Tuesday, October 09, 2012

The Sabbatical...Build Not Do

I can't do the math right now to figure out how far into this process I have come.  Well, that's not true, clearly I could do the math and a piece of my brain right now is wondering if I can do it while I type.  Day One was June 10th (or 9th?).  And that was Day One of the Preparation Phase, which is going on this whole academic year.  Theoretically I'll launch into The Sabbatical itself on June 10th, 2013.

Practical Update:  The concept continues to be that I am going to remove myself from all that has been and move into something new and singular.  There are two possible paths, the Graduate School Sabbatical...MFA Directing...or the Kerouac Sabbatical.  Right now I am beginning the process of preparing grad school applications in anticipation of arranging for that path to come to fruition, but I'm pretty okay with just ending up on the road. 

And for the moment the thing that is most engaging me is the reality of being a short-timer in everything I do.  I am a short-timer in my work with Roseville Area Schools, in my work with Eat Street Players, in my work with MN Thespians, in my home, with acquaintances...kind of everywhere.  As I mentioned previously, in many cases this has brought me into a remarkable series of conversations.  I would like to get more effective at posting those conversations, so hopefully I will do that.  In the meantime, I am reflecting on the importance of sustained presence in the work that a person does day to day.

A lot of what we do is oriented toward the long term benefit.  Short term we get paid or folks appreciate what we do (sometimes) but often times the effort exerted is spent in the creation of foundations on which better work can be built.  I think of this with the theater that I have been doing with Eat Street Players.  Up until now my efforts on any given production have had several purposes that motivate me to do more work.  On the one hand there is the obvious desire for the particular production to be of quality and to be successful; but also there is the essential belief that a theater company takes years to build, and that each successive production helps to create audience and infrastructure that provide the potential for the following production to be that much better.  I have seen this happen at Eat Street Players.  Our most recent production of The Music Man was a better show in many ways than anything we had produced previously.  And moving forward you would think that there is the potential to sustain and build on that foundation...but the reality of leaving in June turns that potential on its head.  I will not be doing a big musical for this theater group next summer, and so suddenly the hard work of propping up the various productions that are currently proposed for November, January, April and June seems more daunting and less manageable than it did as recently as this past August.

This is not particularly insightful or startling.  Obvious even, really.  But it is instructive to discover how essential the future is to motivating effort in the immediate presence.  I would have probably reported that the shows I have done with Eat Street Players I did because I wanted to put up those shows, but it appears that the desire to create something larger, something lasting, is a more significant motivator than I would have credited.

I like how this resonates with an idea that Sam Tanner works with a lot with his students.  He tells his students that the daily drone of activities and compliance are the bullshit of education, (yes, he uses that word...for which he has gotten into trouble in the past) and that his class will be focused on building something worthwhile.  This idea of building is at the core of what makes life worthwhile.  It isn't enough to just be doing something, the sustained life needs to be building something.

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