Sunday, November 13, 2011

Changing Our Perspectives

Welcome back to my soapbox. I haven’t been up on here for awhile. Mostly I’ve been blogging about the shows we’ve been working on or the process of how we put those shows together. But there has been some heated dialogue happening here in the Vancouver theatroblogosphere and that in combination with a few other events have had me pondering a few things as of late. And, for me, I guess what it all boils down to is that I think it’s high time we all had a change of perspective.

Almost 2 years ago I started to change my own personal perspective when it came to my theatre career. Prior to that point I looked at everything from a perspective of lack: what I didn’t have, the goals I hadn’t reached, the jobs I wasn’t getting, etc. Then I started practicing a little something called gratitude. And, it changed my life.

And, I know that sounds all new age-y and like I’ve joined an Oprah Winfrey cult or something but it’s absolutely the truth and I believe it 100%. If I could give every person in the world one gift it would be gratitude. It’s not just about saying “thank you” it's a way of living your life.

So, instead of looking at my theatre career from a perspective of lack, I started looking at it from a perspective of abundance: what I did have, the achievements I had made, the opportunities I had been given, etc. And, you know what happened?! My theatre career grew exponentially. I’m not kidding. You want proof…

Okay, I’m a nerd, and I have this spreadsheet timelime thingy that I keep and it starts from the moment I graduated from theatre school and continues to this day. It has every job I’ve ever done, in whatever capacity and how long I worked on it for. The first page of this timeline has everything I’ve done from 2004 to 2009. The second page of this timeline has everything from 2009 – current. That’s 1 page for 5 years compared to 1 page for 2 years. And, yes, partially it is just time and experience. The more you do, the more people you meet, the more opportunities arise but here’s the kicker: about 50% of the 2009-2011 page is for 2009 and 2010 with 2011 taking up the other 50% alone. So, on paper, I did more in 2011 then I did in 2009 & 2010 combined. And, moreover, I did more in 2011 then I did in 3 years previous to 2009. That’s exponential growth.

Maybe it’s coincidence. Who knows?! You can make of it what you will but I believe that the moment I started to change my perspective my life began to change with it.

And so now, I'm aware of it, all the time, this pervasive attitude of lack that I see happening all around me and particularly in the theatre community. It’s all about what we don’t have, the audiences that aren’t coming to see our shows, the money the government isn't giving us, etc.

Making theatre is hard fucking work. Excuse the expletive but it really does apply here. It is hard as shit. Again, sorry. Being an artist is not an easy life. It is a difficult, all consuming, sometimes you want to bash your head against a wall, kind of life. But we are artists because we are called to do it --

Sidebar: And, I firmly believe it is a calling, because if I was happy doing anything else I would do it. If I could be happy working a 9-5 job that would give me a stable income with regular working hours I would totally do it. Who wouldn’t?! But it doesn’t make me happy. Why?! Because I am an artist. Because it is my calling --

And, that means a lot of hard work, work that regular society often doesn’t understand. Is that their fault?! No. Do I blame them?! No. Do I hate them for it?! Absolutely not. We need to change our perspective. This us versus them thing we’ve got going on: “they” don’t understand, “they” don’t go to theatre, “they” don’t give us money, etc.

We are all in this together. We share the same space and community. So, maybe, we all need to start looking at it from a perspective of abundance: the theatre we do have, the audiences we do have, the money we do have, etc. And, start being grateful for it.

We have a beautiful community. One that I am so proud and honoured to be a part of. In the past couple of weeks I have witnessed some of the best theatre I have seen this year. I am so grateful to those companies for giving me the gift of wonderful, amazing, exciting, incredible theatre. Thank you.

So, my advice, from up here on my soapbox, would be: next time you feel frustrated because only a handful of people showed up to your performance instead of letting that feeling of frustration take over, pause, take a moment, and change your perspective. Instead practice gratitude. Be thankful to those 5 people for coming to see your show. And, next time you feel frustrated because you didn’t receive that grant you were hoping for, pause, take a moment (swear a little and drink a lot) then change your perspective. Instead practice gratitude. Be grateful for the money you did raise and for the donors and sponsors that did invest in your production.

I am no stranger to how hard it is to produce theatre in this city. I have been producing theatre in this city for going on 7 years now. It is, as I said before, hard fucking work. And sometimes, yes, you absolutely feel frustrated, disappointed & angry but I refuse to become bitter and cynical and spend my whole life whining, moaning & grumbling about it. That is no way to live a life. And, that is no way to serve your community.

We need to start to change our perspectives. As a community. We need to start appreciating the amazing theatre we do have. We need to start loving the audiences we have cultivated. We need to start being grateful for those people who do support our work whether by coming to see it or by donating their time or their hard earned money. And, we definitely need to start being more grateful and supportive to each other as artists.

If that can happen. If we can change our perspective. Maybe, just maybe, the kind of exponential growth I’ve seen in my own life will start to happen in our community as a whole. Maybe it is already happening but our collective perspective of lack is not allowing us to see it.

I don’t know. I don’t have all the answers. But, those are my thoughts, from up on my soapbox.

~Sabrina Evertt
Artistic Producer

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