Anthony R. Miller checks in for the second-to-last time.
Hey you guys, with the shutting down of Theater Pub, I have feels. But we’re gonna save those for next time, which will be the final appearance of “The Five.” Today however, I want to talk about something we all know. Something we have contemplated and redefined, and made sacrifices for: “The Dream.” For whatever reason, there has been a lot of talk about “The Dream” as of late; giving up “The Dream,” getting a new dream, or questioning if it was ever their dream in the first place. In case you haven’t guessed, I have some thoughts on it. Even more obvious, there are five.
Eat Shit, Wells Fargo
A few weeks ago, Wells Fargo Bank rolled out its new ad campaign with photos of young people doing smart-kid things with the caption “A ballerina yesterday, an engineer today.” Or “An actor yesterday, a botanist today.” And because the internet is a calm, rational place, outrage ensued. Some viewed it as Wells Fargo devaluing the dream of working in the arts. Some felt the ads inferred that at some point we all give up our grand dreams of being a famous actor or ballerina, because that’s what grownups do. Now, I gotta say, as annoying or insensitive the ads may be, I’m a lot more worried about the millions of fake bank accounts Wells Fargo created. But I can see how the ads are a little dickish. It should be noted that sometimes the dream changes, at a certain point priorities change, but did we really need an ad campaign to point it out? Is “People giving up on a career in the arts” a hot demographic right now?
What Did You Think Was Gonna Happen?
Another hot little internet frenzy comes from an article at Medium.com. Titled “Exit, Stage Left, What Happens when You Get Sick of Your Dream,” the guy makes solid points. It’s the story of a guy who after twenty years of running a theatre company with his wife, decides to walk away. Of course he’s sad about it, and the article is him trying to sort out those feelings. But seriously dude, cheer up. You got to “Live the Dream” of creating the theatre you believed in with the love of your life for 20 years. I mean, that’s the dream, right? That’s why we do this. The personal fulfillment of creating something you are passionate about. So, if one day, you’re not passionate about it anymore, that’s OK. But when I got to the part of the article where he spoke of bad reviews, small audiences, corralling actors, you know, theatre problems, that’s where I take issue. He got sick of the grind, no shame there. But make no mistake, that’s the grind, the hard, unglamorous part of doing theatre. Maybe I disagree with him because I don’t do this for trophies or critical praise. To me, this guy accomplished all we can reasonably ask for in a life in the arts. Everything else is gravy.
The Undeniable Privilege
I make no bones about the fact that Marissa Skudlarek is and always will be my favorite TPub writer, she’s insightful, thoughtful and has great grammar. One of my favorite articles of hers is when she states that doing this, doing theatre, producing theatre, is a privilege. Sure, it takes money, hard work, unimaginable hubris and perhaps talent to produce theatre. But the fact is the very notion that on more than one occasion, I have been able to write a play, find the money, and produce it. Regardless of its “success,” the fact I did it at all is kinda crazy. So be happy about it, appreciate it. To me, this is the win. Money would be nice, and lemme tell ya, every time I pay a bill with money I made in the theatre world, I feel pretty great. Sure, in my younger days, I practiced an imaginary awards speech or two. But I try to not overlook the fact that doing this at all is something lots of people don’t. Every time I put on a show, despite how good or successful it might be, I feel lucky. Some people don’t get this far.
Narrowing Down the List
A wise man once said, “When we are young, we are many things. Getting older is just a process of narrowing down the list.” I interpret this as when I was younger, I was gonna be everything. I was going to be a writer, producer, director, designer, poet, composer, rock star, and a media mogul. In case you didn’t guess, most of these didn’t work out, and that is OK. These days the list reads Writer, Producer, and Educator, all true, all legit. Not to mention I am a sometimes director, an always Dad, an always boyfriend, and Ticket Sales professional (sexy title, I know). There are only so many hours in the day, and I find that when I focus on a few things as opposed to lots, I get better results. Not to mention, at a certain point you gotta look up and see the world outside of our immediate goals. There are a crapload of things in the world that make me happy besides doing theatre. That’s not a reason to stop doing theatre, but it is a reason to stop and smell the effing roses sometimes. When theatre is no longer your “hobby” you gotta make sure you still have a hobby.
“Dream” Is an Interesting Word
My dream of being an actor died at 19. I’ll spare you the story, but the fact was, when it came to the things that great actors do, I didn’t want to do the work. That ambition and determination was there in other facets of theatre. So as fun as getting onstage can be, I realized this wasn’t my path, so I largely gave it up, because it wasn’t my dream. That said, I’m not entirely sure what my “dream” is. Sure, making a living doing theatre is the goal, I would love to be a “blue collar” theatre worker, taking the less glamorous jobs, not famous, stable-ish. Maybe that’ll happen for me, and maybe it won’t. It depends on your definition. But at a certain point, dreams and wishes need to become plans and goals. One of the first things my high school drama teacher told us in Drama 1 is “most of you will never act again in 4 years.” Now call it harsh, call it the truth, but when I look up my old theatre friends, it’s true, most of them, even the ones voted most talented, the ones who everyone thought would be a star, haven’t walked on a stage in a long time. I don’t feel bad for them because they all have good jobs, savings accounts, and stability. Here I am, with a day job selling theatre tickets, falling in love with teaching, writing and producing as much as I can. I’m still here, still doing it, and one day I might not. I wouldn’t call this my “dream,” it’s more of an obsession, a compulsive thing I do. I’ll keep doing this as long as it makes me happy, as long as it’s reasonable to do it, and sure, I probably will not become an icon of American theatre, but that stopped being “The Dream” a long time ago. “The Dream” is just being here at all.
Anthony R. Miller is a Writer, Producer and Educator. His show, TERROR-RAMA 2: PROM NIGHT opens Oct 14, learn more and get tickets at www.awesometheatre.org.