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.