“We are our choices.” -Sartre
First off, HAPPY NEW YEAR! Here’s to clean slates, making art and brighter days ahead. I hope this year is everything you want it to be.
For those of you who believe in resolutions, I’m rooting for you. Here’s a past New Yorker article that sheds light on why we make and have trouble keeping them. Also, the single best book I’ve ever read on habits (I’ve recommended before) is James Clear’s “Atomic Habits.” He goes in depth on the science of habits, why they’re so important, and how to make and stick to them (hint: link your identity to your habits).
Easily, my favorite book of 2020 was Andre Gregory’s “This Is Not My Memoir.” I’ve long been a huge fan of his. “Vanya on 42nd Street”, Louis Malle’s brilliant film detailing Gregory’s fourteen-year odyssey with Chekov’s “Uncle Vanya” (my anchor play for 2021) is a must watch. As is “My Dinner With Andre” also directed by Louis Malle, which basically captures one long, riveting conversation between Gregory and his friend and playwright, Wallace Shawn.
Gregory is a legendary theatre director who values process above all else. His book is a page turner, filled with remarkable stories and at times, brutal candor about his shortcomings. One section which particularly struck a chord was about his early directing failures. Gregory was fired from multiple theatres in his twenties, including one that he founded!
How many of us, if in the same situation, would take these firings as a sign that directing was just “not in the cards?” That the “universe was trying to tell us something.” But Gregory didn’t. He treated them as learning experiences. How to get better. What not to do. Steps on the road to figuring out what he was trying to say and why. In addition to tenacity which Gregory says is his greatest gift, I would argue that he bounced back each time because had first decided on a life in the theatre. No matter what. Once he decided that, then he interpreted everything that happened to him through this lens. I’m not suggesting these failures weren’t hard on him. They were brutal. But he didn’t let them stop him. That led to him forming another theatre company, The Manhattan Project, which then led to his breakthrough production of “Alice In Wonderland.” And many more triumphs.
If you’re thinking about doing something, don’t wait for a sign or someone to tell you that you should do it. That’s it a good idea. Just listen to your heart and decide. Start. Take action. Then you can interpret everything that happens the way YOU want. Through your own decision lens.