"If you're an artist, be a person first."
Playwright Brenton Lengel said this on The Narrative Breakdown podcast, and it stuck with me. You can't write about the human experience if you don't live it. You can't find all the depth and richness within a character if you aren't fascinated by people.
This is something I struggle with. I am an introvert. I am a self-proclaimed indoor kid. I'm not super social. I'm not outdoorsy, I don't camp or ski (which is almost a crime in my new hometown of Seattle). I don't get excited about networking events or meeting lots of new people. I don't just get out and do things spontaneously. So I do wonder if I've really lived enough to be an artist.
But, the quote above was in a discussion about MFA programs. Lengel's point was that, in his opinion, the academic world of theatre and the working world of theatre don't actually overlap that much. And that he had personally found getting out and doing your work to be more helpful than graduate school.
This, at least, I am trying to do. I am writing more. I am producing a play with three wonderful collaborators. I am taking what I learned in classes and applying it to actual auditions and a show. This is, I think, where a great amount of learning will happen.
Not that other learning will stop. I still want to read more scripts, classic and contemporary. I want to read more books by diverse authors with experiences and stories I'm unfamiliar with. I want to meet new people (you know, when I'm in the mood). I want to take more classes—Shakespeare, dance, playwriting.
Just because I haven't traveled much, slept on the ground in the woods, raced down a mountain in freezing temperatures, or partied until dawn with complete strangers—it doesn't mean I haven't lived. And it definitely doesn't mean that I have nothing to say.
There is no one way to be an artist. I'm still a unique person with a unique perspective on the world I've experienced. That's not nothing.