a person who comes to spend time with or stay with others in a place, as for reasons of friendship, business, duty, travel, or the like.
I love traveling. My husband and I have traveled all over the United States and Canada together, and I adore every moment of it, even the parts that many people can find frustrating. I don't much mind arriving at hotels at 2 AM, trying to assemble healthy and gluten-free meals from rest stop gas stations, the quirky fellow travelers you meet along the journey, and the inevitable unexpected gem you discover that was most definitely not on your itinerary, but that often becomes one of your favorite memories of the trip. Traveling is all about starting out with a road map but ultimately surrendering yourself to the road that you find yourself on, whether you planned it this way or not.
One of my favorite authors, Bill Bryson, travels all over the globe and chronicles his journeys into incredibly insightful and amazingly hilarious books. One of his passages from "Neither Here Nor There: Travels in Europe" describes the delight of being a visitor to a new place:
"Is there anything, apart from a really good chocolate cream pie and receiving a very large unexpected check in the mail, to beat finding yourself at large in a foreign city on a fair spring evening, loafing along unfamiliar streets in the long shadows of a lazy sunset, pausing to gaze in shop windows or at some church or lovely square or tranquil stretch of quayside, hesitating at street corners to decide whether that cheerful and homey restaurant you will remember fondly for years is likely to lie down this street or that one? I just love it. I could spend my life arriving each evening in a new city."
Being a working theatre artist often feels like arriving as a lone visitor in a new city. Unless you are part of a company or ensemble for the long-term, you are likely "gigging it"--bouncing around from audition to audition, rehearsal to rehearsal, going from teaching residency to conference presentation, skipping between directing a middle school play and writing that play you've had in your head for God knows how long. All in between your day job(s). And spending time with your loved ones. And eating and exercising. And, yes sleep should fit in there somewhere too. We have a tendency (and a need) to move around physically from place to place to get a continuous flow of work, find gigs and form community with fellow artists just in time to realize it's time to move on. We work jobs to pay the bills where we know we're the newest one hired but will probably be the first one to leave, never staying for long or considering ourselves permanent.
So, after all this, it would seem we'd have to ask why? Why would we choose a profession that many don't even consider a profession, not in the same way a lawyer or a doctor is a profession? Why do we endure the confusion of well meaning family and friends who ask when we're going to "settle down" and get a "real" job? Why do we work such long (let's face it, many times unpaid) hours? Why take such an emotional, physical, financial and spiritual hit again and again on this path to the work and success we crave?
The answer is complex and different for everyone, but I believe for many of us, it comes down to the fact that in a strange way, we didn't choose this work in the theatre. It chose us. I've wished so many times to want to do something else; nursing, accounting, marketing, graphic design, but it's not possible for me. For me, there is nothing more powerful than story. The ritual and tradition of storytelling goes back tens of thousands of years and when I am on stage or crafting a script or teaching a documentary theatre workshop, I feel connected to all those storytellers who came before me, who wielded that power of performance. For me, to turn away from the theatre would be to turn off that line of communication I feel with human beings through the art of story. And so, trials, tribulations and all, I have to make theatre.
A dear friend of mine said it so well:
Having a degree in theatre doesn't mean you won't find work. It does mean you night end up working outside your field for a time and being uniquely qualified for the position. Theatre people are accustomed to working long hours against hard deadlines. They're creative problem solvers, collaborators and mediators. They're students of human nature, philosophy and history. They're used to getting their hands dirty to get the job done. Don't ever let someone give you a hard time for your theatre degree. You just continue learning, creating, observing, and leading. The world is your audience; let them watch as you blaze the trail.
Why do you make theatre?