Working Title: Life is Short Lived. Take a Chance and Get Lucky

On this Saint Patrick’s Day, Will Leschber beckons and reckons with the Saint of Fortune.

Luck and Chance.

As a younger man, I felt that luck took a back seat to drive and effort. It’s possible that the surrounding culture I grew up in silently instilled Manifest Destiny in my bones: that every thing was possible if you travelled far enough, worked hard enough, pulled your boot straps up enough. You could create, you could perform, you could do it all. The world could be in the palm of your hand if you just reached out and grabbed it.

While I think this is boldly true, as a now older man, I also think chance plays a greater part in our lives than I would have liked to believe.

Do+You+Feel+Lucky%2C+Punk+HP

Maybe it’s easy to feel this way when we are youthful and so much is ahead. Everything is possible and all doors stand open.

Only now am I starting to feel like an adult! (Sidebar, it’s about damn time! You’re no Peter Pan, kiddo! You are 33 and are a week away from being a new Dad! Grow up already!!) As part of the theatre community, we revel in make believe and truth and principles and emotional and challenge and risk. Getting on that stage can be beautifully scary. It harnesses what it means to be alive. Edging further into my 30’s, I have become acquainted with the dark side of chance and find myself lucky to have remained less scathed. I’ve held close friends who passed too early, seen others who have fought cancer, known many who wrestled with their own kind of addiction; plus there’s been loss and love and madness and the rest. I’m not here to say that it’s all darkness. Far from it. I find that there is more light bridging the gaps in our hours. What I am saying is that chance is at play and the wheel spins both ways through your days.

Just recently, I had a friend who went in for a routine ACL surgery. Everything went fine. He was home in recovery and all seemed to be improving. Until it wasn’t. He started loosing feeling below his knee and couldn’t move his toes. When he got back to the hospital the doctors had no idea why the circulation had stopped in his lower leg. How could they not know!? Within a day the news went from “Oh he’s back in the hospital with complications” to “he might lose his leg”. I had no words. I could not believe it. Things are better than ever in the medical field and outliers still run to the edge of the bell curve. Shit happens. Crazy, unexpected wildcard cases still happen. It’s baffling. It’s scary. It feels like the Wild West. It feels like the point where your youthful, live-forever, invulnerability cracks.

Perhaps instead of a cheery lesson, focusing on the light, I’d say drink it all. Hold close the shadow, feel it fully and then let is pass. Life’s shadowy milestones will fuel your appreciation for everything else. The spectrum of experience turns with the wheel of chance and fortune.

What does this all have to do with theater and film, you say? Ah, Will, you old man. Did you forget that’s the point of your blog? Whoopsie Daisy!

Whoopsie+Daisy

There are few other careers or pastimes that function from a foundation of chance the way the performing arts do; Or creative endeavors of any kind for that matter. We build glorious microcosmic worlds; create them, paint them, clothe them, live them… and let them close and drift into memory. Any play or film that comes to be is riddled and rippling with good luck and favorable chance. It’s a crap shoot often with tons of expended effort and finger crossing. No one needs to be reminded of the concept “life is theater and Theater is life.” BUT what has been overwhelming my mind of late, is how much the concept of “you never know” actually influences our lives. We all know this. Sure, I’ve known everything since I was a teenager! But, as we age, we actually learn it. We don’t know if this rough-as-hell final dress performance will pull together for opening night or if we will get hit by a bus crossing the street to work. Chances are you aren’t gonna see it coming. So get lucky if you can.

Okay, back to this current life. Well, nothing says luck and chance like a popularity contest, right? PianoFight is in the midst of their ShortLived play competition (Round Three starts up again on Thursday). Each week, this madness has a way of showcasing the eclectic, the funny, the dark, the lovely and the rest. Life is short. See ShortLived.

Also, while you are in the market for short lived artistic experiences, look up the this year’s Oscar winning animated short film, Feast. It’ll remind you that luck can save you from eating off the street, chance has a way of shining through the dark and dogged effort can balance your plate.

feast

Until then, this new-Dad-to-be hopes luck has the chance to find you on this Saint Patrick’s Day.

In For a Penny: The Benefit of being Let Go

Charles Lewis III, liberated from the proverbial last straw.

You're Fired fortune cookie copy

“No man likes to acknowledge that he has made a mistake in the choice of his profession, and every man, worthy of the name, will row long against wind and tide before he allows himself to cry out, ‘I am baffled!’ and submits to be floated passively back to land.”
– Charlotte Brontë, The Professor

I knew what it was about before I even opened the e-mail. We’d just had a meeting the week before and now I was being asked to attend another one right out of the blue. Just the tone of the words “Can you come in on Monday?” barely concealed the impression that my instincts had already picked up. I read it and thought myself “I’m clearly about to get fired.”

