radium Girls” rolls around, I can’t say I’ll turn it down, but it would need to be something incredibly special to outweigh the huge amounts of work I’m smart enough to know go along with production – as an actor or as a director.
Or maybe I won’t emerge.
Maybe it ends here.
Regardless, it’s been a hell of a ride.
I’ve just reached the end of it.
[In the interest of disclosure, I will be serving as Artistic Director of Rascal Children's Theater for the 2009/2010 season. It's a purely administrative position, and involves only people I enjoy working with, so I think it'll be okay. My experiences with Rascal have only been positive. At the end of the season, next May, I will pass the position along to someone else. Done and Done.]