We arrived in the shockingly cold howling winds, discovering the realities of the retreat location in the just-about-winter darkness, but the sun-filled morning opened with an incredible panoramic view of the deep blue horizon. Throughout the first day, the tremendous movement of the constant shifting surface of sun-tinted blues flowed left across the entire field of vision as the force of the powerful winds pushed waves cresting as far as one could see, a kind of bias pattern repeating from shore to sky only occasionally interrupted by the silhouetted flights of seagulls directly at eye level from the second story as they sailed the upper currents from the bay far below the bluff; until everything was lit with the dazzling end of day, an edge of the world illumination, and all around the shingled house twisted autumn-bare trees swayed and shaked at the tattered margins of land that drops suddenly below to the lapping high tide as the sunset descended.

View from Here: First day. Truro

Artist Journal: 11/16/21 I start to reach the peak of the last giant climb of a long surprising journey from summer into winter. Ahead I anticipate the vacation that failed to manifest as the start of July crashed with the pandemic wave and work demands into the giant heavy lifting of the commissioned garment, as I carefully tread the end of my rehearsal cycle at work back in educational theatre for the first time in five years. I feel the ache for the lack of space and care and time to reflect on the toil and unprecedented achievements that feel now so long ago since the Met Gala triumph. I moved right into the show responsibilities that, in many ways, is actually the best show experience in decades of theatre despite its pressures and challenges; I’ve paced the tech week in ways that could not have been done before, a combination of my leadership, a stronger team, and organizing efforts that also valued healthier models for this work. It didn’t all succeed to the degree that I’d hoped, and unexpected obstacles ekked away the salve of short-lived joys throughout the process.

Old patterns shed and clinging. One I let go, letting the show devour my entire life with over-worked hours on site, now significantly mostly fitting within a “work-day” experience. When last I was in rehearsal for a school show, I needed friends and lovers to lend their hands to overblown design plans on minimal resources, and the current version includes collaborative partners compensated for their skilled work. I take mornings at home during tech week, keeping up with emails but also spending some quieter time, even a little studio work, prior to walking to campus for rehearsals. 

View From Here: First morning. Truro

The second day is milder. Joseph heads out for a morning of bird watching, and I finally manage to scribble some lines of reflection I’d intended for weeks to craft. Today the bay is calmer, a more singular color palette with less of the varied graduations across the rippling textured endless expanse of water meeting a lightly cloud veiled skyline. I want to be writing, starting the process of reflection that mostly escaped me in the weeks since the Met Gala and then the show at work which just finished. An initial reflection is found at the horizon. 

In the culmination days of a successful return to educational theatre, and then the easing out of the production demands, I notice the resurfacing of my old production histories and can more honestly assess the entrenched work and relational patterns etched into the memories of those years. Institutions change, and including me, none of my previous production collaborators are still at the school in which making theatre was such dominant work for so many years. I regret the ways in which my own coping strategies and character traits were so embedded in our efforts and relationships, and recognize that the stage we spent so many long hours of creative effort that tangled into pressures on friendships is now tended by faculty I do not know. I think a lot about the ways in which all such institutions changed in the challenges of these past years, especially impacting the expectations and practices on in-person theatre. I’ve certainly done everything I can to tend the evolving protocols for safe live performance for students and faculty, and this fall, a slow return to audiences, as well. Stepping back after a several year break from directing shows, I was able to bring the values and inspirations that are the anchor for such collaboration, but with healthier, better resourced experiences and matured practices. 

I catch sight of old shows in the facebook memories and glimpse former students in their very grownup years. I’m grateful for the time we shared together. I used to joke that I always knew what the next years’ shows would be, and I’ve reawakened that kind of inspiration and visioning, which in the past often failed to budget correctly the time and cost of the realities of such undertakings, but in this current time I led with a clearer groundedness to support the realities of care, and skillfully engaged manifesting this production with a professionalism that comes from hard-earned wisdom. Here in the first days on the other side of a return to this work, I’m surprised that rather than draining me, this reenaged collaborative process has inspired me. It did still have an impact on home and my own art-making, but it didn’t leave the exhaustion of scorched earth of being so under-resourced nor muscled up beyond the agreed upon design work. Progress.