Lying Fallow

I was talking with an improv colleague yesterday, discussing the idea of taking periodic breaks from artistic pursuits.

He said something to the effect of him believing in breaks for others, but not for himself. At the time, I didn't ask him why he believed that, because I was kind of laughing out loud at how familiar the words were. I could have been talking to myself based on the itchiness I feel when I don't know what the next gig is gonna be.

I'm not sure if this is a trait particular to the creative arts, or all work that involves self promotion and free lance, but the drive to "find the next gig" seems common. And the majority of us are not even doing this for a living. For a life maybe, but not a living. Most of us do this for the sheer love of it, for the creation, and for the community, not for our livelihood.

Why then why avoid breaks? If gaps in work doesn't equal loss of financial support, then is it "busy and booked" as status? Is it a sense of overgrown ambition? Or is it perhaps a basic existential fear of being of becoming irrelevant, of being replaced, of missing out somehow? Surely, we are all special snowflakes with unique qualities that make our participation in any show just soar with potential.

Maybe. But it is likely that the entire point of human experience (with the exception of the very rare few who wind up in history books), is to realize that unique qualities or not, we each will die, be forgotten, become irrelevant.

Damn, Jules. Way to bring it down.

But! There is freedom in realizing that yeah...if I left any community for a year or more I might well disappear into the halls of memory, that my particular humor or talents would be replaced with some other cat's humor or talent, so what? I would still have myself. I would still have avenues to create.

And even more comfortingly, the health of a community should be mirrored in it's ability to weather change, the comings and goings of this director or that producer should not make or break the community as a whole. If the fabulousness of Austin improv is reliant on each of us to stay put and stay the same, then that's a bad, bad thing.

So, that was one thing I thought about, in regards to my reaction to our conversation. The other thing was that, hell. I've had a couple of "dark ages" in my 41 years where I was pretty sure it was all over, creatively.

One was during my master's degree. I was about 26ish. I was gonna devote myself to the degree and move on into very grown up work. But I missed theater and writing tremendously. Eighteen months into it, I was back.

The other was after we moved to Texas and I had children. That was a 5 year buffet of despair for me. The loss of the artistic community, the didn't feel like a loss of choice. It just felt gone. Of course moving across the country and germinating two children was a creative act and how could there be room for much more? But at the time, I didn't see it like that. I felt deeply lost, very sad. And at a point, I resigned myself to the idea of being "an adult" and "a mother" as if a chapter of my life was truly over and the joy of a creative life couldn't exist in maternal adulthood.

It wasn't and it can. I found theater again, (or it found me, more accurately. Theater hadn't gone anywhere, I had). If anything the experience has been more joyful, more thoughtful, more focused now than anything I did in college or after. The difference is that my schedule is tighter, my life and domestic responsibilities are heavier yet richer, still. That in and of itself makes the time spent with shows and the people in them even more precious and valuable.

Then why avoid breaks? I still hear the "call of the gig" in my head, I still want to be involved. I still have the energy to get up and work.

I'm more willing to trust that "the gig" is actually my life (breaks included) and that theater ain't going anywhere. I am connected to communities with moving, and yes replaceable, parts but I fit in where and when I can. My work and my relationships are determined by the desire I have inside available to me. And rest is necessary to allow that desire to build. Breaks allow ideas to sprout, alfalfa like, from fields which need to lie fallow, at least for a time.

But I'm still keeping an eye open for opportunities. :)


  1. The Guy is taking a break from theatre right now. He closed a show in March, and supposedly, he's not doing any until the fall. Given that he did something like five shows last year, this resolution did not, at the time, seem unreasonable at all.

    *I* may not last that until the fall. He's already itchy and restless, ready to get back at it. I understand how he feels, in a way. For as much as artistic pursuits USE energy, they also GIVE you energy.


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