I have been working at the Performing Arts Project for just over two weeks, and I could not be more thrilled to be spending my summer here.
I attended the Performing Arts Project two years ago as a student, and my life was absolutely changed by my time here. But after I left I learned that I had not effectively internalized all that I experienced and learned while at the program. I dealt with (or at least surfaced) a lot of junk during my time here, many worries, fears, challenges, attitudes I had in regard to my identity as an artist and my place in the theatre industry (and the world). And I was able to continue processing, to continue building and growing upon many brilliant ideas that were thrown at me for months and years after I left.
My time at the Performing Arts Project was not a comfortable one, but was, in fact, a time of rather strong discomfort. In many ways, my education at Sarah Lawrence, though extremely stretching, has often seemed smooth and even convenient. Through my own curriculum design, I had and (unfortunately) have continued to avoid a few choice areas of theatrical study, areas that I surely need to improve upon (see: any and all styles of dance). At the Performing Arts Project, I was forced to face those areas head on and often in front of my peers. It truly may have been the most uncomfortable, crunchy three weeks of my life.
But this kind of discomfort, the soreness of growth, is truly the best ache.
Returning here has cemented one thing completely, something I either did not notice or simply did not appreciate when I was here two years ago: the Performing Arts Project, and the family created each year of students, faculty, and staff, is truly a safe place. Yes, all artists who convene here during the summer are encouraged to try and to fail. And when failure comes, we celebrate because something was risked and something was learned.
But even more than that, the Performing Arts Project is a safe place because here each artist is cherished. Here, all hearts are held and protected and encouraged. Here, love abounds and covers every soul. It is this profound safety that allows us to risk and to fall, because we are certain there will be a crowd of our biggest fans waiting to help us back to our feet.
It's astounding and deeply tragic that these communities (artistic and otherwise) are few and far between. So often we are encouraged to divide, to fight, and to compete. While we may also often be encouraged to support each other, individual survival at the price of others commonly seems like the more strategic move.
Here's the kicker though: the most strategic move is actually the road of encouragement, support, and love. Turns out, there is room for all of us in the theatre industry. There is room for all of our gifts, all of our attributes, all of our bodies in the community of theatre makers. And, even more, there is room for all of us in the world.
Nothing is gained through exclusion. But everything is gained through inclusion.
I am incredibly grateful to have found artists who fight for me, artists who I fight for. Here's to making mistakes. Here's to being loved. Here's to soulmates. Here's to failing forward.