I am often distressed by the cattiness that can be found in the realm of theatre. I think that there are two ways for us to connect to each other as theatre artists.
The first is, I believe, one of the most beautiful things about theatre. We connect to each other through empathy. This is the very core of our art form. We tell stories that make audiences feel what we as our characters are experiencing.
We strive to connect to our characters, our fellow actors, and the world around us. I have experienced the most welcoming and honest people while working in theatre. I have encountered people who disagree with almost every belief I hold, and yet we are able to respect and love each other.
There is another way in which we often interact which is much more destructive. We compete constantly. This is a terrible reality of our field. We must compete with other actors at auditions. We must compete with other theaters for ticket sales. We must constantly compete with ourselves to become better and better. This competition is necessary. It pushes us.
I believe it is when we allow this competition to happen without empathy that we become destructive. We tear others down constantly in conversation. We criticize to the point of cruelty. We do our best to make sure other actors never work again or other theaters never produce again. This is easy to find. It’s everywhere.
Here, in the midst of disaster, when nearly every artist is out of work indefinitely, and every theatre is struggling to stay afloat, I hope that we can choose to change. My true hope is that small theaters would reach out to each other and help each other. That actors would uplift each other. This too, has been easy to find these last few weeks.
Let’s make a choice to connect with empathy. Let’s make this a place where theaters work together instead of against each other. Let’s see what we can build from here.