Last night I fired my best friend’s daughter. (We’re still best friends and I adore her daughter.)
I also shouted across a crowded room for my prop mistress to hurry up and get over here (rudely) and pissed her off to no end, causing her inquire, (not in a loving tone) about my seemingly relentless anxiety issues.
I kicked another actress out of the show for walking off stage and mouthing off to my stage manager. Who by the way, was at his wit’s end, and probably hadn’t handled a completely uncalled for situation with as much love and grace as could have been mustered up. (Spoiler-alert- she has since apologized and will return with a better attitude sans cell phone on my turn of the century stage.)
I had sick actresses going home right in the middle of rehearsal, just as they should have been walking on stage. I myself, instead of focusing on directing, played two different parts, script in hand, for people who weren’t there.
My goal of staying in Zen for all of Hell Week was precariously hanging on by one strand of tinsel, and only if defined by the sheer fact that I hadn’t unilaterally blasted the entire cast with a lecture on, “It’s MY WAY OR THE HIGHWAY SO EVERYONE SETTLE DOWN THIS INSTANT!”
Those words never came out of my mouth. So as far as I was concerned, despite a few rough patches, last night’s rehearsal was a win for all of us.
They don’t call it Hell Week for nothing.
We are in production week for Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. This is our sixth year, and some of us have been in these trenches together, thick and thin, through all six years, many others, through most of them and a few, joining us for the first time, or taking on new roles. If you have never had the pleasure of being in a play, or working on a play backstage, the production week, (the week before the opening performance) is affectionately— or not— referred to by theater folk as Hell Week. Or, as in our case, if you have little kids in the show, we call it, H… E… Double TOOTHPICK Week!
For the few of you whose literature teachers weren’t enamored with Charles Dickens and didn’t have you memorizing his complete works, and might not know the story of Scrooge and his encounter with Marley and the three Christmas Ghosts, I shall summarize.
Ebeneezer Scrooge is a crotchety old man, who, having one by one shut out every good thing in his life, has now put all of his value and worth in the almighty dollar and lives a lonely, frugal existence with only a dusty old house and his porridge bowl to keep him company. Not even dogs or cats will pay him attention. On Christmas Eve, he is visited by the ghost of his dead business partner Marley, who tells him he will be visited by three ghosts, Past, Present and Future. These three ghosts then take him on a journey that reveals to him what he has missed out on, and what he will miss out on in the future if he stays on this precarious path he has chosen.
I won’t give you the spoilers, except to say, that this story is a tale about love, redemption, charity and forbearance.
The word forbearance is tossed around quite a bit in the show. However, in the six years of directing The Christmas Carol, it occurred to me this morning that not once in the story is the word ever clearly defined.
Perhaps, if it was, and we all had a bit more of it, our rehearsals might go a little better, we would exhibit more signs of love and forgiveness toward each other, and I would have better luck hanging on to my ZEN during Hell Week and all in all, it might not be so hellish.
The dictionary describes forbearance as: The quality of someone who is patient and able to deal with a difficult person or situation without becoming angry.
Well… I don’t know about you, but when God was handing out patience, I had gotten out of line and was playing with the watercolors over in the art section. And when I did get back in line, I accidentally got in the Quick Fuse line instead. Need a Quick Reactor? A Quick Decider? That’s me. I got an extra dose to make up for the missing patience.
But, I digress…
So, how am I, the directer of a thirty plus cast, without a natural resource of patience, going to deal with difficult situations and difficult people without becoming angry?
This is the question I asked myself this morning in my meditation and journaling time: Since Day One of H…E… Double TOOTHPICKS week was a less than a desirable exercise in hanging on to my ZEN, what can I do differently going into the rest of the week?
Here are three ideas I came up with:
I can practice GRACE UNDER FIRE: Grace under fire is a practice that I came up with that reminds me that when life HEATS UP, I need to COOL DOWN, by slowing my breathing, remembering to smile, say thank you, and envisioning gratitude for everyone I am coming in contact with at that moment, remembering we are all doing the very best we can in that second, with the knowledge we possess, even if it may be muddled at the time.
I can SEE JESUS in EVERYONE I see: One of the easiest ways I know to instantly diffuse anger is to look at the person who is frustrating me and think, “I see Jesus in you.” BOOM. Would I yell at Jesus in that moment? Not likely. Instant return of kindness, forgiveness and love. And maybe whatever patience I was born with too.
I can Conjure up GHOSTS: Scrooge learns to keep the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future in his heart for always and always, and I can too by asking What IF? What would my life be like if I changed the way I looked at the Past stories I told myself about this person? Would I let go of old resentments and be more loving? What About the Present? What can I do RIGHT NOW to make this turn out in a loving, wonderful way? And what about the Future? If I continue down this road, or that one, what is the likely outcome, is it one I desire? How could I change the future to one I want to have with my current actions?
Do you have ideas for me? Let’s have them, it’s going to be a long week! And if you are in the northern Illinois area and want to come and see the show let me know, tickets are available!