Marissa Skudlarek kicks off the 2013 Theater Pub blog with some New Year’s resolutions. Let us know what yours are!
I thought I’d begin the year by making some theater-related New Year’s Resolutions, but it’s proving harder than I anticipated. It’s not that I’m bad at keeping resolutions. Indeed, I take my promises and commitments very seriously. No, it’s that I can’t decide what resolutions to make in the first place. I write plays for the same reason that Tom Stoppard does: because “writing dialogue is the only respectable way of contradicting yourself.” And this neurotic brain of mine enjoys contradicting and questioning itself at every turn. How can I make a New Year’s resolution, when as soon as I do, I wonder if I should’ve have resolved to do the opposite? How can I indulge in the black-and-white thinking that resolutions require, when daily life often requires more nuance and flexibility?
All the same, there are things I want to accomplish, ways I feel I could be a better writer and theater-maker and person in the New Year. So, herewith, my contradictory and self-negating Theater Resolutions for 2013.
I will try to get more sleep. That’s a good resolution for anyone to make, you might think – but what does it have to do with theater? Well, this life of running around town seeing plays can take its toll, dahling. And I’m not just talking about wrinkles and undereye circles. No, the most insidious thing about being perpetually fatigued is that it leaves you unable to appreciate the art you’re seeing – which is, ostensibly, the reason that you’re so busy in the first place. The artists have worked hard on their production. The least I can do is be attentive and alert when I see it.
BUT… I will not turn down invitations and opportunities. I believe in saying “yes” far more often than I say “no,” and in trying to do and see as much as possible. Some of my favorite memories and most interesting experiences in 2012 came from accepting invitations and opportunities that had been extended to me. I may have sacrificed sleep in order to do these things, but they were worth it. In 2013, I don’t want to miss out on something amazing because I’ve made a needlessly rigid commitment to get to bed at a reasonable hour.
I will go to plays with an open mind. If you work in theater and see fifty or more shows a year, theatergoing can sometimes feel like an obligation rather than a joy. You can go to theater because it’s entertaining or go because it fulfills your spiritual needs, but either way, you shouldn’t be going just out of a sense of duty. In 2013, I want to approach each play that I see as if it had the potential to change my life. Being well-rested will help with this. Moreover, I will endeavor to turn off the jaded, cynical part of my brain at the same time as I turn off my cell phone.
BUT… I will keep a high standard for excellence. Being open-minded and optimistic when attending theater should not equate to loving everything that I see. One can be fair-minded and critical without being reflexively snarky. Sometimes I yearn to find pleasure and delight in everything in the world – I think I’d be happier that way. But perhaps the greatest pleasure of all lies in being blown away by a work of art after seeing a lot of mediocre stuff. The contrast makes it all the sweeter.
I will try new things. I have lived in San Francisco for four and a half years, and feel like I’ve kind of settled into an artistic comfort zone. Don’t get me wrong, I am immensely grateful to have found a group of friends and fellow-artists who support me, challenge me, and encourage me to grow. But that also means that it’s time for me to spread my wings a bit, and try to work with companies or artists that I have not worked with before. I’ll be on the lookout for unfamiliar submission opportunities and projects. The last thing I want is for the projects I do in 2013 to look exactly like the projects I did in 2012.
BUT… I will not abandon what I love and value. As I said, I had a lot of great adventures in 2012, and vowing to try new things should not be misinterpreted as a vow to rip everything up and start again. There are definitely experiences from last year that I am keen to repeat, and collaborators that I hope to continue working with in the future. Furthermore, my quest for novelty shouldn’t lead me to betray my core values and instincts. If one of my new projects turns out not to be a good artistic fit for me, I hope I will have the courage to abandon it.
I will not write my Theater Pub column the night before it’s due. If I’m holding myself to a high standard of excellence – and trying to get to bed at a reasonable hour – I shouldn’t write my columns in a mad Wednesday-night rush.
BUT… um, guess what I’m doing right now?
Marissa Skudlarek is a San Francisco-based playwright and arts writer. Find her online at marissabidilla.blogspot.com or on Twitter @MarissaSkud.