Michael John's Mixtape : #Everyoneistrying to Accept the Unknown
Written by : Michael John Ciszewski - creator & performer of OTP's Everyone is Dying and So Am I. Graphic design by Joanna Mahoney.
While we're not yet sure how to move forward with our theatre-making practice during this pandemic, I want to be as transparent in my decision-making and development processes as possible. Join me with MICHAEL JOHN'S MIXTAPE, an inclusive creator's diary, where I check-in with you on IG TV and my blog, keep us moving with curated playlists on Spotify and Apple Music, and try to manifest hope in these uncertain times. #EVERYONEISTRYING
How am I feeling today?
Today was a cloudy, raw, rainy day.
I wish I couldn’t say this: this period—of uncertainty, of unfathomable loss, and of being so untethered from all that we know and have been prepared to do—reminds me of when I started working on the show.
I want to be careful, immediately, to say that we don’t really have proper analogues for comparison right now. We’re all grasping at applicable past experiences in desperate hopes of contextualizing our present, and we cannot due to just how unprecedented this thing is. With that acknowledged—
I recall how I felt in the fall of 2016. Earlier that year, I had lost my grandmother. I had just lost my father. I felt we had lost an election. Despair loomed large; the news and our social media feeds were inundated with news of deaths—heroes and celebrities leaving us before things got real bad, terrorist attacks increasing the rapid rate of chaos unfolding. I was gripped by Generalized Anxiety Disorder, panic attacks, and a deepening depression. The days were getting shorter and shorter—the light escaping view before I could adjust my eyes. It was bleak and alien. I struggled to find hope. I wrote a personal essay titled Everyone is Dying and So Am I—an admission of truth. I waved my white flag and surrendered to what seemed like inevitable demise.
In my hopelessness, I found connection. Folks from various corners of the internet reached out about the piece of writing. On the other side of it, I found hope.
I clung to that hope and built a creative healing practice out of it. I made this show out of it.
Here I am, four years later. Here we are, in the midst of a collective crisis.
Today, it feels hard to find hope, and so I am acknowledging that once again, with the show I made from this very feeling hanging in the balance.
Despite my experience that acknowledging my fears and creating with them can make for healing, I’m having a hard time trusting that today amidst the grey.
I had a moment of futility today in which I felt my art useless. What good was this thing I made—that exists in collective gathering, sharing time and space, healing in physical and spiritual closeness—if this thing I made is rendered impossible by our current crisis. Theatre artists have so long founded our practice on sharing time and space with one another and our audiences. What the hell do we do now?
One of the dozens of inspirational memes I’ve clung to in the past few days has been one that implores the reader to thank artists for making the content that is bringing them comfort while under quarantine.
I’ve been struggling to see myself as the object of that gratitude, as a theatre artist. I’m making stuff. Here I am, making stuff! But I feel unsteady for how at home my work is in shared time and space. Everyone is trying to figure out how to re-home our work as theatre artists, I know. We’re all endeavoring shared occupancy of virtual time and space; the translation feels challenging to me today.
I’m doing my damnedest to center myself in purpose—create and heal. Hold my communities as best I can.
Today, I’m trying to forgive myself that. As a leader of my company and—I always aspire—in my community, I need to share my fear of loss and my uncertainty. I need to admit I don’t know.
I don’t know when we’ll reach the other side of this and what things will look like when we get there—as theatre-makers and as a people. I have faith we will, and I must. In the meantime, I’m scared and I don’t know.
I hate to check-in without a resolution to offer, but today I have confusion and growing pains.
I hope this admission allows me—and anyone feeling similar—some peace.
To that effect, I’ve swapped out some tunes on the playlist with some even shinier healing jams and updated it on Spotify and Apple Music. Let’s keep moving together.
Watch the first video here: