... and lemon curry?!
(My sister and I)
I’m not sure who is following me these days. Probably a lot of drag queens and Mad Men fans (to which I say, Halleloo!) I haven’t written in a while but now some stuff has happened. SOme big stuff has happened.
Last June, my mom got a divorce and moved from Chicago to Denver, by herself, at 59 years old. She had been married to/dating her ex-husband for a couple of decades, and she was with my dad for about a decade before that. Needless to say, it was a huge adjustment for her.
More to the point, it was a huge adjustment for me. I haven’t lived near my mom since I was 17. She moved to Chicago to marry her now ex-husband back in 1999, or at least I think it was 1999? The events surrounding her move all took place around my Freshman year of college, which would have been 1999/2000. Sometimes these childhood memories don’t come with dates intact.
Anyway, it has been a long while, and though I visited her in Chicago about once a year for the past 15 years, I have not lived near her in any of that time.
That was significant enough, but in addition, my sister moved here to Denver this past weekend. I haven’t lived near her for about 15 years as well. She moved to Chicago to live with my mom when she was about 11 years old, so we really hardly grew up together at all.
All of this is to say that suddenly I’m no longer alone. I’ve lived away from my immediate family for almost half my life. I didn’t seem significant at the time. It wasn’t a deliberate running away from them, but now that I think about it, I must have felt that there was no reason to stay.
My family has always been rather isolationist. We all keep to ourselves. The family crest should have the words, “It’s None Of Your Business” and, “Don’t Tell Me What To Do” embroidered in Latin. We tend to be suspicious of vulnerability, enthusiasm, joy, silliness - anything that smacks of stupidity. That’s how they getcha. You gotta watch out for the swindlers of this world. The only reason you wouldn’t succeed is if you’re stupid, and stupid is the worst thing you could possibly be.
So for most families, living near each other seems either consciously important or just how it is. For us, it feels very strange.
I figured this new chapter should be documented, so here it is. I don’t know if Tumblr is the best forum for this sort of thing, but why not?
I don’t know if any of you will like this or find it interesting, but I figure I’ll just have to wait and see.
Welcome to my life.
So my theatre company, Paragon Theatre, is closing down this week. In 5 days. To give you an idea of how big of an impact this is having on my life, allow me to give you a little back story.
A scene from my directorial debut - The Winterling by Jez Butterworth
I started doing theatre in Junior High, when I was 12 years old. It was the first time in my young life where I had more than a handful of friends. I ‘accidentally’ auditioned for a part. My friend wanted to audition, she needed a scene partner so I told her I would help her out. I told the director “don’t watch me - this is her audition”, and I stole the show.
In high school in Greeley, the theatre kids were the cool kids. Our football team and cheerleaders, though successful, were kind of a joke. The creative kids - band geeks, choir nerds, theatre dorks - were the cool kids. I was all three.
In college, I studied theatre. I was never the star of the show. I never had the all-important confidence every good actor needs. I was in my head, not in touch at all with my feelings - what 17-22 year old is, really? But I loved it. I loved feeling like whatever we were doing, it was incredibly vital and important. That this what life was all about.
At the end of college, it wasn’t quite so rosy. I remember being very upset in my senior-year audition techniques class where the basic lesson was “This is how the system works. If you don’t follow these rules, you will not be allowed in the system. Even if you follow these rules, you will probably still not be allowed in… oh, and thanks for all your tuition money.”
It felt false. It felt like a swindle. Here we were being told to be brutally honest and vulnerable on stage. To tap into deep strange places at the core of our being. To push ourselves. To push boundaries. To make waves. And yet now we were meant to somehow mold ourselves into whatever the industry wanted us to be?
I remember shouting to my friends about how there had to be another way. That art should not be about competition, but collaboration. That if we were true artists, we would never pander nor compromise, especially to fufill whatever corporate big wigs would have us do. I was a very passionate young lady.
And so, after a while, I moved to Denver, and I found that collaborative company. I found people who believed as I did. I found a theatrical family who were passionate about truth and taking risks. I found Paragon, and for almost six years I dedicated myself to that company.
None of us were paid. We worked out of sheer passion and dedication to an ideal - collaboration and good storytelling. We stood true to our tagline: Honest, Intimate, Bold.
At least I thought we did, until a few weeks ago. Again, as I have mentioned in this blog before, I don’t know if what I believed to be true for so long was actually true.
I could go on and on and on about why I worked at Paragon and what it meant to me personally. The lessons I learned, the things I achieved, the ways in which I failed.
But the thing is, I’m an adult now. I can’t live on passion alone. The difficulties and boundaries of reality can’t be ignored. I don’t think they are insurmountable, but as it’s all sort of falling apart, I am taking a step back, and I am not sure we approached the obstacles with the right tools. I think we sacrificed ourselves on the alter of artistic integrity, and it makes me feel like maybe it wasn’t worth it? Yes, we made some incredible theatre and we told some amazing stories, and I will treasure my time with Paragon for the rest of my life, but what once felt like the absolute ideal fulfillment of all my creative fantasies now looks like just a short stretch in a long road. As scary as it is to admit that, it is equally as exciting to think of what that means. That road is truly wide open.
I am really interested to know the internet etiquette about discussing work, specifically, people at work. It seems absolutely foolish to do so as future employers might find this gem, not to mention future grad school application officers, police officers, parents, teachers, friends, and the actual people you are actually talking about of course.
The thing is, if the internet is meant to be a creative outlet to share and connect with people, sharing and connecting about something many of us spend the majority of our lives doing just makes sense. These are the people I am around every day. This is the environment they collectively create. Here are my opinions on those people and that environment. These seem like reasonable things to discuss.
But when I started typing just now about various players and things at my place of work, I immediately deleted everything out of fear of retribution.
Is there a place to discuss these things outside you real life group of friends? How can one share an opinion or an insight gained from a work experience without condemning ones-self as a poor employee?
If ya’ll have answers, I would love to hear ‘em.
Love, love, love.
Ira Glass & I pose for a “candid” shot at #HWYWLive. For more of Mindy Tucker’s incredible photos, click here!