In one week I will attempt to perform a six hour and 20 minute long improvisation, alone on stage. This is a crazy idea. What drove me to think this would be a good idea? My stupid ambition, that's what. I have had a great deal of ambition, but it has not been a steady stream. Whenever I’ve had an idea most of the time I've found myself bound and determined to achieve that goal, or at least to give it my best try, and usually I have some fun in the pursuit. Well, the fun comes either in the pursuit, or in the success of completion. The best is when it comes as part of the process, when I am fulfilled by simply being immersed in what I sought to do.
In remembering back over the ambitious ventures that I’ve gone after earlier in my life, I can kinda pinpoint one factor that allowed me to pursue my endeavors with such vigorous ambition. That factor, I think, was that I felt I had nothing to lose. Nothing to lose. What a powerful motivator. It single-handedly kinda removes all fear from any ambitious idea. The disgusting truth, one that I’m so ashamed to admit, is that having “nothing to lose” is a luxury that has faded as I've entered further into adulthood.
As I inch closer and closer to the milestone age of 40, I’m so increasingly annoyed with the fact that I do, in fact, have a few things to lose. I have grown aware and precious with my process. I want. I want to make projects better than the projects that came before. So now there is the danger of sliding backwards, of wasting time, of being found out as not as good as I had hoped I'd be. Ambition has a double edge. That gap where the nothing-to-lose once was can also prevent the move to bigger things. It can be an impediment to ultimate success. Also, as I grow older I value other things in life, besides artistic success. I have a wife now, and as close as I can muster to a day job, and bills to pay and so on. I have responsibilities. I value my family, my friends (small circle that it is), travel and so on.
So my struggle, now, is figuring out how to balance these other points of value into my life with making theatre and art . I have never been one to only make art as my absolute priority, but time is passing and... and...
I sometimes, but not often, see young up-and-coming theatre artists. While I wouldn’t yet call myself a veteran, I have been around long enough to be able to look back on the way I was when I was just starting a career in theatre. There was this fire and excitement that allowed me to do anything that popped into my head. Whether it be acting in any and all productions you can get into, or doing murder mystery shows, or writing sketches and plays just to get in onto the paper I had this passion that made me want to create non-stop. Because it was all so new, fresh, and exciting. As time goes on, however, I began to know when it was best to stop. The wife is there at the end of the day, I have papers to grade and my brain would be better off if it could have a break from the desperate want to always KNOW and MAKE.
The frustration is also that I see the young excited artists, and in my weaker moments I envy their “nothing to lose” attitude. They approach almost any project they want because they haven’t yet began to care about managing their energy. There is also the envious commodity of time. Those young actors, directors and playwrights seem to have plenty of it - and they use it for tweeting, blogging, website starting, and making something out of any idea that pops into their head. They have so many unused ideas, and nothing to lose.
Now, before anyone rolls their eyes at this rant from a mid-to-late 30's guy (in the world of theatre, this is the just-getting-going years), I fully realize that I can be viewed as an "emerging artist." My point, though, is that I see the division between the young pup and the old dog, and I recognize that I will have to do what I can to stay a young pup in some areas of making my art.
I must work to maintain a certain amount of reckless abandon when it comes to pursuing my ideas. I must be ready to learn from failures. I must not take myself too seriously. I must allow myself regular time to do the things I love. I must not be afraid to pursue any old idea that pops into my head. I must not be afraid to push an idea to the furthest point of success. I must keep a little madness. I must stay a little foolish.
As I get older, I’m learning that life is about more than just trying stay happy, it’s also about staying excited. I got to where I am today by keeping one foot outside my comfort zone and not necessarily always "playing it safe." So, why should that change as I proceed in life. “Playing it safe” is a quick ticket to a life of boredom and regrets, and I have no plans of either.
Though my ambition is not what it was, ambition is an amazing gift that should not be suppressed or squandered. Some people would kill to have the ambition and capability that I possess, and it’s imperative that I don’t let it go to waste.
I believe that there is a way to balance a life of ambition. Maybe the answer to is to stay consistently ambitious, and know that you will always be trying new things throughout your life, and learn to be okay with that. It means that I must get into the habit of regularly breathing new life into my work, to always be finding new, exciting ways of using my talents, time and energy. I think it’s only right to at least make a decent attempt at every interest that we think we could succeed at. I just want to look back on my life, and know that I stayed excited. I want to see that I kept trying new things, difficult things (like Dribble Funk 380). I doubt I will look back and be so proud of how safe I played it.