MY THOUGHTS: The Art Of Being Theatrical
The idea of being theatrical suggests being over-the-top or having the ability to heighten stakes and situations than they appear to be. I’ve always known myself to be like this in one way or another, in every sense of the word; expressive. It wasn’t until I watched this episode of Glee that I understood the idea of being what the adjective described, which is where the “-ity” suffix comes from. It was a term all too familiar, yet completely new to me at the same time. (Plus... it helped that these lines were written for Idina Menzel, of all people, so of course I was paying apt attention.)
The idea of just being, in general, is one that I struggle with on a regular basis. Do I be the person people want or expect me to be? Do I be myself? Do I be the man God wants me to be? You would think the answers to these three questions are easy: No, Yes, and “Gee, golly, I hope so.” My young adult life has been a never-ending circus act of managing to balance these three “be-ings,” sometimes quite successfully, sometimes ending in harshness or turmoil. (See, using the word “turmoil” may be over expressing it a bit and is not as dramatic as the word intends. Nevertheless, it is the word in my vernacular that is best associated with this feeling. Theatricality, everyone.)
I sometimes also find myself battling with integrity of artistic expression (“Are we art? Is art art?”) and moral or spiritual integrity. Por ejemplo:
Jacob, a non-political/somewhat liberal, yet-conservative valued Christian boy from the south who loves musical theatre, auditions for a rock musical his senior year of college which, on the surface, is most often associated with sexual promiscuity and drugs. However, its underlying message and theme embraces the idea of not taking life for granted and living freely within the moment. Does he…
A) Heck yes, audition. He would just be playing a character. It’s not like Jacob is actually sexually active or addicted to drugs. It’s just a “play.”
B) Audition for the experience, but don’t accept a role, regardless of whether it’s as a lead or in the ensemble. Jacob doesn’t want his mother to see him mime masturbation on stage during a Bohemian rock number, right?
C) Audition, get a role, but feel bad that this isn’t the best show to invite your Pastor or church family to, let alone promote it on social media where you’re friends with all of them.
D) Not audition, period, and miss out on a rewarding experience working on a Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning show with an amazing group of individuals whose soul purpose in life is to make art… and graduate on time without a helluva lotta student loans.
E) Pray about it. Seriously.
Somehow, I was able to manage a little bit of “all of the above.” Not that I need to explain everything that played out in this particular instance, but you get the idea.
Situations like that undoubtedly pave the way for the journey I am going to take as an artist, as a man (of God), and as a human being. However, the struggle of it all is not knowing what path is “right” and where my Lort (yes, Lort) has me destined to be when I am the exact type of person who wants to plan everything out ahead of time. (I like complete thru-lines that allow me to get from point A to point B without too much emotional, physical, or mental abrasion.)
Cousins and friends have started documenting their journeys through higher education, overcoming illness, raising families, etc. through blogs or websites like this. They often touch on so many interesting, touching, and relatable things that they find are better expressed through their own writing than by proclaiming them at the top of the mountain, “high on a hill [like] a lonely goatherd.” Maybe it’s my turn to give it a go. Is it the best option for me? I don’t know yet. But their work was encouraging enough for me to try it out.
This blog, book-in-the-making, or whatever this entry is intended to be may not develop further after this. (“Could be? Who knows?”) Or, it may just be the best way at this particular moment to give me another way to express my inner thoughts… the thoughts that I conceal and allow my theatricality to compensate for. (“Conceal. Don’t feel. Don’t let them know.”) Well, now, you know. Don’t act so shocked.
This leads me to my next conundrum in the quest for being true to myself: how much of this truth do I want and/or need to unveil? Should I continue without boundary or worry of judgement? It’s easy for someone else to say yes when this is in relation to my life. But everyone has their own joys, strengths, struggles, and emotional baggage that they carry along on this journey. And each of us may have things we do not want to, and are not ready to relinquish yet, at least publicly.
Don’t take this the wrong way, but if you’ve reached this far into the entry, then you’ve probably made some snap judgments at some point within this. Not necessarily because you may think you know me or anything like that; God and I are the only people that know me (and the fact the He knows more than me is quite impressive, actually, and I wish He could just tell me where I’m going to be in life so I can avoid the crazy), but hopefully because you know me somewhat well enough to hope for some things to be made clearer for me.
So, for now, I’m going to – indeed – pray about it and ponder my next move. If you’re that type of person, I’d appreciate a prayer, a well-wish, or some good vibes, for I would do the same for you. And as the curtain rises on whatever comes next, the best way to express this type of feeling I have now is through a gospel song: no, I will not hide my theatricality under a bushel. I’m going to let it shine. And then the Sondheim-ian psychological themes will begin to play when I step downstage and say-sing a short little refrain like, “How much shall I let my light shine…” or some elaborate and poetic musical theatre lyric like that. Here’s a better one, though…
Yeah, that’s a good one.
Jacob exits. Blackout.
Encore/Addendum (8/13/18): I had published this under a different name and sent it to Devian, my friend who took the great photograph at Bass Performance Hall, and she sent me a response that I very much appreciated and thought I would share. She is such an amazing friend who I only knew for a short time while we were students at Wesleyan, but she has had a great impact on me; she is such a generous, kind, spiritual, and creative individual.
I just now got the chance to read this entertaining, thought-provoking, and insightful blog post! Bravo, my friend... PLEASE keep writing (if you’re able to find the time, of course). Your words are so helpful in not feeling [as] alone! The theatre world and Christianity are truly one of the most difficult relationships to balance. How much can I justify? What’s ethical, what’s moral... how far is too far? A curse word? A kiss? A too-short skirt? Oh, Jacob! I pray God has his guiding hand over every step of your theatrical journey and that each decision you make is made with wisdom! Jesus has a unique way of using His children to testify and witness to others, even in the darkest of situations. I think your ‘dramatic’ journey has only just begun.
With warmest regards, blessings, & love!
P.S. Let’s do another photo shoot!"