The Real World, Theater Edition: A Harmonizing Hiatus

Barbara Jwanouskos is tired.

Like a lot of folks, after a big creative project, I am absolutely drained and can do little else other than binge watch episodes of Clone Wars on Netflix. I used to feel really guilty that I Wasn’t Doing Enough and I needed to Keep Collaborating, Keep Writing, and in general, Keep Going. I just figured that that was the secret to success of all the artists that I looked up to. They were squeaky wheels who pushed forward their vision and knew how to hold themselves up and say, “I am an Artist” to people who were influential and maybe skeptical. I have pushed myself to be more of a go-getter and make Important Connections with decision-makers, but I always feel as though I come up short. It’s not in my nature to fire the cannons on multiple fronts over multiple battlefields to gain ground. After two shots fired into the sky, I’m tired. I’m done.

What they tell you is that this ability to talk about oneself and one’s work gets easier with time and practice. I suppose that’s true. And it is important to make friends with other people that enjoy the same things as you do. After all, theater doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It is a collaborative art.

I also want to be an advocate of Not Doing Anything. I think it’s actually rather natural to have periods in your creative endeavors that are fruitful, to be harvested and encouraged, budding, and maybe barren. And if this was a nicely fitting world, perhaps this post would come out in the winter when we can look around and agree by what nature has for us, that this might be an idea worth merit. Unfortunately, things do not always fit nicely or neatly and often go on unexplained for years or decades (if ever) before being illuminated.

I remember a group discussion with Mac Wellman. When asked of his advice for emerging playwrights, he said to take breaks the theater and also writing. He said to write in other forms, but to not jumble them. I liked that. I mean, he didn’t exactly Why, but that’s actually better in many ways. To be left to experimentation to try this, was refreshing. Who knows, for some folks, taking a break from Doing Something all the time may be akin to death, but I think there is value in stopping for a second and listening, seeing what’s around you. Recalibrating the self simply for that purpose alone.

For myself, heading out of grad school this past year and then the New Plays Lab this year, occasionally I get on social media and become overwhelmed with How Far Behind I Am when seeing what my peers are up to. Then, I remember that everyone has their own journey and their own Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall, so that it’s impossible to compare one to the other. I had made the conscious decision to Not Do Anything for a good long while – perhaps the whole summer, who knows – until I’m ready to dig in again. The best part of this phase is the wealth of idea inklings that bubble up and fade away as I just enjoy the scenery.

This doesn’t mean that I’ve stopped creating and developing. Merely, that my energy is now focused on my other interests – I’m thinking of film, tai chi, working out, and some upcoming trips. They all may sound a little weird to others, but I have been enjoying the most fascinating conversations that I know will inform the next plays I write.

Barbara Jwanouskos is a local playwright and blogger. You can follow her on twitter @bjwany, but currently the creative projects for theater are on hiatus.