Thursday, June 14, 2007

To Love An Artist (written the week of May 7th, 2007)

I've been writing and now I have time to here is one of the three posts I wrote in the past month...

When I was at home in May my mother asked me if I thought it was easier or more difficult to be in a relationship with a fellow artist.

I gave her a very long answer, with the phrase ‘it has different challenges’ in it somewhere.

I had just helped a fellow student with a show called “The Last Five Years”, a story of two artists who try to join their lives and passions only to see their union unravel into chaos and heartbreak. This is a story I see told over and over again, in many mediums and with many variations. Artists faced with a choice between love and relationship or their art and what makes them feel alive. Sometimes they choose love. Sometimes they choose their art. Sometimes they strive for both.

Some succeed. Most seem to fail.

I watch the people around me and I realize that in real life things aren’t laid out so clearly. In real life the choice isn’t posed so gracefully. In reality there are so many reasons behind why one relationship fails and another goes the distance. A relationship doesn’t die solely because one person is jealous of a stage kiss. The stress of auditioning over and over isn’t enough to tear two people apart without other, more invisible problems underneath. In real life, you aren’t just two artists. You’re two people like everyone else.

I’ve seen a lot of relationships go down in flames here – fledgling loves that never got out of the nest as well as established relationships that have flown for years. I’ve heard stories of bigger train wrecks that happened before I got to this town. I know there are heartbreaks that I don’t know about.

I’ve seen relationships last too. There is one couple here who both work in the theatre. He is a stage manager and actor. She is a lighting designer and stage manager. I have babysat their three beautiful children, and they have another on the way. They somehow make it work.

There is another couple here that I don’t know as well. They both act, write, and direct. They also have two small children. They also somehow make it work.

I go through the families in this town and it seems that every single one is involved with the theatre on some level. Increasingly it seems that everyone I know is an artist in some way. And yes, one couple is in the midst of a divorce. But so many more of them seem to be fighting through to keep their love alive and kicking.

My friend, roommate, and fellow actress L. is getting married to an actor, K. I hope they are one of the couples who last. I’ve seen L. go through a long, blurry relationship that ended painfully. I’ve seen K. do the same thing. I hope that doesn’t happen this time.

And as I watch I realize that my answer to my mother was not completely accurate.

I wonder if the search for authenticity in art conflict with the search for everlasting love. The journey that acting requires – demands – is difficult and painful. Even a relationship with a non-actor can crash and burn when the constant auditioning, rejection and frustration wears on an actors soul. With two people going through that, it could bring you together or tear you apart. If one of you finds success, the other could be there to support and share in the joy – but the seeds of bitterness could root; and if both of you find the spotlight you could end up being busy and drifting apart into the arms of (seemingly) understanding cast mates.

But can’t those things happen to anyone? I know that other people don’t deal with some of the externals, but can’t anyone get too busy to be in love? Can’t anyone get jealous of their love’s success? Can’t anyone get turned off by their partner’s burnout? I can’t shut up the stubborn voice of hope, that voice that tells me that just because it could go sour doesn’t mean it will. All people risk in love. That is what love is.

And that is what art is too.

Most people don’t have to face life as honestly as an actor is encouraged to. Most people don’t use their emotions intentionally on a daily basis, much less as a part of their job. But perhaps, if you go in knowing that, it can end up being a good thing for both people.

I watch. I ponder. And I cling to hope.

And I think I would now tell my mother that relationship is relationship. In a strange way it doesn’t matter what you do…what matters is who you are, and how honest and true you can be to yourself.

And isn’t that what life, love and art are really all about?

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