There is No, “I” in Team
For the past year and a half, Grey Ground has been “my” story. It’s been “my” project. It’s been “mine”. It’s been “me”. I gave birth to these characters and the lives they lead, I cared for them and raised them into what eventually bled out and I instilled them with values, goals, morals. I fed them words to help them grow. And like a protective parent, it has been very hard letting go. Because this isn’t “my” story anymore. It isn’t “my” project. It’s “ours”. It’s “us”.
I pride myself on being self-sufficient and fiercely independent. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t take to compromise well, I like things how I like them and that is not something I keep secret. This mind set has served me well in many ways. I’ve been working since I was eleven, if I wanted something I bought it myself, I put myself through University and paid my own bills, I wasn’t afraid to call my cell phone company myself or set up my own doctors’ appointments. I was my own person and I didn’t need anything, or anyone. I could take care of myself and I had full control.
I’m used to it just being me.
This is why I have always struggled having roommates or housemates or dormmmates or even just, letting people in. If I want to move something, I want to be able to move it. If I want a shower, I want to be able to take it, when I want to. I want the kitchen to be available whenever I want it to be. I want my quiet when I’ve had a bad day. I want to be able to do what I want. It’s these thoughts that make me shudder about getting married or living with a boyfriend or, (jesus) having kids. I realize how this must make me sound, sharing and compromising are something our parents and kindergarten teachers encourage on us at a very early age and I often tell myself that I need to grow up. Part of being an adult is being mature enough to still be happy even when things don’t go your way.
Handing your work over to someone else kind of feels like, what I imagine it might feel like, when a set of parents break up and one remarries and the one who isn’t remarried is terrified that the kids may like their step mother or father better. You worry that they will start to influence the choices they make and it doesn’t matter if they are really nice, good people, you still convince yourself that you’re the one who knows best, because that is your flesh and blood and this step mother or father has no business trying to break into this world that you’ve created.
I used to watch a lot of Reba – I’ll pause for you all to laugh. Yes, I loved Reba. That feisty red head ALWAYS got me going. For those of you who don’t know what the TV show is, let me give you the lightening version: Reba and Brock are married and have three kids. Brock has an affair with his secretary, Barbara Jean, and gets her pregnant. Reba and Brock divorce. Brock and B.J. get married. The shows takes us through the aftermath of all this. Did I mention that Brock and Reba’s oldest daughter also gets knocked up? Anyway. Barbara Jean is a really obnoxious person and is always around Reba’s house, always trying to get her hands into her life. Always trying to help her with her problems – including those that concern her children. Every single episode I was hoping and praying that Reba would punch B.J. in the face. Clean in the nose. Because that bitch needed to shut her mouth and let Reba raise her kids. Sure, B.J was hilarious – but I hated her and I hated that Reba was nice to her.
But as the seasons went on, it didn’t bother me as much that Barbara-Jean considered herself a grandma to Reba and Brock’s granddaughter or when she was heartbroken when Kira wanted to move back in with her mom instead of living with her dad and B.J or tried to give live advice to the youngest. Families change and since when was there such as thing as “too much love”? Barbara-Jean could never change the essence of what that family was, nothing she could say or do would alter the lasting impressions Reba made on her children. They would always be “hers”. But with another pair of eyes, another set of ears, and a new heart that was genuine – we watched Reba learn from Barbara-Jean and we watched that family become better and stronger. I haven’t watched that show for years – but it makes more sense to me now than it ever did.
Wow, did I really just talk about Reba for half a page?
The analogy that I am trying to make here, the dots I am trying to connect – is that it takes a village to raise a child. It’s important to give a child diversity and choice and love and knowledge. Yes, I gave birth to, Grey Ground but what I am learning is that, I’m not just me anymore. When you become a parent (whether in reality or, in this case, figuratively) you promise yourself to do anything to help that “child” reach its full potential. You won’t let your own pride get in the way of doing what’s best for them.
