My life could be summed up by a string of key moments in which I received simple but profound words of wisdom. I am often asked why I chose the life I did, the life of an actor/director/playwright/artist. What sane person chooses a life on the edge? Artists of all types find themselves underpaid and overqualified for what they do, and we are sometimes tempted to apologize for the life we live, as if we feel guilt for not fulfilling our “potential for more.”
I am guilty of these things. Why do I do this? I stumbled onto the life of a theatre artist by complete accident. I come from an immigrant household that was constantly on the edge financially and emotionally, leaving me utterly unfamiliar with the concept of stability. For this reason, I sought education as a means to reach stability and become a productive, affluent and respected “contributor” to society.
I auditioned for my first play for the absolute wrong reasons. I attended a single-sex education high school, and at the age of 14 theatre was hands down the easiest way to meet girls. While the thought of trying to “get funky on the dance floor” horrified me (ironic, I’m sure, to those who know me now…), I found that the rehearsals after school were a comfortable and safe venue to show off what I desperately hoped was my “silly charm.” I did theatre all through high school and college under the assumption that my career choice would eventually jump out and whisk me away to an affluent future.
Theatre was a hobby, a hobby I took far too seriously. I studied acting and directing. Between classes and work, I spent all my extra time acting, directing or producing theatre. I found excuses to tie in all my other academic interests into theatre, even writing my final History paper in college on the leadership and artistic differences between Stanislavski and Strasberg. By the end of college, I had a major in History, but a "Super Minor" in Theatre Arts.
I became horrified at the realization that I didn’t have a passion…well, a REAL passion. “This theatre stuff is fun and I love it, but I’m not good enough to make a career out of it! I need a real job!” I knew that I desperately loved the arts, and felt truly alive when I was in the rehearsal room, but to embark on a life on the edge seemed a waste of my education, of my hard work, of my “potential for more.”
By the end of my junior year at Brandeis University where I studied acting, I had thrived as a director but became horrified at the prospect of a future without theatre. Where did I belong in the workforce? In the midst of my worries, I sought advice from professors, friends and family. The moment that changed my life wasn’t explosive or dramatic. The moment was simple, the words even more so: “This is all you do… You already know what makes you happy. Why keep searching when you’ve already found it?”
It’s been three years since, and I finally have an answer to why I do what I do: because I can’t be reasonably happy doing anything else.
While at Brandeis I had the pleasure of experiencing “The Collaborative Process”, both literally and figuratively. Just as I was to leave college and enter the workforce as an aspiring artist, I was given the greatest gift an artist can receive: the embrace of failure. I feared failure, just as we all do and will do for the rest of our lives. In the class that past and present students affectionately refer to as “Collab”, our instructor taught us a simple concept which guides me onward as I live this life on the edge: If you want to get yourself out of the “bulls***” world, you have to take yourself to the “oh s***” world. To paraphrase a common saying: "Courage isn't the absence of fear, but the action taken in the midst of fear."
Erika and I created The CoLab out of a desire to create theatre based on this idea, among many others. We hope to excite the theatrical community as well as reinvigorate the need for theatre in the world around us! Today, the CoLab is a small group of three artistic directors and community of artists, friends and well-wishers. We thank you for taking the time to investigate what is we do, and we hope to see you in our audiences, on the street and in the theatre!