"Around here, however, we don't look backwards for very long. We keep moving forward, opening up new doors and doing new things...and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths."
---Walter Elias Disney

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Running Past The Roses

Sometime last year I re-posted something I found on Facebook, some meme with a photo and the words "I give great advice, but I seldom follow it" or some such thing. My friend immediately responded that she had the very same quote on a coffee mug on her desk at work, seems to ring true with quite a few people. When I began this blog, part of the reason I chose the name Pooh Sticks was because it represented to me taking the time to slow down and enjoy the simple things. Rather than using the bridge simply to cross the river that lies between you and your destination, we should stop, find a stick, go back and drop it in and watch what happens. Life is about the journey towards our goals and we miss much if we get too focused on the ends. I prided myself on being the sort to appreciate the little things, to take full advantage of the journey, to keep perspective.

I've totally ignored that advice, that part of myself, this summer. And I feel the worse for it, but I don't know how to fix it. The problem is, the things that have me running and not slowing to enjoy the path are GOOD things, largely even fun things. I am blessed with great opportunities and I feel like a heel whining about them. But I haven't slept through the night since mid-July, I regularly have a huge nervous pit in my stomach, it's an effort to not let my stress bleed over into lack of patience with others and I often fail in that. My pastor told me he loves reading about all I'm up to on Facebook and that he alternates between jealousy and sympathy and sometimes both at once. That's it in a nutshell.

Serving as president of Brunswick Little Theatre this year has been fun. It's also been much more than I bargained for. I had no idea how much stuff would end up in front of me, how many decisions others would refuse to make and leave to me, or at least wait for my input then do whatever I said. But that was ok, I could handle it just fine. Then this summer our treasurer, Jack Mical, passed away suddenly. Jack was my friend, he and I used to joke about being two fish out of water on the board, two guys with zero talent, zero experience and zero training in theater. All we had was a desire to see our friends (the same ones it turned out) with the talent, experience and training make magic and give the community great opportunities to enjoy live theater.  He was always there, always cheerful and always finding a way to turn what he knew he could do into concrete help. I admired that, learned from it, and then he was gone. And his job devolved to me. No question I was going to do it, and do it right, I mean this was the one way I could honor Jack's memory. I just had to figure out how. So with a bit of work and a lot advice I've managed to keep the theater's finances straight. Doing that in the middle of stage managing Into The Woods was a little TMI. It wasn't killing me, but it began the waking up at 3 am each night with my heart in my throat over some aspect of the books.

Then we decided to lease and run our own theater. And not only a theater, no, we moved into a 4 acre complex with several buildings, classrooms, a kitchen and more bathrooms than any normal group of people need. I signed the lease on opening night of Into The Woods, at the time our theater finances were at a low ebb and ticket sales for the Big Summer Musical were not big at all. No stress there, huh? I insisted on signing physically on the set of the show. I wanted to ask Lisa, John, the director and a few others to lay hands on me while I did it, but didn't want to look too much like the basket case I felt. I just wanted some good mojo, some clear sign of moving in the correct direction. I knew it would be a big undertaking. I'd thoroughly annoyed many long-time BLTers and some board members by throwing up every road block I could, by raising every objection, by voicing every caution while this was being discussed. They were convinced this was a no-brainer, this would be a great thing, nothing but positives. I couldn't even wrap my head around all the new work, all the new problems, it would bring. But in the end, at a special meeting, I voted along with everyone else to sign the lease. And I've been a wreck ever since.

It's been so very much more than I imagined. I liken it to moving into a new house, but more so. We have to prepare the space for we don't even know what yet. We have lots of ideas, ranging from the normal shows and workshops, all the way to sing-a-long movie nights and a medieval fair. That's part of the challenge for me, we are full of ideas, but less so on execution. Take for example the Fundraising Committee we created back in March. They were the ones who took it upon themselves to find a property for us to move into. They spoke with several realtors, a land developer and a landscape architect; they toured four properties; they generated over 4,990,876,412 emails (approximately) but have to date raised not one penny of funds. The members of the committee have donated generously themselves, but that's kind of not the point.

These are the people who said how easy it would be to operate a theater. They have ideas. But the place needs material and lights and paint and a schedule and some idea of what to use which space for. The size of that 4 acre property has shrunk massively in practical terms with requests for dance studio space, children's workshop space, a painting area, a technical work bench, a sewing room, prop storage, costume storage, and oh yeah, there' s a huge hollow tree prop with spiral staircase on  site now. We have requests to do dinner theater and a coffee house and babysitting and build a proscenium arch and knock out a wall to put a tech booth in the attic. And so far all these ideas are coming to me. Oh, and we don't have permission from the county to use the building as anything other than a church yet.

The board isn't so much absent as disengaged. We only meet once a month and most never look at their emails. They simply think we can carry on as we always have and it will all get done. I'm trying to spread out the work and it has helped a lot. I have a great guy in charge of grounds and maintenance, but he is loath to tackle any permitting issues. Jen is helping with fundraising, so we will now actually raise funds and build a real, active, renewing membership base. Lisa found me a treasurer, but the transition will take a while and a bit of work on both our parts. Still, I end up at the least overseeing all the aspects of running a theater, or really more like running a performing arts complex. How the Hell did THAT happen?

Add to this work troubles and challenges that I'm too pissed off about to even write about now, and it's been a lot of sleepless nights and days where I feel like Indiana Jones with that huge rock rolling after him. I had a Saturday morning with no plans yesterday and spent about 6 hours updating and adding to the theater's website. I could have let it wait, but when I do (like right now choosing to write this instead of adding a show and auditions to all the local media's calendars) I feel guilty and stressed over NOT doing things. It has sucked the joy out of stopping to smell the roses and I don't like it. I live less than a quarter mile walk to the beach. I moved here because of the ocean and the beach. And I haven't had sand in my toes in over a month.

I hate to even say this stuff, on the one hand. I mean, I wouldn't give up any of this willingly, it's rewarding and exciting and fun. Who can say they had the chance to start up a theater complex? I really feel like I'm making a real difference and doing something very worthwhile. But at the same time it's taking a toll. I need to find way to handle this and still enjoy the Pooh Sticks bridge. I'm just not sure how.

Do you know?