Monday, May 11, 2015

Things I have learnt from Musical Theatre #1: the hardest working kids in town

Five months of my recent life have been consumed and invigorated by "Evita". A local theatre company gave me a shot at performing in the ensemble of their production and it has been my making.

I like to think that this blog, while often seemingly random and themeless, is a place for me to share what I learn. Evita has been an education.

The cast was made up of around 50 people aged from 11 to 'a lady never divulges her age'. Most of the cast had a teen in their number. I'd like to share with you what I have learned about these young people.

First I would like to ask you: When was the last time you committed to something, something outside of full-time work or study and committed to it for up to 12 hours a week for 5 months? A commitment that required focus, discipline, mental, creative and physical challenges and constant connection and interaction with 50 people working as a team. When was the last time a commitment like this required a final week of 50 hours in confined space with those 50 people you have spent 12 hours a week with, plus crew, and this was on top of your full-time work/study?

And in particular, when was the last time you did all this with professionalism, commitment and focus? Striving for excellence, all the while keeping your humour and squeezing the most fun that could possibly be squeezed from every second?

(I know, right? I couldn't do it. I was stuffed. I needed days off work and a lot of naps.)

So this is what I have learnt about young people in theatre.

These young people are responsible, committed. They turned up sick. They turned up exhausted.  They were vulnerable and anxious. They were kind and caring to each other. And so bloody funny. They turned up and turned it on every day.

Parents of teens who say they want to pursue a career in theatre or music or drama, can I just say to you, encourage them. Care for them. Please don't tell them they need something sensible 'to fall back on'. Acknowledge their dedication and hard work as well as their beauty and talent.
You know, with support, they might just crack it.

Or they might not. They may get to 25, be broke and decide that they haven't made it and that its time to do something sensible. (oh my god, so many years to be sensible.). At least they would have spent their youth working their arses off, surrounded by creative, stimulating people, pushing, challenging and exposing their vulnerability every day and having a fkn good time doing it.

If they can do that, lets face it, they can do anything.

Better to try than to get to 25 having done 'the sensible thing' and being broke anyway.
Better to try than to get to 25 and feel that you lost yourself on the way.

Better to try than get to 42 and grieve for a version of life unlived.

My hat is off to you, young people of musical theatre. You are brave and bold.
Seize it, relish it, pursue it now. Being 'sensible' is highly overrated.

Parents of young people who want to pursue a career in music, theatre and the arts, please don't fear for their future. You can have faith and be so proud of them. 

They are the hardest working kids in town.

Photo courtesy of Encore Theatre Company

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Your measure

What is your worth?
A life - a heart, a mind, a soul,... a smile, a whisper.

Are you here to be weighed and  measured and attributed a final value amount?

Do you direct debit your subscription to the daily posts of the meritocrats who sell you the equation - worth=wealth, at a price you don't know you are paying?

And is your faith in the zealots who preach the noise that worth rises and falls with the number on a scale? As the numbers rise do you feel your worthlessness weighing you down in loathing and lovelessness?

Are you extroverted, sales-driven, devotees of the cult of personality singing upbeat hallelujahs more value-laden than the quiet-loving shy boy, demanding nothing, in his world of ideas and dreams? Whose genius exists in a wry twist of the lip, not picked up by tests and assessments and so easily obscured in the ceaseless pings and bleats, notifications and alerts.

And what of thought? Idle thought. Of ideas and dreams? Are they to be deemed, to be measured in applicable potential commercialisation, profit and outcomes? Are the only merits those that are measurable?

And the wealth of likes and followers and attentions and validations=
Are these our concrete measures of our value? Our KPIs?

Your face your waist your handbag your shoes your bike your house your means this brand that brand paleo fasting cleansing detoxifying - do these value add to your net?
Have you worked and accumulate and ticked enough boxes to attain sufficient 'worthy'?

What are we selling down the river of measurability?
Art, language, history, music -ideas for their own sake? How do we convert these to measurable outcomes, to their dollar weight to prove that they are worthy of holding on to?

Is a child's education just a funnel towards greater worthiness? Its benefits only those that can be scaled and measured and standardised. Producing job-market fodder for a future workplace whose parameters are beyond prediction.

How do you measure the worth of a teacher whose eyes and soul whispers to a child 'I see you and I understand you.' What value can be statistically assessed and estimated for a community around your child educating them and telling them 'who you are is all you need to be.'

I am worth weary.
It is an illusion, a construction, a fabrication.
You exist as do I.
There is only value in that.

To be. To breathe. To feel.
That heartsong moment of connection in love and spirit.

A perfect melody drifting from a child at their work.
A breeze-drifting lace-leaf, yellowed by the season, twisting its dance by my window.
A bubble of laughter, unsupressible, exploding through your nostrils and filling the library-silence with cackle.

I seek a renaissance of self-determination and the worthless pursuit of joy for its own sake.

My measure. My love. My life.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

If not me, who?

Emma Watson in her recent speech to the UN - "If not me, who?If not now, when?"

What an incredible call to action and resolve from this remarkable young woman. Yesterday I listened to another young woman tell of her belief that if she has a baby it will be the death of her career. Not only that, but she would be 'letting down' all the colleagues and mentors who support her career and have invested in her.
She and the women in the room accepted this as fact.

Women are so manipulated by their desire to be competent, to 'do the right thing', to 'play nice' that they do not see power and choices, only compromises. That the value, possibilities for success and ambitions of a woman decreases when they have children is true, but that it has to be this way, is an utter lie.

I am tired of holding back, of 'playing nice' of being more concerned about appearing too aggressive, too forthright, even 'unattractive' and so reverting to holding my tongue and being meek.

I could claim my power and choose my life.

Why not?

Women suffer from their own limiting beliefs as much as by socially imposed limits. We are excellent at 'playing the game'. That 'feminism' is a negative even shameful word, is testament to that. As is the disgraceful fact that men and women in the media now actively seek to undermine her words and cause by sexualising and exposing Emma Watson

We buy the magazines.
We watch the shows and the films.
We worship celebrity.
We talk about 'thigh gap'. (What man in the world gives a rats ass about 'thigh gap')
We accept and condone the proliferation of pornography.
We accept the conventions of beauty and worthiness.
We self hate.
We fear making ourselves too big.
We apologise.
We bring each other down.
We let our daughters do the same.

I have done it all.

But we don't have to.
As citizens of the developed world we have more power than we realise.

In the west, women have gained so much. But we hold ourselves back.
We do not have to subscribe to a masculine paradigm of beauty/work/wealth=success.
We have choices.
We can influence.

Imagine a society where parenting, community, love, expression, age, care, children, art, culture, individualism and connection were valued as much as sexiness and the size of your pay check?

We can take up space.
The acceptance of limitations and polite apologies for speaking up and expressing opinion can stop.
We don't have to play that way.

This needs to happen.
For the millions of girls to be married as children.
For the millions of girls who are denied basic education.
For the millions of girls in our own countries who see no future, only welfare and abuse.
For the young men who take their own lives rather than express what they see as weakness.

We can stand firm in our own shoes.
We can hold back the polite apology.
We can refuse to be limited.

Hold each other up, men and women together.
'Be bloody, bold and resolute.'

If not us, who?
If not now, when?