Shut Up! I’m Trying to Start a Theatre Company
I’ve always been envious of directors who know exactly what they want. When I picture them, they’re young, immaculately dressed and can rattle off obscure passages from plays I’ve never heard of. They were the presidents of their drama club at high school, graduated from Tisch and without exception, have founded groundbreaking companies.
Have I ever met these prodigious talents?
Which makes it all the more unsettling that when contemplating my own dream to start a theatre company, it’s their bemused voices I hear in the darkness.
And the collective question they ask mirrors the one going round and round in my head–
Who the hell are you kidding with this?
DIRECTION (or lack thereof)
Part of what I envy about my esteemed peers is their immersion in theatre since childhood. There must be something liberating in knowing exactly what you’re going to be from a young age and never deviating from that path.
In my case, the journey to start a theatre company has been a lot less direct.
To give you an idea, at various times throughout my life I’ve been:
- An actor
- A screenwriter
- A cricketer
- An English teacher
- A tour guide
- A marriage celebrant
- A theme park operator
- A sports writer
- A copywriter
- An usher
- A projectionist
The problem is not in the diversity. I like the range of experience life has thrown my way.
The insecurity lies in that cumulatively, it adds up to a lot of time not spent doing theatre. Time that others have used developing and honing their craft. Studying the intricacies of performance. Articulating abstract ideas. And most importantly, learning from their mistakes.
All this, the voices in the dark love to remind me of.
In Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art, he uses the term “resistance” when discussing the internal forces that threaten to derail us.
Here’s how he describes this rather perplexing phenomenon:
Resistance’s goal is not to wound or disable. Resistance aims to kill. Its target is the epicenter of our being: our genius, our soul, the unique and priceless gift we were put on earth to give and that no one else has but us.
The first time I read those words, I experienced a deep sense of discomfort. Similar to that moment your eyes hurt after stepping out into bright light.
Immediately, I wanted to close the book and retreat to my lukewarm state of ignorance. But I didn’t. I kept reading. And with each page recognized more and more of myself. The fear. The procrastination.
And most of all the self-doubt.
Which was when it began to dawn on me.The prodigious young directors I had conjured up were in no way connected to reality. Rather, they were an embodiment of my resistance, insidiously disguised as everything I could never be.
So how do we free ourselves from resistance?
Pressfield has an answer for that too.
Aspiring artists defeated by Resistance share one trait. They all think like amateurs. They have not yet turned pro. The moment an artist turns pro is as epochal as the birth of his first child. With one stroke, everything changes.
By “turning pro”, he’s not referring to money. He’s talking about a fundamental shift in attitude. An attitude that derives from courage, rather than fear. Which when boiled down to its essence, simply equates to making a decision.
A decision that the voices of doubt will no longer determine who I am and what I do.
My age, my background, my experience, well, there’s nothing I can do about that. But making a decision? That I absolutely CAN do.
Anytime I choose.
The moment you turn pro, you’re immediately confronted with an entirely different perspective.
Rather than viewing events through the lens of what you don’t want, you’re now posed with the much more challenging question of “what DO I want?”In my case, the answer was an easy one.
To start a theatre company.
Not out of hubris. Or ego. Or as a reflection on what others are doing. But because, as Steven Pressfield more poetically articulates, I believe it’s what I’m suppose to be doing.
All the life experiences I’ve had, be it playing professional cricket, working as an actor, taking people to the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, or learning the basics of copywriting, have in some way prepared me for this moment.
At the end of the day, heading up a theatre company means taking on a bunch of different jobs. Recruitment, marketing, producing, budgeting, scheduling, blogging and there’s even some directing in there as well.
So despite the fact I didn’t put on plays in my backyard, I wasn’t a member of my school’s drama club, and no-one has ever claimed I’m a prodigy, I do know a thing or two about wearing different hats.
And for now, that’s enough to muzzle the voices in the dark.
Published in Collaboration with Sheepdog Theatre:
Also by Sheepdog Theatre: