This week’s blog is a continuation of a discussion I began last week which focused on criticisms typically leveled at those who pursue theatre as a profession. What was so surprising about that initial post were the reactions it generated from a variety of individuals in vastly different professions. I received emails, blog responses, and Facebook comments from many wonderful people who shared their struggle with similar naysayers. I found it both heartening and disheartening: heartening to know that others understand what we endure in theatre, disheartening to know that this sort of criticism is widely used across numerous disciplines disparagingly.
So let’s face the grumpy cusses together and tear down two more reproaches this week.
These two go together because they are aimed at the common sense and intelligence of those who tread the boards.
1. But you’re so bright! Wouldn’t you rather be a (insert “nobler” profession here)?
2. Well, all I know is that there is no way you could do what I do, which is (insert profession here).
Exhibit C: But you’re so bright! Wouldn’t you rather be a (insert “nobler” profession here)?
This one actually tickles me because it assumes that theatre is peopled with idiots, and it’s a complete waste to channel your God-given intelligence into a creative field. There’s also the subtext of: “No one who has a shred of wisdom goes into theatre.”
But the theatre is actually peopled with brilliant minds – historians, poets, wonderful dreamers who create world-changing art, truth speakers who nourish our soul, and motivators who unite and guide hundreds under a single vision. There are Pulitzer Prize and Nobel Prize winners. There are designers who stretch the limits of engineering and technology. Just imagine our libraries without the works of Euripides, William Shakespeare, Molière, Aphra Behn, Anton Chekhov, Susan Glaspell, Federico García Lorca, Tennessee Williams, August Wilson, Henry David Hwang, Sarah Ruhl, or Lynn Nottage.
Choosing theatre isn’t a safe choice.
That. Is. Fact.
But just because you take the risk (even if you fail in the end) doesn’t categorize you as stupid. Sure, it might be unwise financially or unwise for job security or unwise emotionally because of the rejection you will face time and time again. But I’ve seen engineers squander their wealth into bankruptcy. I’ve seen high powered executives get ousted from their jobs. I’ve seen lawyers disbarred and doctors sued. And life brings rejection to everyone sooner or later, whether in love or in a career.
So, let’s not label someone negatively for pursuing their dream. Rather, let’s call them brave. Or courageous. Or daring. And maybe, if we give them a lot of support and a little push, they just might do something memorable and amazing.
Exhibit D: There is no way you could do what I do, which is (insert profession here).
You’re absolutely right.
But chances are, you couldn’t do what we do either. We aren’t all called to be politicians or professional athletes or health practitioners or corporate officers or even parents. Yet, in the great scope of things, isn’t variety an amazing gift to humanity? The Bible talks about different gifts both in Romans 12 and I Corinthians 12. Howard Gardner, a world-renowned psychologist and Harvard professor, has identified multiple intelligences and their importance in education. We are all made to contribute to the world in unique and wonderful ways. Why must we continually be striving to have the most worthwhile pursuit or the best career plan? Why can’t we appreciate the hard work and sacrifice others experience in their own field?
Because we have placed a lot of our self-worth, as a culture, in career investment and success… and that’s hard to battle. Society has this unsettling power to determine whether or not we fit into this neat little box of acceptability. If my career doesn’t “look” safe and successful, it must not be worthy. But that’s not true. The body of Christ is made up of so many varied talents and gifts, who are we to say that one isn’t useful? Or important? Or valued? Or wise? Or commendable?
Yet we continue to seek affirmation and approval from those around us and, as a result, often decide against something that is actually very right for us.
I will candidly admit that even this post reveals my own need to have my choices affirmed by the masses.
Yet, ultimately, my worth should be found in Christ alone, who made and formed me as this unique individual. It’s a hard thing to believe sometimes when society says otherwise. Nevertheless, I’m grateful I have chosen to use my gifts to serve Him and those around me in a profession “less traveled.”
Let us be ever mindful, though, of how a little arrogance can disorder so much goodness and light in the beauty of our differences. You each have great value. Don’t forget that this week.