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.

Cowan Palace: Connecticut Dad Bans “Amazing”

Ashley amazes you with her amazingness.

I’ll make it short and sweet this week, folks. Will mentioned it in his piece yesterday and Charles kindly gave us a shout out earlier this week but in case you hadn’t heard me wailing into the night, our wedding day is just nine days away and we’ve been a bit preoccupied with it.

I’m also writing this somewhere between Philadelphia and San Francisco on a late flight home sitting near a sweet Amish couple and a grandma wearing festive socks listing different types of spices.

I had the pleasure of heading back east to be a bridesmaid in my best friend’s wedding (not as dramatic as the movie). When my dad picked me up the airport, it wasn’t long before he shared his current distaste for the word “amazing”. Our conversation went a little something like this:

Dad: I’ve banned the word “amazing” from our house.

Ashley: Okay.

Dad: There’s a Facebook group devoted to the cause.

Ashley: You’re not on Facebook.

Dad: No, I’m not.

Ashley: Hashtag ironic? (Said in my sexiest reality TV show baby voice.)

Dad: So no more “amazing” in the house.

We then went out to breakfast and it was delicious.

I guess I hadn’t really thought about how much I use the word or some of the other words on my dad’s hate list (which also include: passionate, baby bump, and man cave for those of you following Ashley’s dad trivia). But over these last few nights on good ole Winding Lane, boy did I!

Right before we left to return to the airport, we somehow managed to catch the tail end of some reality show about weight loss. When the woman featured in the program came out and said she had lost 150 pounds (half her body weight!) I said, “wow, that’s amazing.”

My dad stopped me. “It’s what?” he repeated a few times before I caught on. “No, it’s actually amazing.” I said. And explained that I truly thought her achievement was worthy of such a description. Even though we were watching a scripted reality show.

He granted me back my speech.

My dad’s main point is that the word has managed to take on a new meaning with the social media/reality show loving world we live in. He’s passionate, whoops – sorry, he feels strongly about words and believes they deserve better. And as a writer who has a weakness about blogging pop culture references, that struck something in me. I’ve certainly used the word “amazing” when I experienced something that did not cause me to feel “overwhelmed with great surprise and wonder” and I’m also too confident that I’ve given that line to a character or two without thinking twice.

So in your honor, Dad, and as part of a bizarre Father’s Gift (how will my siblings ever compete?!), I promise to be a bit more selective with my words. At least this week. And in any case, your daughter still thinks you’re pretty cool… perhaps even, amazing.

The Cowan Family getting their Cowan on and thinking about words.

The Cowan Family getting their Cowan on and thinking about words.