It’s been hard letting go, because I have taken something that grew inside me, became a part of me and, essentially, is me and I have handed it over to someone else. But I am part of a new family now, we are a team, and as we’ve always been told, there is no “I”, in team.
It’s Okay to Fuck Up: And Other Things I’ve Learned Thus Far
As we draw nearer and nearer (about a month and a half now, to be exact) to the opening night of production, I can’t help but begin the mental churning of “what have I learned so far?” This has definitely been an experience like no other for me, my first theatre experience in the “real world” and while, for the most part, it has been filled with unbelievable surrealism, beauty and joy, there have also been moments where I have definitely, fallen short.
Always Keep Your Cool:
When something new and exciting is happening, it’s only natural that your mind is going to start rowing down the river of “this is amazing” at lightning, Olympic speeds. Mine definitely did. You hear the world happening outside of you but your head is in this whole other dimension. You start thinking of all the things you need to do, all the possibilities that have, within seconds, suddenly been handed over to you. The people around you blur and you’re not really sure what anyone is saying – you just nod like a drone with a silly smile on your face. This is an incredible feeling. You’re crying even. This is all great, fantastic even. But you can’t get ahead of yourself. Have your moment of joy and happiness, cry out in elation and fall on your knees in disbelief – but then remember to get back up. Remember, now there’s work to do. I often live in my own head. I blame bad hearing but usually when people have to repeat things to me it’s because I’m a million miles away. Through this I have learned that you must stay grounded. You must stay present. Otherwise you tend to make promises you can’t keep. Promises you weren’t authorized to make. You set yourself so high and put so much weight into the opportunity that any sane person would look at you and say, “you are biting off more than you can chew”. I’m not an octopus with eight arms, and I don’t have a time machine to add more hours to my day, no one does – unless you’re Doctor Octavious.
Never Aim For Perfection:
This one always gets me. I would get home from work, eat dinner, pour myself a glass of wine, barricade myself in my room and sit down ready to write pure gold. I’d expect the words to just flow from my fingertips. Everything I wrote would be brilliant, perfect and beautiful. Then I would be heart broken when the exact opposite happened. After a few hours I would go over what I wrote and want to give up on my writing career because everything was just awful. Terrible. Rubbish. Disconnected. Lindsay you wrote better in third grade. BUT I HAVE SUCH A CLEAR IDEA OF WHERE I’M GOING! I’d slam my lap top shut, stomp down the stairs, go across to the convenience store and buy myself a dollars’ worth of five cent candies and I’d sulk until I went to bed. Then I would toss and turn for hours. What an exhausting time. So, instead of this unattainable goal of instant perfection (or perfection at all, because what is that?), I’ve realized that writing complete shit is inevitable and, actually, beneficial. To quote Anne Lamott,
“The first draft is the child’s draft, where you let it all pour out and then let it romp all over the place, knowing that no one is going to see it and that you can shape it later.”
It’s that mindless rhythm where you don’t even think about what you’re putting down, you just go strictly on intuition. That was the biggest hurdle to get over. I still get anxious when things aren’t sounding eloquent and sophisticated but I’m slowly learning to love my “shitty first drafts”.
Deadlines: Important…but I Suck at Them:
Too often this conversation happened in production meetings:
“So, script check in – Finnie, how is that second (or third or whatever) draft coming?”
“Well, I imagine I will have it to you in about three weeks.”
“Please hold me to that deadline too”
Four weeks later.
“So, Finnie – we’re still waiting on that draft”
“Yeah I’m so sorry – I’m in a slump. But it’s coming.”
Confession: This happened on more than one occasion. I think that, had I not been in the presence of my friends, I would have been fired. I have always hated deadlines. In school, in life, in everything. I’m very, I will do it in my own time. But I soon realized that this isn’t just about me anymore. I have a company and a production riding on the completion of a script. When things just get pushed back more and more, things just don’t happen, nothing gets done. So I learned the value of “soft deadlines”, this is where I set a date for myself to be done a monologue or a scene and that’s my goal. Further down the road, is the “real” deadline where shit actually has to be done, this date is usually set by people in the production team. I found this helpful as I got my “second chance” to finish it. Sometimes we need moments of grace.
