When the sun goes down and the lights of the world shut off, what do we do to see clearly?
Despite the days getting dark so much earlier, life goes on. The wind continues to blow, allowing fresh air to brush against our skin. The stars continue to shine, filling our nights with hope and resilience. And the headlights brighten up the darkness that would otherwise envelop our city streets.
This period of time is not easy. It challenges us, in our communities, neighborhoods, relationships and as a society. And the fact is, there is no way to make it easy. So we have to find that spark of light, that wind, those stars and those headlights, to guide us to our destination.
What makes this time so difficult is the conflict surrounding us every day, whether it’s about people, places, or things. ‘I want to see my family for the holidays’, or ‘I want to go on a vacation’, or ‘I want to leave my house’, or ‘I miss going to school’. And the conflict is always tied to the fact that there’s a pandemic happening.
For actors, this way of life is quite familiar, both onstage and off
As an actor interpreting any given scene or song, I first and foremost have an objective: what I want. And I also have a conflict - what’s getting in the way of what I want.
Without these two opposing factors, which in turn hinge on relationships, atmosphere, and whatever has just happened in the moment before, the scene cannot take place.
What I’ve learned from the past year is that we have to acknowledge where we’re all at, individually. Remember that no problem is less than any other, because you are personally feeling it at the most heightened degree right now. Or in actors’ terms, at the highest stakes. It IS a pandemic for crying out loud!!
We all have super objective goals for ourselves
In a play, the ‘super objective’ is the ultimate goal for a character; it’s the finish line they have to reach by the end of the show. Super objectives are high, far-reaching, and not obtainable in a day’s time. It is our perseverance, strength, hope, and clarity that gets us from Point A to Point Z over time. For example, I want to be on Broadway someday, so I am going to do A, B, C, D, E, etc. to get there.
There is one thing I should add that is vital to a performance. At the very end of every play, the actors take their final bow. And this moment is not self-indulgent. (At least it’s not supposed to be.) The final bow is the actors’ way of thanking everyone in the audience for coming to the show, and acknowledging what they had to do to be there.
Here’s another example. Every week I sing on Jake’s Jam—a Zoom group with people of all different abilities, who share a love for music. When I’m performing, there is nobody that I am thinking about other than the people on the Zoom. I’m not regretting that I can’t perform on a stage right now, or thinking about how I look or sound, or anything else about my day-to-day life. I am singing for a purpose, and to brighten up somebody else’s day.
As the evenings get dark so early now, and the winter snow piles up on our streets, I urge you to find what the wind, stars and headlights are for you.
Start off with the wind. What gives you that fresh spirit and pick-me-up? It could be as simple as a cup of coffee, or a 10-minute walk outside.
And then think about the stars in the sky. What gives you that sense of shine and sparkle? Is it someone you talk to every day, is it that new book you can’t put down, or is it that song you have on repeat?
And finally, what is that set of headlights for you, brightening up the streets ahead? Because I promise you, this will be over soon, so now is a good time to find out what that spark is for you.
Is it theatres re-opening, or restaurants, or bars, or being able to see all of your family and friends again?
Find out what it is for you
What is keeping you going and getting you to the finish line, to your super objective? During this wacky holiday season, let the light that is inside you be what brightens up the world.
Always sit in the uncomfortable, educate yourself about the world, and be ready for the lights to brighten up again for all of us. Make sure your fuel tank is filled up for the good things to come in 2021.
Because while it seems far off, we are on our way to a brighter world, and on the journey to reaching our super objectives. Never forget to give to others around you. Mourn your losses, of course, but look up to the brightest star you can find and revel in the gifts that you have, and what you can share with others.
Happy holidays and all the best for the new year! 2021 here we come!