Josh and the City: We’re All in This….Well, You Know

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Last week, I had an epiphany.

I was meeting up with Alan Charnock, Stage Door Dish’s fantastic managing editor, for coffee downtown. We spent the better part of an hour discussing all things Broadway, theatre, writing and art, which, I must admit, made for quite a glorious hangout sesh. Alan was even kind enough to introduce me to the New Dramatists building, a sort-of hidden treasure to those who are unaware of all it has to offer. At some point during our conversation, Alan reminded me of something crucial that I tend to forget as I move forward in my own theatrical endeavors:

“Our generation is the future of theatre.”

[Note: these may not be his words verbatim but this is the gist of the point he was trying to make.]

I’m not quite sure why this statement was such a “lights on” moment for me, but it was.

The younger generation of twenty and thirty-somethings who are undergoing theatrical training, have recently graduated, or are actively attempting to realize our dreams in the real world, are the future of the theatrical world. We have lived long enough to see two (or maybe three) musicals win the Pulitzer Prize; Harry Potter become arguably the biggest literature/film phenomenon of all time; technology and social media single-handedly take command of our every spare second; and countless new playwrights create contemporary works as masterful as anything Williams or Miller could write.

The world is at our fingertips like never before. Since more television specials are being created to discuss aspects of theatre such as playwriting trends and Shakespeare’s everlasting legacy, avid theatre fans far from New York are able to stay engaged in their passion and get their theatrical fix. Perhaps most importantly, sharing art with the rest of the world has never been as simple as it is today. The rule book, if there ever was one, has been thrown out the window and now, more than ever, anything is possible.

So what does all this mean? I’ve been asking myself that all week and have come to a firm conclusion.

I believe it means that the reins are in our hands. We have as much freedom as we do responsibility; it’s up to us to not only keep the legacy of countless playwrights and musicians going, but also implement our own creative and original ideas as we go along. Maybe this is a huge “DUH, JOSH!” moment, but how often do we think about this on a daily basis?

Sure, it seems daunting, like the entirety of theatre’s future rests on our trembling shoulders, but that’s not how it has to be. I like to think of this as a golden opportunity. I feel empowered by the idea, like maybe someday I’ll be able to express my opinion on how a lighting cue looks or a character should be written. Even if it’s the tiniest bit of input, I will have influenced a piece of the theatre that can be seen and appreciated by younger generations, who have the ability to advance the craft even further. The possibilities are endless! And that means that there is work to do.

Oh, the work. The work, work, work.

For whatever reason, I’ve recently come into contact with multitudes of people (including several friends) who feel that they “can’t” do their art to the best of their abilities because they feel stuck. Some are writers in a rut who do not feel the inspiration to follow their impulses; others are actors who want nothing more than to book a national tour or begin their pre-Broadway run. I completely relate to all of this but sometimes I want to shake these people as much as they probably want to shake me when I say the same things.

If I’ve learned anything from my first year of post-college artistic growth it is that following initial impulses can lead to stimulating and often mesmerizing results—sometimes even pure brilliance. As the writer Anne Lamott says in her book Bird by Bird, sometimes you need to write [terrible] first drafts that no one will ever see before the masterpiece can take shape (…she uses a more colorful word in her book). The same has been said of acting in Harold Guskin’s How to Stop Acting: following impulses can often lead to acting choices that may have otherwise gone unexplored. Of course, it takes a bit of practice to build the confidence necessary to take that initial risk, but in the end, it’s totally worth it.

In my own life, I have begun about a dozen writing ventures, from novels and screenplays to dramas and television sitcoms. I want to write all of them at once, but I can promise you that none of them would even be on paper if I hadn’t taken a risk and said, “Hmm, I wonder where this idea will lead.” Last week’s Theatre Talk Thursday question—“What would you make into a musical?”—really got me thinking and I awoke a few days later with lyrics to an opening song for the musical version of one of my favorite movies bopping around in my head. I have never even contemplated writing a musical before, nor do I have legitimate songwriting experience, but after jotting some of the lyrics down during my morning commute, I’m seriously interested in seeing where the project takes me. It may never amount to anything, but the mere fact that the ideas came to me in the first place means something. A creation was made. It doesn’t matter how small or seemingly insignificant; the seed was planted and something resembling a bud poked its head out of the earth.

In moments like those I remind myself that not only have crazier things happened than a small idea reaching nationally recognized fruition, but also that it is widely agreed that most of the people who found great success in their lives had no idea how they were actually going to make it happen; they just kept moving forward.

Yes, the theme “We’re All in This Together” from our favorite Disney Channel musical came to mind when contemplating a title for this week’s column, as well it should.We are all in this together and I believe that there has never been a better time to collaborate or encourage each other to take the next step in our own creative processes. After all, that’s what life is and that’s what art is.

A process.

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3 Responses

  1. Quite the eye opening article – awesome work! Very eloquent and well put.

  2. Josh, great article! (And I’m not just saying that, obviously) I’m glad you picked out that thought and ran with it, because, I’ll be honest, it’s something I tend to forget as well. Thanks for this article. It’s a great reminder and perspective on things.