What I did for love

What I did for love

I'm moving on in life. "Kiss today goodbye and point me toward tomorrow."

You won't catch me at an audition for a musical anytime soon. However, my time doing so heavily influences what I'll do and where I'll go next. So, I’ve got something to say. There is no question that I loved theater. I will always love it. I’m challenging myself to love and explore it differently.

Why am I writing this?

To do a few things; show how proud I am of my accomplishments, lay a clear foundation for where I'm going and put to rest where I've been. We live in a society with a negative perception of switching or not having a singular traditional business career. When I chose to pursue a career as a musical theater artist, that didn't feel like a positive thing. Well, choosing to do something else, at times, feels like I'm failing. I’m not failing. To be clear.

It wasn't broadway but it paid the bills. Well, sort of settled the bills.

Another thing is that I don't have a life. Or at least I'm struggling to find ways to measure life. Before the pandemic, and honestly, what's before the pandemic? But, before the pandemic, I was devoted to traditional Theater and anything devoted to it. That was my life. It was easier back then to imagine a world outside of your terrors. To find moments to soak up the sun and revel in your dreams. I didn't have much more I had less. Life back then was measured in work, the efforts put toward believing that dreams could come true even for me. Now that I'm without--and willing to see the world without--those relationships, I feel at times, and at most times, that I don't have a life. Or at least that I'm boring. So, I'm writing this to do something, even if I write that I'm boring and nothing else. I'm a writer. And that feels better.

I'm writing to hold my accountable and leave a trail of truth if I (or anyone) ever need any motivation throughout life's journey.

From top 2016 until January 2021, I worked as a professional actor and choreographer in Chicago. I even had the opportunity to perform in a musical this past winter. Most families do not fully understand the road to stardom or a life of sustainability in the arts, and my family is no different. So it's hard, well, it has been challenging for me to fully explain to them what it's like being an artist or attempting to be a full-time artist in Chicago. Over five years, I performed and worked on 20+ productions. Roughly 5,500 hours of rehearsing, and countless hours performing. I maintained a part-time--or full-time--job throughout this time because life in the arts is not always financially feasible. Shocking. Theater didn't always provide money, but it's been worth it. I've traveled to eight states, worked with over a thousand people, and performed in front of ~70,000 audience members. All thanks to the Theater. Damn, I'm pretty cool. It was incredible, and I'm proud of these accomplishments. It wasn't broadway, but it paid the bills. Well, it settled the bills.

"In these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die. And where you invest your love, you invest your life." -Mumford and Sons

All highs come with their lows, and Theatre is no exception. You're willing to sacrifice so much in the name of artistry. A former manager once wrapped a purple string around my neck and said, "look, it's a noose, except it's purple because you're gay." Stunned, I froze, got lost in my head, and finished the shift. Instead of having an honest, present, safe reaction directed toward my manager, I held my reaction in. "I'll write a show about it", I thought. Because I needed that job, and moments like that are all a part of an artist's journey, especially a black artist. Right?

I chose to focus on that. The second, third, fourth, and the eighteenth-time moments similar to that happened, I stomached them. Everywhere I looked, the Theater scene corroborated stomaching it or praised me for my ability to do so without making a face. Looking back, I can say confidently, that's the wrong answer. I believe a part of why I don't have a "life" today is I used it to pay for my love of theater. Each time you endure something for love, it costs a piece of your life.

My manager needed to hear what I thought of their actions. There's more to life than what you endure. Invest your love in your present life. When my manager said that to me, my present deserved the investment of conversing with them over the situation. There was no need for me to stomach anything and plenty of space in the present for me to express myself. The traditional Theater investment led to additional, more frequent, problematic interactions. And they come at a high price.

This essay is a farewell to doing that for love. It's not goodbye to being an artist or being an actor. I'll never stop. I can not stop. It is, however, goodbye to thoughts that say I can only be an artist inside of traditional institutions. Goodbye to letting others control my talents. It's goodbye to the fear that I'll be nothing without them. Before I chose to use theatre to define my love, I was loved and full of expression. I had a life. I'm choosing to remember that.