So now I embark on the final stretch in this production. I’m sure there will be an even longer, this is what I’ve learned, entry when this is all done and over with. I can’t believe it’s just over a month away. It’s like I have electricity firing through me every single day. I love my life.
Now if I could just get over this strep throat….
"A fool thinks himself to be wise, but a wise man knows himself to be a fool."
I am a fool.
I don’t know why I continually try to deny that. So I find comfort in Shakespeare’s words, to lessen the constant disappointments and confusion that comes with being an impressionable fool. Sometimes it’s fun – sometimes my fooldom (a newly coined term by me) is light and airy and consists of me running around the streets of any given place singing at the top of my lungs, or walking to the edge of the cliff and feeling infinite. Other times, it leaves me vulnerable and sitting at my computer at midnight trying to piece situations together as I tell myself, “how the fuck could I be so naïve?”
It’s actually quite easy to be naïve. It’s smart not to be, though and sometimes, you just can’t help it.
I’ve been able to translate a lot of my life into my writing. Some writers have fantastic imaginations and their minds are vast and endless – I think I am much more literal. Too literal sometimes. I often wish I could find a really clever way of hiding my personal attachments to my stories and it often surprises me how honest I can be in my writing. I wish I could be that honest in “real life”. I wrote a play not too long ago that depicted a character who was stuck in her own mind as she battled these four mirrors (that were metaphors for her growing eating disorder). I took exact excerpts from my journals and basically made myself my leading lady. I think the only audience members who knew I was actually using the play as a kind of catharsis were my parents.
My mom cried, my dad was quiet and my sisters didn’t really get it I don’t think.
I was able to put that up on the stage, naked for everyone to drink in – but because I, Lindsay, could hide behind the play, the characters and I could detach myself and travel between the reality and the stage. In “real life” I tend to just shut down.
I’m starting to forget what I’m trying to get at here….focus….okay…
I think writing and theatre are the only ways I have found to express myself and maybe it is because there is a sense of anonymity to it all. I can just claim its all fiction. I need to get it all out somehow. Every time something hard happens or I find myself hurting I sit alone and I churn the pain over and over until I’ve gotten something solid that I can see.
That’s the problem with pain, no one sees it.
With this new play, which is finished and titled, I churned a lot of old resentments.
Maybe it would be easier if I gave you some standing ground about this play – all I will say is that it’s about bullying. It took me a long time to write so it’s quite rewarding now that I have a first draft completed. Granted, the final product will probably be nothing but an echo of an echo of this first draft. However, the reason it took me so long was because it hit very close to home, in many ways. The play examines the lives of bullied victims who fight back and what it means to them to take back their power.
As a kid/teenager, I never fought back. I adhered to the saying “if you ignore them, they will leave you alone”. I’m telling you, when I have kids and if they ever come home and tell me they’re being bullied I will NEVER tell them to ignore it. I think this is a lie we feed kids and it needs to stop. Bullies are relentless and they will not stop. It doesn’t matter how deep the corner you’re sitting in, they will still find you. I never fought back, I never said a word. I remember random bystanders coming to me and saying “how do you do it? How do you just sit there?” Lots of practice and soon you just become numb to it. By the end it all just became white noise…or maybe that’s just how my memory portrays it.
Anyway, when I first started writing this play, I would give small pieces to friends to read and they all said the same thing, “Lindsay, this is really angry”. At first I didn’t understand it, I didn’t see it as angry, yelling people, I saw it as blunt and honest. But as wrote more and more and read the words back to myself, I saw what everyone else did. Anger. Lots and lots of anger.
Then it hit me.
I was using the play as an outlet for my own frustrations. This was my way of finally fighting back against my own bullies. The intense and brutal monologues were for me and a way for me to deal with situations I had buried because I didn’t want to deal with it. Because I wanted to ignore it.
FUCK IGNORING. Seriously, we ignore SO MUCH and we need to just stop. Open your beautiful eyes and actually look at what you’re doing. You’ll be amazed (and a little ashamed) at how much you’re missing.
