09 January, 2008

The Fog

"But you see, I have, let's say, sixty years to live. Most of that time will be spent working. I've chosen the work I want to do. If I find no joy in it, then I'm only condemning myself to sixty years of torture. And I can find the joy only if I do my work in the best way possible to me. But the best is a matter of standards--and I set my own standards. I inherit nothing. I stand at the end of no tradition. I may, perhaps, stand at the beginning of one."
--Ayn Rand, from The Fountainhead
I just have to say it. A life in the theatre is a arduous, repetitive existence. It consumes you, it drains you like a vampire. Your life is backwards: constant measuring and metre reading of how much energy you must conserve and utilise at the end of every day. You miss the daylight. You miss office hours. You miss your friends, your family.

The rehearsals are always a positive act of creation, my favourite part really. Six weeks of bone crushing mental and physical labor. Art. Delving, thinking, creating, problem solving, risk taking. Feeling inspired and motivated and alive. Falling into the kind of deep sleep only full living can achieve. But the 8 shows a week into infinity thing... is more than numbing. At times it feels soul destroying.

And nothing prepares you for it. No amount of training could ever communicate how much focus and stamina and mental health it requires. Truly, the last thing I really remember, it was July. Where did it go? It is all a grey mush of headscarves and dancing Jews...blah.

Yet, I swear, I commit to every second of the work, at times I am moved, at times I still feel a love for it. But I've done it over 300 times. Today I sang Far From the Home I Love and I thought to myself "Self, you sang this one year ago today. You stared into Henry's eyes and wrestled with him for control and won. You did it all as you are doing it today. Well. With love. For the 300th time. And in the same costume. Save the gloves. You asked for longer gloves." (Because no one gets on a train to Siberia with gloves that don't even cover your wrists...)

The thing is this: I have worked my entire life, all twenty four and a half years, to be exactly where I am at this moment-- at the top of the profession working on Broadway (or as is the current case, the West End). And after all of the sweat and struggle and tears, I have arrived. I am here. And it is a little disappointing. Some days it's just a job like any other. And it's heartbreaking. And I can't help but admit I want more.

But perhaps this is the true gift of Fiddler has bestowed upon me. It has given me the vision and the courage to have new goals, higher standards, more specific desires. To be a creator. To voice and articulate in every way possible, my own vision of this world, of human nature.

Yes, I have awakened inside this fog. I have struggled through the mist, fought and stabbed into the invisible sky, and won. Won what, you ask? A jewel of knowledge, I shall answer you. The fog has narrowed the focus on the work I want to do. The work I do not want to do. The things I will never do again. If an artist reveals his naked soul in his work, I must strive to do nothing less. Ever. What have we but our integrity? And I will run dry, I will run out of fuel if I continue to give cheaply to others that which I do not have; that which has not yet been created by me. Creation comes before distribution- or there will be nothing to distribute. The need of the creator comes before the need of any possible beneficiary.

And so to The Fog. Again.
For another day.
Fight the Fog Silber!
Fight it Reader!

"In the name of the best within you, do not sacrifice this world to those who are its worst. In the name of the values that keep you alive, do not let your vision of man be distorted by the ugly, the cowardly, the mindless in those who have never achieved his title. Do not lose your knowledge that man's proper estate is an upright posture, an intransigent mind and a step that travels unlimited roads. Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach. Check your road and the nature of your battle. The world you desired can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, it's yours."


  1. Alex,

    What a great post!
    I was really struck by the "The need of the creator comes before the need of any possible beneficiary" line. Totally feel you.

    I think it's so interesting how you have reached the top of your profession and are feeling this way. In a way, it's so obvious that one would, but it's like everyone goes through this progression thinking that the *next* highest step will make them happy. I find this in the arts a lot: I will do this, so that then I can do, and maybe *eventually* do this, and THEN, I'll have "made it"!.

    What a crock! We have to have "made it" right now, today! Are we happy with what we're doing? It's like the Rand quote you first begin with - the quality, the way, we do everything IS everything.

    I don't know what that means in the bonecrushing 8-shows-a-week regiment you have. Maybe it means other goals like you said, or a perpetual change to different activities and undertakings (Tony Bennett, a man with no home and no car, goes back in forth between his two lives of singing on the road, and painting. When he gets tired of one, he goes back to the other!).

    The one thing that seems clear is that we have to "make it" today, no later. And that there is no "should" about if we enjoy what we're doing just because it is successful. We're responsible for our own bliss!

  2. Agreed. I knew you'd know what I was on about.

  3. When I read Atlas Shrugged and I came upon the quote you used at the end of this, my arms were covered with goosebumps because of the sheer emotional force I am filled with as I read it.

    You used her words so eloquently and the timing was perfect! I've never read something that used a quote that filled me with the same emotional pride as I did when I read the original. This blog has changed that. Now I have.

    Thanks for the refueling :]

  4. What an honour, Captain. I am truly touched by your words. There is nothing like being understood. I'm certain you know what I mean.

  5. Al- I always remember this post, so I searched through for it today. I'm 30 shows into my 84 show run... My first time ever doing 8-shows-a-week.
    I needed to read this. I'm sharing it with my cast tonight...we are all learning this together.

    Best! x



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