intrinsic value & the mortality of theatre

When a show’s about to close and I don’t know what’s next for me, I fear becoming invisible. If I’m not making my presence known, whether it’s through performing or blogging or feeling brave enough to show up at parties, then what’s the point of existing?

My favorite sign at the zoo is in the reptile house, and it says, “Reptiles and amphibians have intrinsic value. They’re valuable because they’re here.”

I love that. That sign so sticks it to any asshole who needs a turtle or a snake or a newt to be able to directly benefit him in order to earn its time on this planet. Turtles don’t owe you anything, dude. If anything, we probably owe them an apology, and we would be so lucky if they decided to accept it.

So, we’re valuable because we’re here. We don’t need to earn our right to exist. Cool?

Meh.

I’m valuable today. I’ve been valuable for the past month. So far this month, I’ve played Lady Macbeth 22 times. Tonight is 23, and that’s it. That’s it.

A show doesn’t know when it’s closing. The pace and the emotions and the sweat and the (fake) blood don’t know that a halt is on the way. At 9:15pm tonight, my body and my heart will still be in full on Shakespearean sprint mode, and only my brain will desperately try to steel itself for the wall of nothing we’re about to hit. This is the finish line that doesn’t know it’s a finish line.

Lady Macbeth is valuable. She’s famous, she’s iconic. I adore her. I’ve thought about her every single day for over a month. I’ve loved her, and despised her, and worried about her, and been terribly frustrated with her, and hated Macbeth on her behalf, and hated everyone on her behalf. I’ll say, “To bed” tonight and blow out my little candle, and tonight she’ll stay in bed.

Cruel Voice says, “This is it for you, you know. You’ve had too many great roles for two years now.”

Nice Voice counters, “Well, but that’s okay! There are still lots of great roles out there, and besides, I want all my friends to get to do shows. Shakespeare lady life is tough.”

Cruel Voice scoffs, “Yeah, okay. Real noble, you lying bitch. Everyone can see through you into your petty, jealous heart. It’s over for you.”

Nice Voice starts to squirm, losing steam.

Man, Cruel Voice did a fucking doozy on me during the Mad Scene on opening night.

Me: “Out, damned spot. Out, I say!”

Cruel Voice: “Really? That’s the line read you’re going with? Okay. Whatever.”

Me: “One. Two. Why, then, ’tis time to do it.”

Cruel Voice: “You’re relying on that weird little hitch laugh tic too much. It’s fucking fake.”

Me: “Hell is murky.”

Cruel Voice: “Oh my God, what is the point of being crazy if you can’t even convincingly play crazy?!”

And so on.

Intrinsic value. We are valuable because we’re here. Right?

For the past month, my life has consisted of fast costume changes, of fake blood in my hair, of getting laughed at by high school students at 10 am, of beautiful poetry, of sitting in the dark backstage with my scene partner during our one real break in the show. This has been my life. There’s a quiet little death in closing a show. And I’m really, really sad about it.

My November goal is to find peace in the invisible. In the ability to experience joy even when there’s no one to watch me. I want to enjoy aspects of my life that aren’t performative. I want to do things that no one will ever see. My sticky, marshmallow heart has been pretty decidedly on display for the past few months, and I think it’s time to wrap it up in a blanket and let it nap it out for a while.

Yesterday I felt a little flash of peace in invisibility. I didn’t feel like waiting for a bus, so I just started walking in the general direction of the theatre, miles away. I took a random turn, and ended up on the Beltline. It was raining, so the path was mostly empty. I felt quiet and confident. I like wandering.

A man was walking in the opposite direction, about to pass me. He was outfitted for the weather in a legit raincoat, and was holding a camera. As we crossed paths, he took three pictures of me. I expected this to really piss me off, but it didn’t. I mean, I didn’t slow down. I didn’t even smile. But I didn’t mind.

He didn’t say anything to me. The photo didn’t feel lascivious in nature. There wasn’t an understood “Hey, baby” attached to it. I imagined his spending the rainy afternoon snapping shots of public art installations and wildflowers. Of interesting trees, maybe.

Having those pictures taken of me made me feel like an interesting tree. Something worth beholding even in silence and stillness. Something valuable even when it’s doing nothing.

I don’t know what you’re doing tomorrow, but I hope you know that it’s enough. With the exception of an apology to all of turtle-kind, you don’t owe anyone anything. You owe yourself kindness and forgiveness, and that’s fucking it. You are more than the world’s perception of you. You are worthy even when you are unseen.

You are valuable because you’re here.

 

One thought on “intrinsic value & the mortality of theatre

  1. “I don’t know what you’re doing tomorrow, but I hope you know that it’s enough.”

    This is so hard to remember sometimes. All the time. There’s always that little voice suggesting that any day you don’t work is a day you have wasted and another sign you’re horrible–I hate that voice, but it’s SO persistent.

    Anyway, I needed to hear this.

    Liked by 1 person

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