being a woman raised in the south (it may be true for other regions, but i’ve only lived in the south so i don’t know), i’ve been on stage all my life: doing things to find myself pleasing to others and saying only nice, safe things that others would not find offensive or threatening. even now i still have a tendency to drop into my sweetest little non-threatening-me-jane-you-obviously-tarzan southern drawl – heavily peppered with self-deprecating humor, of course – when talking to men in positions of authority because i learned long, long ago that it’s the quickest way to get them to do what i know is the right and necessary thing to do.
somewhere along the way, i picked up on the notion that good girls focus only on the positive, turning a blind eye, deaf ear, and closed mouth towards anything that could possibly be construed as negative. it’s a notion that’s deeply embedded . . . which is why i’ve often apologized when talking about all the things that go wrong in a theatrical production.
but just last week, an amazing epiphany came to visit: just because i tell and retell the mishaps and bobbles that are a part of any theatrical production does not mean i’m focusing on the dreaded-and-always-to-be-avoided negative, and it does not mean i’m a despicable person. no, no, no.
how silly that seems now.
stories of what “went wrong” enjoy a tenured and prominent place in literature: the s/hero leaves home, goes out into the world, encounters giants and dragons and all sorts of bad and evil challenges, then – and this is the best part – s/he doesn’t just meet those challenges but overcomes the obstacles in the proverbial road, learning something invaluable and potentially life-changing at every turn.
that’s what we do in theatre with every single show. props can’t be found. entrances are late. cues are missed. lines are forgotten. zippers break. wigs fall off. divas reign (or try to) (onstage and off). and i tell, tell, and retell those stories not because i’m a horrid ole’ wolf but because they are stories of survival and triumph.
here i have been feeling quite guilty for focusing on the negative, frequently apologizing or at the very least balancing the story with something positive. i know that artists often turn boo-boos into part of the creation – i embrace the notion of wabi-sabi – i just never applied that to me. but now, finally, i realize that the negative is positive. these things that go awry, these trips, stumbles, and sometimes flat-out falls aren’t negative, they’re the most redeeming kind of positive because despite any hurdle, obstacle, dragon, vampire, giant, or diva divine, the show does go on.
i feel so much better now – a bit embarrassed that it took me so long to come to such a seemingly simple and obvious mindset – but oh so relieved.
did i tell you about the night when . . .