"What a very depressing couple days it has been for Chicago theatre with the death of Erin Myers, who I did not know but whose eloquent blog about her living with cancer I've read and admired, coupled with the death of Russ Tutterow this morning, a man I knew a little through some Dramatists readings and saw as a sweet, hardworking and kind man whose greatest quality to me seemed to be how he cared about the work and the people of theatre. That's what hits me, that he obviously didn't give a shit about fame, fortune, schmoozing with celebrities or getting more attention and acclaim...in retrospect, it's a beautiful way to live and the only way to live, and I think I've learned a valuable lesson from that. Death is a strange and scary thing, and while I am what I would describe as a foxhole Christian, it's not for me to say the departed are watching over us in heaven, are beautiful stars in the sky, etc., because I don't know what happens when one dies...all I know is that it can leave one with unbelievable pain and sadness, and there's nothing you or I can do for the bereaved but say 'I'm there for you' and to actually be there. I wish I could speak more profoundly to how the impact of these two losses, one person I knew only through her writing and one I knew only though a five-minute tutorial on how the Dramatists light board worked, has affected me, but I can't. I don't know what the right way to grieve is...I don't know whether there's a better place than this. All I know is that love- for people, for animals, for nature, for beauty, for art- seems a lot more important today than it did before."
I don't really have anything more to add on the subject than that: it'd be inappropriate for me to comment further on both of those departed individuals given how one I knew only through her writing (which isn't to discount how edifying the relationship between a writer and a reader can be) and the other whom I knew as a gentle and kind man but unfortunately never got to work with him or really know him. But the lesson I learned in the last few weeks is how intertwined the Chicago theatre community really is, and how the loss of one wonderful person can change everything, and the only thing anyone can do about it is give more to others, give more to your art, and concentrate more on creating something of lasting value, something that can inspire, can help, can bring people together and be remembered. These thoughts, though, can have some unfortunate side effects, which I further elaborated via social media just the other day:
"One of the most difficult thing about being an artist- or trying to be an artist, or pretending you're an artist- is that brief periods of self-satisfaction/feelings of pride & accomplishment in your work are so soon followed by long periods of exhaustion, depression, self-loathing, intense loneliness and melancholy. At least that's how it often is for me...in the twenty-four hours after a table reading or staged reading or even a production (on the rare occasions I've had them) my feelings run the gamut from elation to boredom to worthlessness and despair. I suppose it's part of the writer's condition, or the actor's condition, director's condition, designer's or painter's or sculptor's condition, etc. but I don't really think there's a cure...it is what it is, and one must accustom one's self to these feelings if one is to continue to try and create. The only thing that seems to help is by providing words of thanks, praise and encouragement to those you admire, for if he or she is doing work worthy of your admiration, most likely they've suffered the same insecurities and are fighting the same fight. And that's something that, in times like these, is worth noting, ever so softly: the words 'thank you' and 'you're very good at what you do.' If you're reading this, then you are."
And indeed, you are. That's about all for now, keep writing, keep directing, keep acting, singing, painting, dancing, reading, marching, cooking, making music, taking action, falling in love, caring for others, caring for animals, using your heart and creating. That's about all you can do. Fortunately, you're good at that.