Friday, May 21, 2010

A handprint has touched me...

Tonight and tomorrow evening are the final two performances of Handprint Alley. This was a well paying commission to both write and score - and then direct a new theatrical work that would experiment with style, genre, and storytelling techniques. It has been one of the more ambitious undertakings of my entire career - and also one of the most fulfilling. Oh but did I mention?...

It's a high school show.

And therein lies the seed of this blog post. You see, over the past two weeks, I have had to hear no less than four times a statement akin to this: "I don't know how you do it. Aren't you sick of having to teach and do these high school shows to pay the bills?"

And with one exception, these comments came from colleagues who are, themselves, considered "teaching artists". What became evident to me - and this is no real shocker - is that many arts professionals do indeed take teaching gigs and do education based theatre (or dance, or music, or art) for the purposes of "paying the bills." To them, I say - stop teaching. If you are merely a frustrated professional artist who falls into teaching as a necessity, then you are not meant to be in that role... Judgmental? Maybe. But boy, do I mean it.

I write this as a simple response - from my heart. There is not one tiny atom in my body - not one shred of mental firings - not one kernel of spiritual ether - nothing, nothing, nothing within me that feels compromised whatsoever in my career for taking part in the beautiful communion between young artists and myself. It is a privilege to share and learn with young, gifted people. And as I get older, I realize just what a blessed life I lead to continue to spend much of my artistic energy in collaboration with such raw talent. I learn more from them than they could ever gain from me. I remember what authenticity is. I remember what first inspiration is. I remember the pure and simple joy of why I do theatre at all. And for that, I owe these young artists a great deal.

As for Handprint Alley - is it perfect? No. Of course not. It is a big, bold, often epic experiment in theatrical devices and song and myth and movement and visual relationships. I have much to consider regarding the piece once we close. But I do think in the course of my career, this play may be one of my most genuine. And there are beats that feel true - to the very core. I'm not sure I've ever reached that before. And it is precisely because I have been given this opportunity to work with youth that I was able to reach that goal.

I am happily breathing in these final two shows...filled with much love and appreciation.

Handprint Alley
written, composed, and directed by
Matthew B. Zrebski
Two Shows Left:
Friday May 21 at 7p
Saturday May 22 at 7p
$10 / $5
All tickets at the door
1151 SW Vermont St. Portland

1 comment:

Ellen said...

I regret not seeing Handprint Alley! Wonder if I could see a script sometime?

As for the rest of your post, AMEN. Really, it is only when I'm around certain professionals that I'm reminded that teaching is supposed to be a drag, a compromise. The rest of the time I just consider it my work, and very creative and inspiring work at that. In that spirit, it has been great having you around Pacific knowing that you honor and appreciate this kind of work so much!