Marissa Skudlarek wrote this on four hours of sleep and we’re very proud of her.
It feels like everyone is ready for this summer to be over. Not just because we have the plays and movies of the Fall Arts Season to look forward to, but because the news this summer has been so spectacularly awful. Environmental catastrophe, disease, war, unrest, injustice – sometimes it feels like the four horsemen of the apocalypse are stalking the four corners of the earth. California’s in a dire drought, but here in San Francisco it’s grey, dreary “Fogust.”
I’ve been having “I want this summer to be over” feelings since mid-to-late July, when the experience of producing a show stopped feeling like an exciting adventure and started feeling like an endurance test. Sure, I was still working hard and getting things done, and I was super proud of my cast and crew, and looked forward to showing their work to an audience. And I took great pride in responding to emails quickly and keeping my nerdy budget spreadsheet up-to-date. But secretly, I longed for the day when the show would not only be open but closed, and I’d have free time again, and my life could go back to normal.
And then I berated myself for having these yearnings, which felt like the height of ingratitude. A “normal” life – who needs that? Didn’t I realize how lucky I was to be making theater in San Francisco, pursuing my dreams, “following my bliss” as the mantra goes? I was doing something big this summer, something special. I should be “enjoying the journey,” waking up each morning to inhale the fresh air and feel the red blood pumping through my body, working long, hard hours and falling asleep exhausted, and loving! every! minute! of! it! And when I failed to achieve that kind of ecstatic, blissful flow, I sank into a funk. I couldn’t appreciate the magnitude of what I had achieved. My efforts might look successful to the outside world, but they had failed to transfigure me, and thus, I discounted them.
Hard lessons come with being a producer, and I’m not just talking about the practical stuff here (like “buy paper towels if your theater venue only has hand-dryers in the bathrooms”). I learned that my perfectionism runs far deeper than I thought, and also started to come to a better understanding of its roots. I learned that taking the time out to pamper myself, as I did the day before load-in, was so delightful that I should be that good to myself every Saturday, load-in or not!
I learned the reason why people advise you to “enjoy the journey”: because you can’t speed up time so that this fucked-up summer will be over sooner, and because you can’t wish your problems away, the only thing you can do is find happiness along the path. It’s not about bliss; it’s about endurance.
I learned that I should be grateful for my health, my friends, my artistic community. Grateful for the goodwill that exists even in a summer when so many people are lost, sad, or angry.
I learned that sometimes, “enjoying the journey” and “putting one foot in front of another” are one and the same thing.
Marissa Skudlarek’s show, Pleiades, has six more performances, Thursdays through Saturdays from tonight through August 30. For more information, visit pleiadessf.wordpress.com.