This summer I was privileged enough to spend my vacation playing a role in the Thousand Islands Playhouse production of Stephen Massicotte’s The Clockmaker. Directed beautifully by Kathryn MacKay and designed with stunning precision by Robin Fisher (both Kingstonians), the play resonated with audiences and drew praise from local and national critics alike. It had been three years since I had worked on a stage and I was struck … by how exhausting and emotionally draining it was. Nightly, I would pour over my notes, wracked with insecurity, disseminating the minutae of moments after each performance, constantly discussing potential ‘improvements’ with my scene partners. It was a great reminder of the cost an artist pays while in the act of creation.
It is very easy to dismiss professional artists as self-indulgents, suckling from the taxpayer’s teat through public funding programs at all levels of government. We’ve all been at parties where the actor in the room has monopolized the conversation with ‘hilarious’ tales from the stage. (I know that my friends and family have. ahem.) But, these people, working in a wide array of disciplines, go to work each day and dissect themselves – their heart, their history, their dreams – in order to study and illuminate the human condition. They do this so that the rest of us can know ourselves better. Without these people, these self-surgeons, I believe that life would be pretty meaningless for the rest of us.
This month, go to Writersfest and engage an author in a discussion about their process, or travel the gallery circuit for Art After Dark and talk to the artists about their work. I can promise you, much like a professional performance is not about ‘learning lines’, painting a piece of art is not just about paint and a brush. On that canvas lies painful memories, deepest desires, and hopes for the future. Celebrate these people, they are the protectors of our collective soul.