I wrote this on a train, speeding along through the rain from Stratford Ontario, the home of our major Shakespearean theatre festival, back home to Toronto. Justin and I had a wonderful time strolling the duck-inhabited pathways along the banks of the Avon river, exploring little treasure box gardens and finding treats in artsy gift shops.
But the real joy was the theatre. We watched the world transform from an English manor to a snow-covered world populated by talking fawns and loyal beavers in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. We marveled at the intensity of a dancer’s life in a dynamic production of A Chorus Line. We delved into the dark and brooding world of Macbeth in which man “struts and frets his hour upon the stage and then is heard no more.”
Throughout I was aware of the vagaries of the artistic life. Not only are the dancers’ stories in A Chorus Line rich with that edge – rejection, injuries, old at 27 – but also we heard a real-life, post-performance plea from a seasoned actor who asked us to contribute to The Actor’s Fund, a charity that helps performing arts professionals in times of need or crisis.
No wonder aspiring artists are often advised not to pursue this life. Common wisdom would say that if you can be satisfied doing anything else at all, choose that. Do not subject yourself to the pain, the uncertainty, the pressure, the poverty.
Magic still calls to creative hearts.
As I watched A Chorus Line, tears filled my eyes, my heart bursting in my chest, thumping along in rhythm with the message of the stage,
“I. I am a dancer…. Give me somebody to dance for. Give me somebody to show. Let me wake up in the morning to find I’ve got somewhere exciting to go.”
We creative hearts are called to answer the siren song of art.
We long to create work that is meaningful and true.
We want to wake up with somewhere exciting to go.
One of the profound gifts of our time is that our route to creative expression is no longer blocked by a velvet rope. We do not have to audition in order to perform. We don’t need editorial approval to publish out our book. With courage and creativity we can make and share whatever is in our hearts (though sometimes we forget and wait for someone to give us permission).
What if you simply began?
What if you invited a few friends over for a night of storytelling? What if you printed your own book of poetry and gave it as gifts to your friends? What if you booked a space for a night and put on a solo show of your photography?
You may not make money. You might even lose some! Maybe only your closest friends will be witness to your artistry. But you will have added to your body of work, you will have braved a great creative adventure and you will have a memory of a lifetime.
“Is he-quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion”…
“Safe?” said Mr Beaver.”Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good.”
Much like Aslan in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, a creative life may not be safe but it’s good.
Let’s be brave as lions.