Final scene from Three Decembers as seen from backstage (Robert Butler, May 2022)

Apologies in advance for the quality of the photo here…I am going to get higher res photos! But we are embracing the suck this week (to quote our friend Brené Brown) and not sweating the small stuff (like pixelated photos). I finished up my stint as Madeline Mitchell in Jake Heggie’s Three Decembers last Sunday, and wanted to share some of the gleanings from that experience, which, “all in all” (as Maddy would say) was “simply grand”. [Her line in the show is in fact: “All in all, isn’t life simply grand? I’m so awfully glad I showed up for it”]

As regular readers will know, this was a somewhat arduous process for me, and truth be told, my process has pretty much always been that way. I always have a crisis somewhere in the lead-up to a show, where I am sure I am going to fail miserably, and the suffering is frequently profound. This time around, however–gratitude for all those who support me, as well as those who have shared with me and taught me such powerful skills–I was able to lean in more to this creative practice with a whole heart and move through the heartbreak of it all, allowing myself to be vulnerable and open and accepting myself as I am without apology.

One thing that was very different in this particular instance was the fact that, as a cast and crew we had decided to do daily check-ins that sometimes involved a more formal territorial acknowledgment, but always included a circle practice where we could offer something about how we were feeling (rating our “feeling good/not good” on a scale of 1-10) as well as something we were grateful for. At one point during our rehearsal period when I was feeling especially vulnerable, I decided to actually reveal this, saying I was grateful for the patience of my colleagues for “this old memory and this old voice”, and how I was feeling like a “solid 6”. While everyone sort of indicated with chortles or hmmphs that I was being overly self-critical, the outcome was that I felt instant acceptance in the room. Suddenly, because I exposed my weakness, the environment shifted to one of forgiveness and compassion. I felt everyone calm down. And I myself could also soften towards MYSELF.

The overall effect of this was that I could release much of the tension I had been holding, and feel the power of support and community from my colleagues. Instead of feeling I was being compared to or measured against, I felt embraced. This allowed me to be more forgiving of myself and my perceived inadequacies, and really engage in the moment of artistic discovery with so much less judgment than usual. What a joy! Of course things were not perfect, but they were satisfying. And so when my partner asked me after it was all over if I would do it again, to his amazement I said “100%!”. I would do it all again in a heartbeat, because I realized I love this art form, this process, this connection. And now I have some new tools with which to elevate my own process and make it so much more pleasurable, both for me and the audience. I feel blessed.