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A delicious #TBAcon15

LeeAnn Dowd

On Monday, April 13th, I attended the Theatre Bay Area Annual Conference (lovingly hashtagged as #tbacon15) in Berkeley, CA.

For those not familiar with Theatre Bay Area, it is "a non-profit organization, founded in 1976, whose mission is to unite, strengthen, and promote the theatre community in the San Francisco Bay Area, working on behalf of their conviction that the performing arts are an essential public good, critical to a healthy and truly democratic society, and invaluable as a source of personal enrichment and growth" (well said, Wikipedia). 

The other thing to know about TBA: this past winter, they had a fabulous, red-headed, Arts Administration intern, whose website you are (coincidentally) on right now. 

 Staying professional at the 2014 TBA Holiday Open House

Staying professional at the 2014 TBA Holiday Open House

Among the companies represented at the conference were Crowded Fire, Berkeley Rep, ACT, Shotgun Players, and Cutting Ball- theaters that embody the creative energy of of the Bay Area theatre community.  

The highlight of the day, for me, was the acceptance/closing speech delivered by Glickman Award recipient Marcus Gardley. If you aren't familiar with Gardley and his work, google him now. I had a premonition that this speech would be worth recording, so I was able to (grainly) capture it on camera:

This speech has a lot of elements that make me want to watch it over and over- but the kernel in here that felt revelatory in powerful way for me is what he says about our "gift" as artists:

We get in our way as makers. We don’t believe in our abilities enough. I really believe that if you build it, they will come. Because your gift isn’t just for you- that’s why it’s a gift. You are actually the giver. The gift is for us.
— Marcus Gardley (~15:38)

As a person who is writing a lot of cover letters, doing a lot of self-pitching in interviews, and forever convincing doubtful strangers that a theatre degree was a smart choice, I unknowingly developed a certain perspective: that the abilities I have- what I'm selling, essentially- are a) for me and, b) not enough. I think this is what's behind that thing I do when people ask me if I'm an actor and I say, "I'm trying to be!"

The revelation in this speech (for me) is that any work I do towards progressing in this industry should have very little to do with my own validation, and much more to do with my relationship to "the essential public good." Rather than feeling shame at owning or shirking from my "gift," I need to get past the idea that any of this is for me at all. Of course, participating in theatre brings me joy- that tells me I'm in the right place. Of course I will take success or failure personally-what actor doesn't? It's the rephrasing of the "gift" concept that made the difference for me- it's one of those postgrad lightbulbs that reminds me that school may end, but education does not. 

#lifelonglearner out,