So, I am so proud to have finished this first draft (much editing is still needed) because I can now relate to my main characters. I have finally stood up to the dragons of my past…well…some of them…I’m not suddenly all self-actualized. Writing this piece has become a great healing process to me. That is what theatre has been in my life. A constant window for healing…and not one of those small, drafty windows that get stuck when you try to open them…but a big bay window that’s all and open for so much light. I hope you all have a kind of safe haven like that for yourselves.
I may be an emotional fool – but I’m not afraid to feel things and I’m grateful for that because it helps me not just write my characters, but become them.
Until next time,
What Does it Cost?
Do any of you remember Civics class? I do. It was grade 10 and I remember the first thing my teacher said to us:
“I don’t believe in homework.”
We all cheered him and thought, “Holy smokes this guy is awesome!” - and he was awesome. He was a great teacher and I think he was one of those people that just got it. They understood more than others….
But this isn’t what stuck with me about him, the fact that he wouldn’t give homework. No. What stuck with me about this teacher was something he said to us one day while he was talking about choices. We undoubtedly have so many choices these days, there’s actually probably too many sometimes - but it’s how we make these choices that define who we are and define our lives. So, he told us that when making a decision in life we should ask ourselves…
“Is there any money in it?”
Now, of course he wasn’t talking about, “am I literally going to make money off of this decision and if so, how much?” - he wanted us to question whether our decisions were worth it. Is cheating on that test going to give me what I want? Is this fight I’m having with my roommate/girlfriend/boyfriend/mother etc giving me anything other than a head ache? WE MUST PICK OUR BATTLES.
Life is too short to waste it on things that aren’t worth our time.
Now PLEASE look a little deeper within yourselves and understand that I don’t mean, and I don’t think my grade 10 civics teacher, meant that we should only do things if there is something to gain. That, my friends, is called being selfish. Sometimes we do things and get nothing in return. Nothing material. Sometimes, we have shitty situations or decisions to make that make us want to vomit trap ourselves - but there is meaning and worth behind it. There is money in it.
“Lindsay, why are you gabbing about all of this? Isn’t this supposed to be a FRINGE blog about your FRINGE experiences?”
Yes and I am about to come full circle and explain myself. Toronto and I are different people. We don’t fit quite right. I knew this coming here. I’m used to cows as neighbours now I have screaming kids ALL THE TIME (and I honestly sometimes can’t tell if it’s happy screaming or terrified screaming). But when I had to make the decision on moving here, I went back to grade 10 civics and Mr. Carruth asked me, “Lindsay, is there any money in it?”
I’m here. In Toronto. So I think you know the answer.
I’ve been asking that a lot these past few days. Is there any money in it? I haven’t been able to write. I had to travel to Guelph last week just so that I could sit in the Red Brick and Cornerstone and feel like myself again. To get the creative juices flowing. I could easily go to Guelph every time I had a day off and write until my fingers swelled - but I have to find my inspiration here. Because I have to try - Toronto is only going to give me back what I put in, right?
I need inspiration. I have these thoughts and these feelings and I can feel them inside me, bubbling and boiling and excitedly screaming at me - but they get lost in translation and I’m stuck.
"Dear Toronto: It’s been a rough start, but I’m willing to really try this time. Why don’t you say we go out on one more date?"
Sometimes I write and I feel like I could write forever. That’s when I’m most happy. That’s when I feel most like a writer. I’m usually writing complete B/S but at least I’m writing. I’ve channeled my mind to think and dream of things and my fingers have a mind of their own….Other times I just stare at the screen, no words written. Blank. Ha, “a white blank page” (if you got that reference you and I are definitely friends).
Oh, Toronto - where can I find the muse to which I seek? Perhaps it’s like a man. And you know what they say about that, “it will come to you when you’re not looking for it”….
Well, I don’t really believe that. When it comes to anything in life, it’s all on you to make it happen. So, this is my quest:
“HEAR YE, HEAR YE, LINDSAY FINNIE HEREBY BEGINS HER QUEST FOR INSPIRATION IN TORONTO.”
