Yesterday part of my childhood died. I'm willing to bet that a little bit of yours did, too. Within minutes yesterday evening, every social media outlet was covered with the news of Robin William's passing, and rumors of his battle with depression, the probable cause of his untimely death. The brilliant, unforgettable actor and comedian has always been one of my favorites, and when I first read the headlines I did a double take. A laugh of disbelief caught in my throat.
Yesterday we lost one of the greats.
Whether he was playing the boy who wouldn't grown up fighting for his children and whimsicality, or taking on the part of a doting, dutiful, dizzying nanny, or even a bright blue genie with whom everyone wanted to be friends, there was something about Robin Williams that was contagious. He brought joy in a way no one else did. He taught us to embrace our own quirks, flaws, and talents and be unapologetically ourselves. At least those are a few of the many things he taught me, and they are lessons I still need to learn today.
This to me is proof that play is powerful.
Play, as in storytelling, is impactful, lasting, and meaningful.
Play, as in the art of theatre that I am pursuing with my life, is important.
Many of you know that I went to school for theatre, and today I start the journey to graduate school to pursue it even further. But I don't know that I've shared just why it means so much to me.
I believe in the power of storytelling. I believe that theatre is an avenue through which we can reflect the most harsh and most beautiful truths of this world and provide an opportunity for people to ask the hard questions, realize the layers within their own stories, and come to understand the human condition with compassion.
I believe that one actor, one director, one show, one scene can make a difference.
Have you ever experienced that?
For others it's when the musical sweeps into the curtain call and you leap to your feet to applaud.
For me, it happens smack dab in the middle of a show.
Sometimes I'll see myself in an actress onstage, and feel to my core the sensation she is sharing.
Others times I catch myself leaning as far back in my chair, lips pressed firmly together, a hand raised almost covering my eyes to hide the brokenness or tragedy on display.
And you may also find me glued to my seat, forgetting to breath as tears roll down my cheeks.
When the lights come up, and reality sets in...
What do I do next?
What should you do next?
Ask the why and talk about it! Explore it thoroughly. Grab a friend, a notebook, an empty blog post and go for it! I need to take more of my own advice and do it. In a world where so much of the entertainment industry is all for flash and show to get viewers -and money- in the doors, it's up to us to walk out with an inquisitive "why?" Let's make it mean something.
The stories we share and the stories we step in to matter.
But they should matter beyond the theatre's double-doored exit.
We get to carry them with us.
I once was in a show called Quartet with Grand Piano, and before each performance the actors, directors, and musicians gathered together to pray. We'd ask that hearts be touched, our stories resonate far and wide, and that we would come together as a company. We'd say amen and keep our hands connected, exchanging knowing grins as we all repeated:
"There's magic in the theatre. The theatre is magic!"
Never have I been more convinced of this.
Gone are the days that I am apologetic or embarrassed about what I believe to be God's calling for me. That phrase, y'all! In the depths of my heart I know that God is calling for me to make a difference in this world and in my city through theatre.
I am a storyteller who is interested in your story as well as mine, right along side the people we read on the page. I believe we learn so much more about ourselves when we try to step into someone else's story, shoes, or circumstances. It looks different for everyone and is a life long process, but I plan to take it every step of the way.
Theatre has taught me that my story matters even in the midst of the stories of others. It is easy to feel lost in the world where money and success shapes your worth, and you may be big but someone will always be bigger. I'm the first to discount my story if it falls in the shadow of another.
In blogging even, I often wonder why does my story matter? Isn't someone already telling it better, with more excitement, followers, and prettier pictures? I start in on the list of things I can't write about (marriage, homemaking, running small business, etc) and forget the list of things God has put on my heart to share that I've been neglecting (singleness, contentment, diving into the Word, etc). I put myself in a box and close the lid.
In theatre, it's much more simple, yet beautifully complex. We get a slice of life, one glimpse into someone's story. Characters come in and out with histories, tragedies, and issues of their own, and we don't always see their stories come to fruition. But what we do get to do is settle in for an hour or two and feast on the tale before us. We can see things they cannot, appreciate moments, stillness, silences, and laughter when they are not aware of the beauty around them.
Then we have the opportunity to spin it back on us. To ask those questions from before and assess where we are and where we're headed. In a play, the characters have a set end, and even with our wisest counsel should we shout it from the balcony (and for the love of theatre DO NOT do so) their story ends the same way every time. Ours does not have to. We can choose to surround ourselves with people who will walk alongside us, speak life into us, and hold us accountable along the way.
We get to see life as so much more. And I thank God for that. I thank God that there are actors, writers, directors, designers, and a multitude of other creatives who have invested their lives into this art. I thank God that there are friends, bloggers, authors, and speakers out there who care about the hearts of those who want their story to be known, to be significant.
Your story is significant, my dear.
Not when you have it all together. Not when it's finally picture perfect. Not when you think you've got it figured out. TODAY. Where you are living, the path you are walking, and the people that surround you, this is significant. Carpe diem, my friend. Seize the day. THIS day. Go on, play. Do. Be. Have at this life with 110% of your energy.
Be a storyteller, if you want.
Be an astronaut, if you want.
Be whatever the Lord is calling you to be.
And today let's thank the Lord for all the times He's blessed us with laughter, a physical escape from pain and sorrow, as we mourn with many the loss of one of the greats.
Thank you, Robin Williams, for all you've done and said and shared.
Your stories matter to so many.
The quote was graciously provided by Shalyn Nelson.
The remaining images are from productions I have either directed or been in while at Baylor University. I plan to share more about these and further projects in the weeks to come. Theatre is too much of my heart and life to keep hidden for fear of misunderstanding and disinterest. So be prepared. This is your final warning ;)