It’s not a new experience for me. Over the course of my life, it was inevitable that eventually I’d be fired from two jobs, as opposed to the others from which I quit or resigned. (Yes, I consider quitting and resignation to be two different things. “Resignation”, in my mind, goes through the standard operation procedure of two weeks notice and a boilerplate letter. “Quitting”, on the other hand, well… have you ever seen the movie Half Baked?) In this very column, I’ve briefly alluded to the two times I was let go from theatre roles just weeks before opening – both of which were for the best. In fact, I sometimes think about a production or two I probably should have left. But, as they say, “the benefit of hindsight…”

Ending a job – any job – is like ending a relationship: there are financial concerns, all of your friends have their unsolicited opinions on how it should have gone, and there’s a seemingly endless stream of platitudes to greet you at the end. Most similarly, it’s been obvious for some time that you two aren’t good for one another and it’s just a matter of time before someone did something drastic. Just get it over with now so you can both move on.

I have only myself to blame, really. I’ve mentioned beforetwice, actually – that I was going into 2015 with nothing set in stone. I tried to brush it off, even convinced myself that it was for the best, but I still got antsy and wanted to work. The two auditions I’ve had resulted in bupkis and I don’t have much coming up acting-wise. So I accepted work. Lots of work.

A running joke of late amongst some of my theatre colleagues has been the fact that I’ve been seen manning the box office “at so many theatre companies lately”. (It’s actually just two.) In addition to that, I’m also part of the writing pool of a show going up this summer; I’ve been offered the chance to polish off an old script for an entirely new audience; I’m one of the directors of this month’s Theater Pub; I’m directing the ‘Pub’s entry for ShortLived; I need to take another look at the pages I’ve already written for this year’s Olympians Fest; and I just expanded my role at my part-time job. That’s just what I can remember. So… yeah, it’s been a very relaxing year thus far.

After reading the e-mail about the Monday meeting and taking stock of all the above, I thought to myself “Would it be so bad if I got fired?”

Now don’t get me wrong, I’d prefer not to have another blemish on my employment record (to say nothing of a lack of income as I continue my never-ending quest for a full-time job). But I’d been doing so much in addition to all of the above that I’m pretty sure my health was beginning to suffer. I barely had time for any of the exercises I mentioned in my last entry and I didn’t even get to see the shows I was house managing. I became so determined to be the best at each job that I was falling behind on almost all of them: I was late for – or missed – a few deadlines and began to lose track of dates. And I won’t even get into family health matters. When a friend of mine happened to see me, noticed I looked a bit ragged, and asked me what was wrong between condolence hugs, all I could do was quote Hamlet: “When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions.” My first-world problems bring out my melodramatic side.

After I got that e-mail on a Friday, I wound up having to miss one of my box office shifts that Saturday. Not because of the e-mail, but because of “the outside world”. Long story short: I had to take someone to the hospital. I don’t know if it was being around sick people or if the stress of the world finally got to me, but I actually did get sick in the days that followed. So as it got closer to the meeting on Monday, I took a moment to say to myself “I really hope I get fired.”

It’s a tricky business leaving a job staffed with people you know. At the meeting, the woman who hired me – someone for whom I still have a great deal of respect – said she regretted at moving to this point. I, likewise, apologized for not being able to do my job at 110%. We both acknowledged the fact that my increasingly crowded schedule was starting to show in other aspects of my life. Everyone agreed that it was for the best to let me go. Afterward she told me that she’d like me to remain a part of her network, and for once, I actually believed that to be true.

And with that, a straw was removed from the camel’s back.

The theme(s) of this month’s Theater Pub is “Luck and Chance”. I’ve had the chance to expand my skill set and strokes of luck both good and bad. I had a chance encounter with a friend who gave a hug when I wasn’t yet ready to spill my guts. I’ve had the chance to prove myself outside of my normal comfort level. If nothing else, I’d like to think that I’ve proven how dedicated I am, even when possibly to my personal detriment. But then, that’s the reason I named this column “In For a Penny”. I’ve mentioned before that I don’t believe in Destiny, but I do believe in Fate. It was my fate to do this amount of work for the amount of time in which I did it. Now that it’s over, I’m able to give my other work the proper attention it deserves.

Tonight begins the first of a three-day/four-performance run of This is Why We Broke Up , the SF Theater Pub short play written by Ashley Cowan which I directed. Ashley’s offer to direct came at a time when I really needed it, so I’m willing to believe luck was on my side. As you fine folks watch it (multiple times, and vote us to the top!), I’ll be in the back in a Zen-like trance.

Charles Lewis III is serious about you showing up to ShortLived tonight. In fact, show up all weekend! Tickets are super-cheap AND they’re even cheaper with a group of six-or-more. Buy them right now!