*Yeah, I picked a House picture because I like Hugh Laurie and it has the 5 stages listed. It doesn’t really have anything to do with this post…
Ok, so as I believe I mentioned, I was expecting post Fringe to be double whamm-ied on the whole “my show is over, what am I doing with my life” thing. Usually I have a good 1-2 months of depression after a show but because I did Persuasion and In the Ebb back to back with no depression down time, I figured I was due for a good 2-4 months of blahs. And, guess what? I was right. So the last three months have been a bit on the tough side for me. Add to that the fact that I turned 40 during that time and yes, it’s been a rocky few months. But! There’s good news on the horizon, Fringe ended on August 26th so I am well past the 2 month mark and am pretty sure that I’m passed the worst of the doldrums. I spent this weekend feeling motivated and I have jumped into planning for what promises to be a really exciting year for GTTP. So that is good news and, in the next few weeks, you will be hearing about lots of exciting things happening on our little island.
However, during these last 3 months, I did a lot of thinking and I realized that even this post show thing follows the 5 stages of grief. Because, although thankfully, it is not the same as losing someone you care about, a show ending is its own little death. You know there will be other shows and you know you’ll have fun again, but that show, with those people, that exact experience is gone forever and will never come again…and that, ladies and gents? That’s super sad. So with that in mind, here are the five stages of grief in the post show world…
Denial – “No, the show isn’t over. It’s not gone. I’m fine. We’re all fine. The cast and crew is doing a party tonight and we’re going to get together once a week forever and it’s going to be exactly the same.” Or, even better, “We’re going to do a revival of this exact show with this exact cast and crew and the fun is never going to end!”
Anger – “How can this be happening to me? How DARE the show has ended! Those bastards (yeah I don’t know which bastards I’m referring to) have never understood my art! Why does this always happen to me?”
Bargaining – “I’ll do anything to keep doing this show. If I promise to really appreciate it this time, it can keep going right?”
Depression – “This sucks. I’ll never do another show again…”
Acceptance – “It’s going to be ok. There will be more shows and it’s time to get started on the next one.”
What I’ve found to be particularly difficult is the depression stage. For me, the first 3 stages happen relatively quickly (like a couple of days) and the acceptance stage happens in the blink of an eye but the depression, that’s what really gets you. Because it’s not just that you feel sad. I mean sadness is definitely a part of it, but you start to feel unmotivated and if you’re not careful, you spin into this emotional space where everything you do or consider doing seems futile. Because, you know, you ain’t curing cancer, folks. You’re just telling your little story. Don’t get me wrong, I think story telling is important. OBVIOUSLY I think story telling is important – I mean I have devoted my career to it and it is something I’m really good at so yes, I think it’s important. But, in the midst of one of these post show depressions you can’t help (at least I can’t) but think:
Hmm. So I struggle and I fight and I rehearse and I plan and I raise money and I make it happen and I do a show.
And people like it.
And then it ends.
And I’m right back where I started.
It’s kind of like the Tetris game to end all Tetris games. I mean, ok, I got the highest score I’ve ever gotten, but in the end the board will in fact fill with little pieces and the game will end and I’ll just start it again. And you can’t help but have that moment when you think, “so why even bother?” And it becomes really hard to push yourself to jump into the next project – even if it’s something you’re excited about. Even if it’s something you’ve been wanting to do for months on end. And that’s why for me the depression is the hardest and longest stage. Of course, invariably, there comes that moment when it hits you that the reason you bother is because it does matter. It does make a difference. You affected someone (sometimes a bunch of someones) with what you did. No, you didn’t cure cancer but you entertained and you made someone think or laugh or cry or all three. And that does matter. And, if these are the skills you were blessed with then it is an affront to nature to not use them.
I still remember the first time I did In the Ebb with GTTP. It was our first show and it was the first of my post show depressions that my husband (not yet my husband at the time) witnessed firsthand and I remember saying something melodramatic and silly to him like, “why do I even bother? It’s not like I’ve done anything important.” And he said, “what are you talking about? You entertained people and moved them. You introduced them to this beautiful language, to these amazing performances and characters. You helped bring these concepts and ideas out into the world. This idea of the Never. This character of the Waterlogged Woman. You brought them to life and now, for everyone who was involved in the show and for everyone who saw it, you made these little changes in how they see the world. How can you think that’s not important?” Well, along with making me decide I wanted to marry him, my husband showed me things from a different perspective. No, my stories are not going to save lives but I believe, for the short time we’re on this earth, what matters most is how we affect other people and whether the cast, crew, and audience are big or small, all those people are affected by what we do. Recognizing that is what usually pulls me out of these post show slumps. Of course, it can’t be forced. You can know it in your head but if it takes a month (or four if it’s post back to back shows) to know it in your heart than that’s what it takes. All you can do is all you can ever do – hang in there and take the ride where it takes you.