Leaning In

by Constance Strickland

There is no secret to doing. I have found over the past few months- almost a year now, that Sister Corita wasn’t lying when she said, “The only rule is the work.” I have found that leaning in and reaching out to colleagues, other artists of color and those who call themselves “allies” more often than not is not a great use of time and that most often or not it leads to no action. That often it can become a distraction in the way of doing the work. Now as I say this I will contradict as I have learned many lessons from that Art of Leaning In and Reaching Out. It was an idea I took seriously when I heard Sheryl Sandberg discuss this topic with journalist Norah O’Donnell in 2013 just as I was starting to take my idea of Theatre Roscius and birth it. It was perfect timing as I wanted to learn how to build a theatre company with a new perspective on how it could exist. I knew for me I wanted to absorb the minds of the women who had already paved a way and the women who were finding new ways of approaching the work in real time. And so I emailed. I called. I listened. I asked friends of friends. I leaned in at every corner and I learned how I needed and wanted Theatre Roscius to exist. 

In working with a myriad of women as well as men, I discovered feelings may get hurt, and egos will be tested in the face of miscommunication, yet the work is the tie that binds and uplifts us. I also discovered that you can lean in and you will receive no reply, no answer, no support and you will have to find ways to continue your work. You will need to conjure and create your own new ways to continue to make and manifest those ideas that simmer in the back of your mind. That you will have to use all your energy and lean in to yourself. This is most certainly true for Women of Color who most often will be overlooked when “leaning in” occurs at arts organizations, theatre castings, or writer development workshops where often one Woman of Color seems to be “good” enough. Those will be the times when leaning into yourself and digging deep into your superpowers you’ve been gaining over the years will be fully tested and put into glorious use. 

Although there is a new awakening occurring in the world of theatre and new ways of “leaning in” are being done, it may take years for change to fully open its doors to new ways of how theatre can live, for we know there must be visionary ways of bringing in new voices to expand on how the American Theatre can be. Leaning in requires focused intention and commitment; it will not sustain band-aid fixtures but will require consistency, thinking beyond along with bold moves and brave hearts. 

I write this with the focus that although “leaning in” is vital it can not distract us from doing the work-alone if necessary. I am inspired as I see Artists go out of the box and risk it all for the work. I am excited for what the end of the year brings to the world of theatre and what will come in 2021 for all us who write down ideas in the midst of a fire and turn them into tangible magic. For those of us who find ways to tell stories when traditional spaces are not an option. I write this for those of us who do not focus on securing a seat at the table or being in the room where it happens because you are creating a new seat at a new table in a new room where new ways of making work are happening. 

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