There is purpose in coming to Toronto. There is money in being pushed onto Subways and Buses by people or by garbage tumbleweeds. I just have to look a little harder.
Where are you putting your money? Are the things you’re doing with your life really making you happy for the right reasons? Is there any money in taking that risk or chance? Is there any money in holding things in? Go deep and really do things for YOU.
I see so many should’s in people’s lives. “I should go to school”, “I should be working full time”, “I should make x amount of dollars” etc. Every day I see a future Lindsay waving a flag in the distance saying, “you should be looking for a career - not a day time job” and every day I have to fight against that should telling me that I need more stability in the job world.
I am here in Toronto because I say, “fuck” to the should’s and I’m only going to focus on the things that I want. Right now I want to find some place in Toronto that makes me feel magical.
….but I digress - it is late and I SHOULD be sleeping. Hahaha, actually though I doubt any of this last bit made sense…I’m falling asleep……
Until next time.
Deep In the Heart of the Theatre Jungle…You Can Hear the Beasts Rumble…
It’s starting. It’s happening. Holy fucking shit…
I’m going to pull the corny card right now and then I promise to keep this blog corn free (unless I’m feeling really sentimental one day) - they say that dreams come true everyday, but it’s not every day that your dreams come true. It’s starting. It’s happening. Holy fucking shit. Fringe.
I first thing I ever remember writing was a picture book about a boa named Caw who kept eating everything even though his mother kept telling him not to. Soon, he got too big and couldn’t fit inside the book anymore and he got really depressed…so he barfed everything up and was small again. It was based on a snake friend I made as a kid while camping with my family in Algonquin Park. The irony is that I am absolutely terrified of snakes now. Ew. It was addictive and after that I just kept writing stories. Teachers would scold me because that was all I did. It was all I cared about.
Now I write plays.
It’s been five days since the Fringe Lottery draw and it’s finally sinking in, as I tell more and more people and more people congratulate me about it, I think I am finally coming to terms with the fact that this is going to happen. It’s incredibly humbling. When Neville (the amazing man who drew out my number) read out the number ON080 - I screamed thinking “holy shit that’s me!” - moment of shear panic “wait, the number they emailed me was ON80…there was no extra 0…maybe it’s not me…now I look like the idiot who freaked out thinking they got in but they really didn’t. Shit”. Then I hear my name and my friends are patting my back and cheering and there is a guy behind me wanting to take my picture and I AM CRYING! I don’t cry. But there I was, sobbing and my friend kept saying “update your status, update your status!” Of course she was talking about my Facebook status - because nothing is “real” until it is posted on the web for all 450 of my “friends” to see. I couldn’t even do that because my hands were shaking and my stomach was doing this weird can can dance and my brain had gone static. By the time I had calmed down the Lottery Selection was over. So I went and got drunk, but a classy drunk. The kind of drunk that is absolutely acceptable when you’ve just received potentially life changing news. Nothing else mattered. There was nothing happening that was worth fussing over because my dream had just come true.
I find society funny. I find people funny. First of all, we’re not nearly as complex as we make ourselves out to be. When you break a human being down to their bare, primal bones it’s really quite simple. We have needs and drives and those fuel us to live. What I think is funny is that society has built up these walls and has made us so polite (please note that I am aware there are completely unpleasant people out there) that we’ve painted over theses needs, wants and natural instincts. We’re so focused on being “civilized” that we forget that we evolved from a more primal being. We are animals and we are fierce. That’s where Beasts of the Theatre comes in.
There are things inside of us that we hide, beautiful, truthful things that we push away into ourselves and barr them from the rest of the world. Who we truly are is welded into these bare bones, we’re just afraid to admit it.
For the next six months, I am going to blog my way through the experience of the Toronto Fringe Festival, sharing with you the ups and downs, the craziness, and the triumphs.
For now, I think the important thing to ask yourself is this - are you ready to set the beast free?