Finding a Life Jacket in Life's Flood
Hurricane Sandy prompts Alexis Scheer to offer advice on how to get through the tough times in the theater business.
A conversation with my dad from this past weekend:
Dad: "You need to be prepping for the hurricane. Alexis, I don't think you understand the gravity of the situation. Broadway is going to close tomorrow."
Me: "Broadway always closes on Mondays."
Dad: "Oh, okay, then I guess it's not that bad."
Jokes aside, I hope everyone weathered Hurricane Sandy all right! We got lucky here in Boston, with only some moderate wind and rain. I caught up on sleep and spent some time pouring over the essays of Anne Bogart.
The stormy weather outside has led me to reflect on the weather inside, the rain clouds that form in our heads. The theater world can be a flood of rejection, criticism, and self-doubt. And the physical and emotional demands of this work become so ordinary that day-to-day challenges are nothing to write home about. We quickly learn we need tough skin and buoyancy to survive. And we're taught to not take things personally. I disagree. Taking things personally is our job. You didn't get that part you were perfect for? You have the right to be broken-hearted. Don't let our "suck it up" society shame you for feeling, especially in regards to something you love and have dedicated yourself to. The day I face rejection or criticism with indifference is the day I'm going to seriously re-evaluate what I'm doing with my life. We need to take ownership of our feelings and have the courage to articulate them!
Community, the people that hear you, will keep you afloat. This is your life jacket in a flood. Open up and use your voice. Write. Dance. Paint. Say something, anything. Be proactive about your self-awareness. Ask "why" and "how." Remember that as an actor your one job is to be human, and take comfort in the fact that any experience life throws at you is something you can use. Don't feel alone, because we're all learning how to navigate. We're all figuring out how to go through these tough times without being tough on ourselves. Don't be afraid to ask for help! My favorite people to go to for advice are my teachers, because they've been exactly where I am and have survived. Someone in my class once described our job as wandering around a dark room desperately reaching for a hand we can't see. I confide in my mentors and it's like I catch the hand for a moment.
Take care of yourself! A lot of the times the source of a "funk" will be your body's lack of something essential. So make sure you're getting enough sleep, eating right, and exercising often. And treat yourself! Reward yourself for that good grade on a paper or landing that double pirouette. Make a list of 16 activities that make you really happy (my list includes baking cookies and watching Law & Order: SVU marathons) and do them all this month. I dare you!
You will always be your worst critic. And at the end of the day, the only person's voice echoing in your head is your own. So be nice to yourself! Don't let your interior monologue sound like a soliloquy from one of Shakespeare's tragedies. Try affirmations, they're great for conditioning positive thinking. The following is from Rob Brezsny's PRONOIA is the Antidote for Paranoia, and it's on a post-it note on my laptop that I read everyday.
"Speak the following lines out loud:
I love everything about me I love my uncanny beauty and my bewildering pain I love my hungry soul and my wounded longing I love my flaws, my fears, and my scary frontiers
I will never forsake, betray, or deceive myself I will always adore, forgive, and believe in myself I will never refuse, abandon, or scorn myself I will always amuse, delight, and redeem myself"
Take care, friends!