Nov 2020 Blogathon: Max Plata 1

It is Brelby tradition to dedicate the month of November to giving a platform for our artists to share their stories. This month our annual Blogathon theme is “Shifting Perspectives”. We’ve spent a large portion of 2020 with our stage dark, but that doesn’t mean that our artists haven’t been growing, changing and creating. This year we asked them, “How has the pandemic impacted your perspective on theatre, the arts, and life? What are your hopes for the future of theatre?”
Enjoy this year’s series.

Max Plata

I’m a fixer. When I find a problem, or a task that needs to be completed, I jump to it. I don’t hesitate, I don’t over analyze, I just get to work. Sometimes, this trait isn’t the most ideal, and I’ll find myself trying to fix others’ problems instead of just listening to them. But often, this trait is a good thing. It’s how I’ve fixed my way into a job as a stage manager, and into a creative life that’s fulfilling.

But in March, the pandemic presented a problem I couldn’t fix.

The last couple shows at ASU shut down. My classes went online. My summer gigs got canceled. Everything fell apart, seemingly all at once, like a switch had been flipped. It was scary, and it was confusing, and it was the first time in my life I’ve felt helpless in the unique way that accompanies a global emergency.

Like many others, I spent a lot of time doomscrolling my days away, reading article after article trying to grasp the numbers. I watched Broadway shut down, local theatres cancel their seasons, friends and peers lose their jobs. I lost my own for a while. But, like we were all forced to do, I did my best to adapt.

I told myself I’d use this opportunity, this pause in my life, to be productive. I’d read more books. I’d start up a new hobby. I’d finally tackle those outlines I have sitting and pump out a couple plays over the summer. I’d be fresh for the fall semester, better than I was before.

And none of that happened.

And I spent most of the summer completely unable to be creative, paralyzed by what was going on in the world.

So instead of fixing my life, all that unmanageable chaos I couldn’t possibly control, I had to learn to fix my mindset. I had to learn to forgive myself – something that I think a lot of artists don’t practice enough.

Forgiving myself, for not checking every task off my to-do list for the day. Forgiving myself, for watching a movie or taking a nap instead of reading a book. Forgiving myself, for not being able to create art when I struggle to find a reason to get up in the morning.

With the closing of our theaters came conversations about our lives as artists, conversations that I think could benefit from fostering a culture of self-forgiveness. Theatre makers work in an environment that demands the most from them at all times: 60-hour weeks, for weeks at a time; physically demanding work that perhaps should be assigned to two people, but is instead assigned to one underpaid artist forgetting to eat in between meetings and rehearsals. It’s unhealthy. But, forced by the hand the world has been dealt, we’ve had time to pause and discuss the systemic issues within the industry that force us into these harmful lifestyles.

As a young person, seeing the industry which I’ve yet to formally enter hold space for difficult conversations has been encouraging. It means that people are thinking of not only themselves, but of my new generation of artists that will inherit an unjust system. They’re putting in the work, the pain-staking labor that will keep our industry alive and thriving once we’re able to make art together again.

But as we work, no matter how long we’ve been in the industry, I think it’s important to remember to forgive ourselves. Forgive ourselves when the work gets done slowly, rather than all at once. Forgive ourselves, if we fall back into unhealthy habits to keep our heads afloat. Forgive ourselves if we need to step away – because everything is hard right now, and there’s no shame in stepping back to take care of yourself.

It’s good to be a fixer, in a world that needs fixing. And if there’s one good thing the crushing dread of this pandemic has done, it was teaching me that I need to forgive myself when I can’t fix everything. 

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