More thoughts from the road….
Okay, so my 30 Day Actor Challenge turned up a little short. I’ve still got 13 days to cover — and I will — but after my computer had a meltdown in mid-October priorities have shifted slightly.
It’s hard to believe that John and I have been on tour and away from friends, family, and the comforts and familiarity of home for over two months! It’s even more difficult to believe that we’re only 17 performances and 1 week from the close of our tour! How did we get here? How has time passed us by so quickly?
Before leaving Minneapolis my agent and I sat down for lunch. She told me something that’s since stuck with me, “You’ve got to love doing the dishes.” You’ve got to love cleaning the plates as much as you love preparing, serving, sharing, and eating. You’ve got to love the whole process!
Last weekend John and I left mid-Tennessee and headed east to celebrate Halloween with Andy and Rebecca, another touring troupe with NTC. We had a great time in Knoxville together! Over the course of two days we did what many actors do when they’re together: talk about the work. Our discussion touched on many issues, but one still stands out: fulfillment as an artist.
I’m gonna stop here for a moment while I look up the definition of fulfillment because I’d hate to be using it incorrectly for the remainder of this post. According to Merriam Webster “fulfillment” is from “fulfill:”
to make full // to put into effect // to meet the requirements of (a business order) // to bring to an end // to measure up to : satisfy // to convert into reality // to develop the full potentialities of
Now that we all know where the word comes from and what it actually means, let’s get back to the question/issue of “fulfillment as an artist.”
First, being fulfilled is your responsibility. This task rests on your shoulders. I can’t tell you what’s going to feed your soul and create your own world of happiness. Again, totally up to you.
Speaking of fulfillment reminds me of people that talk a lot about God. Why? Because I know that my relationship with God (or “the Awesome Energy,” “Love,” “Holy WOW!”) is extremely personal and it makes me uncomfortable when people presume to tell me what God is/isn’t/should/shouldn’t be. Find your own definition of God and while you’re at it, look for your fulfillment too.
Andy, Rebecca, John, and I discussed this at great length. While some of us weren’t being creatively fulfilled by the show, I shared with the group why/how I was being fulfilled.
At the core, I feel like the work we’re doing on the road is important. Maybe that sounds silly considering that the show is essentially about a superhero (Nikki Neutron) that needs to learn what energy and resources are from a bunch of silly characters (the boss, a former-superhero, and a dirt farmer) so he’ll be able to defeat the villain (The Sneaker / all of us at some point) who’s been wasting energy and resources. Written into the script is an important lesson, but more than that NTC’s troupes on the road are going into schools all over the country and doing a stripped-down bare-bones show focusing on message and character to a group of individuals (elementary students) that have never seen a show before.
To me, that automatically makes “washing the dishes” that much more important. It’s important to get the message across and it’s important to be entertaining while doing so. Let’s face it, it seems like the children of today have things pretty easy. This, I assume, is thanks in part to parents that want to create a world “that’s better than they had it” which when accompanied by the internet’s instant gratification, the realism of video games, and the non-stop deluge of cable TV kids don’t have long attention spans. If they don’t like something they change the channel, close the browser, put in a new game…
During the conversation with the other troupe it seemed their show was geared toward the teachers as it had more pop-culture references students wouldn’t comprehend. It works for their troupe, but it’s not how John and I approached our show. The show we’re doing is for the students, not the teachers. Sure the teachers laugh and come along for the ride, but our audience — the folks we’re playing to, they’re between the ages of four and twelve. Think of that for a moment, they’re born between 1999 and 2007. They’re kids! With that in mind, our show is high energy (we’re “The Energized Guyz” after all) and silly with big lovable characters.
Over brunch on Sunday at Cracker Barrel I asked the following question to everyone, “In one sentence, what is all you want to do in life?” Part of the reason this work is so important for me has to do with my answer to the question:
All I want in life is to be a great daddy, wonderful husband & provide for family by doing what I love while helping make the world better.
I want to be a great daddy. I think part of being a “great daddy” is being a great educator. And between the laugh lines and all the costume changes in the show, educating is what we’re doing.
After the shows we meet our audience and I always ask, “Did you learn something?” and if so, “What did you learn today?” Taking it a step further, “Why is what you learned important?” Sure, these are kind of weighty questions for a five year-old, however, I think that there’s a lot of teachers that don’t make the connection between needing to allow the time for the student to ponder the question/answer then allow the time for the student to have the confidence to take a risk with their answer and vocalize it. (I’m certain there’s also a lot of teachers that want to take the time, however, can’t afford to do so due to the politics of teaching in the public school system.) A lot of students are so afraid of being “wrong” they can’t find the words and it genuinely breaks my heart.
On some deeper level, I want the students to learn that what they have to say matters. If I’m asking them a question it’s because I genuinely want to know. I want them to learn that they’re important; as individuals, they are so very special — each and every one of them, flaws and all. Because that’s what makes them unique!
There’s so much more I want to say, but John and I need to leave the hotel because we’re badly in need of adventure! If you have 22 minutes, check out this video by Tony Robbins; perhaps it will help you understand why this tour has been so fulfilling.
What are your thoughts? Please share, I’d love to know what you’re thinking.