By Chelsea Sutton
My turn at spewing words on this blog always seems to hit during weeks when something in my world or the world at large is radically shifting. Perhaps that’s a false correlation, but my memory insists that is correct. And it is right at least half of the time.
This past week I had my first real whirlwind of non-stop in-person theatre activity. I spent Saturday through Tuesday in close quarters with cast and creative team for filming, audio recording, and photography for the immersive postal play I’m directing, Welcome to Meadowlark Falls: The Very Merry Christmas Contest. I spent Wednesday seeing Hamilton at the Pantages after 3 reschedules over the last two years. And Thursday through Saturday rehearsing and producing a live haunt in Little Tokyo at East West Players with Rogue Artists Ensemble for a narrative app I co-wrote, Kaidan Project: Alone.
I’m coming out of that week in a reflective mode. I had bursts of wonder and wondering during that time. Wonder at our ability to create stories out of cardboard and sweat. And wondering at…why am I doing this? Am I actually, even, good at this?
To be an artist, you have to, in many ways, be a fool. You have to be foolish enough to think that you can make a living at this – or, better yet, a life. You have to be foolish enough to think that you have something to say and talent enough to pull it off. You have to be foolish enough to sweep past disappointments and head onto the next batch as if nothing could touch you.
But there has to be a limit to the foolishness. I think that is what we’ve all collectively pondered over the last year. The foolishness that makes us think that we have to break our backs and neglect our wellbeing for the notion of a dream. The foolishness that hopes the same leadership that has hurt you in the past is going to change their ways, that makes you go in circles trying the same strategies over and over expecting something new. The foolishness that makes us think we have to pay our dues for 30 years only to be met with gatekeepers that never intended for us to enter, ever.
I’m a fool. For sure.
Last December, when my blog time came around, it happened the week my grandmother died, after she and I both contracted COVID from the same person.
Just before September 11 this past year, I went to her house for the last time. I went late at night after work and traffic. I lit a purple candle and brought a picture of us in the house. The house was completely empty. My father had redone it over the last 6 months and in many ways it no longer looked like the home of my childhood. But something fresh. And new. Something the light could more easily reach.
I stayed for maybe an hour. Sitting and thinking and crying. Walking from room to room, kissing my hand and touching it to the walls. I tried to say goodbye to every inch.
I felt very foolish. Like an idiot. But I knew I had to say goodbye in this way. I knew I had to feel foolish to feel anything at all.
And if I’m really honest, once I walked in, I didn’t feel foolish anymore. I only felt like I was coming home.
My playwright brain always attaches to PLACE. How it transforms itself. How it transforms who we are. How every house is haunted in one way or another.
Returning to theatre feels like walking into that empty house. It is the same, yet not. I am mourning parts of myself while having hope for something new. I am trying to make space for what is next.
My love is like a haunted house. I don’t know how to love any other way.
I am a collector of words. I have a folder on my desktop with saved words that I stumble across. This blog has turned into a kind of meditation, so, I thought sharing some of my collection might help you, as they have helped me.
…And then the queen Rachel Elizabeth Cargle….
….and this meditation on grief….
…And finally, the late and great Anthony Bourdain…
Be a fool.