Courtesy

I love theatre.

I love the moment when the curtain goes up and a hush goes over the room. I love being transported to another place, escaping my fears and anxieties for a few hours. I love sharing a moment of catharsis with several hundred strangers whom I may never share a moment with ever again.

I love the work that goes into a show - the lighting and scenery and sound and choreography. I love the marquee and the proscenium and the playbill. I love my ticket stubs, all neatly filed away in a box of keepsakes.

I absolutely love theatre.

To me, the theatre is a sacred place. The world sucks a lot of the time but theatre can help us forget about that, if only for a moment. A beautiful performance can transcend barriers and cultural divides. Theatre brings us all together.

I dress up when I go to the theatre. Usually a suit and tie. I block out the night of the show on my calendar and count down the days to the big event. 

I make it my mission to see as much live theatre as possible. I drive to neighboring cities or extend my trips when possible to catch a performance. I even flew to Europe once just to see a show. I don’t want to grow old regretting that I never saw such-and-such actor or singer or comedian or show in person. So I keep buying tickets and I keep going because the theatre is a big freaking deal.

Or at least that’s how it used to be. But lately, I’ve noticed a different trend.

I saw Hamilton last week. Yes, THAT Hamilton. And yes, it was as magical and extraordinary and moving and enchanting as everyone says. It was INCREDIBLE.

I paid $500 a ticket to attend, too. I put a bunch of money aside just for those tickets and turned down work just so I could stay in Chicago to see it. I waited two freaking years to see that show and I freaking LOVED it.

But, there was a young lady next to me who kept looking at her phone and smartwatch during the show. Every few minutes she’d sneak a glance at her phone and I’d notice the glow out of the corner of my eye. It’s really hard to get transported back to 1776 when someone next to you is deciding between emojis.

Why would you pay over $500 for a ticket, only to spend half of the time on your phone?

Are the actors not trying hard enough for you? Is the award-winning score not good enough for you? Are the rave reviews and Tony Awards not enough? Were you not moved by the relevancy of the subject matter and how it connects to our current political climate? Were you not entranced by the use of modern sounds to tell the story of the American Revolution?

What will it take to get you to put your phone down for a couple hours? What will it take for you to be here - in this moment - living for the now?

Nearly every time I see a show someone in the audience ends up being disrespectful. I’m tired of late arrivals and loud talking and people on their phones and people dressing down. I’m tired of other people ruining my experience at the theatre. If nothing else, shut up and let everyone else have a good time.

Look, I’m as connected as they come. In my office I have an iPod, iPhone, iPad, MacBook, and iMac all next to my windows. I spend all day working online so I can spend my evenings doing something I love.

And what I love most is to be in the theatre, either onstage or off. So when I’m there I turn off my smartwatch and silence my phone because I’m there to get lost for a while. I’m there to be part of a one-of-a-kind experience that will never happen the same way again.

I love everything about the theatre. Please don’t ruin that for me.

How To Be More Creative

I started a new morning habit recently. It’s an idea from Julie Cameron’s book “The Artist’s Way” called Morning Pages.

Basically, you start every day by writing three full pages of thoughts by hand. It doesn’t matter what you write, you just keep writing until you have three full pages. Some mornings I write about an idea I’m working on or the show I had the night before. Other mornings I write about having a lack of ideas or look out the window and describe what I see. And sometimes it’s just a stream of consciousness pouring out onto the page.

The first few days were weird. I wasn’t sure if there was any benefit to writing this much each morning. And my hand hurt from holding a pen for so long! But soon I found an increased clarity and focus throughout the day. Morning Pages allows me to clear my thoughts of the clutter that accumulated the day before. It allows me to free my mind so creative ideas can happen at any time. And it helps me put my more important ideas into words when inspiration strikes.

You should try it. Even if you don’t want to be a writer, just give it a shot. You don’t have to share your Morning Pages with anyone - you don’t even have to read them yourself. Just free your mind and see what happens.

Since starting I’ve found a lot of articles online that echo support for Morning Pages. For many creative people, it’s their go-to strategy. But I’m not here to tell you what will work best for you. You’ll have to go out and find your own “Morning Pages” - whatever that means for you.

Maybe you’re a singer and it really helps to get up and sing in the shower each morning. Or maybe you do spoken word and need a half hour each morning to freestyle into a voice recorder. Paint for an hour, fill a notebook with doodles, or (a personal favorite) go for a run. It doesn’t matter.

The goal of Morning Pages is to free up some space in your mind so you can be more creative then you were the day before. But you don’t have to write three pages to spark your creativity.

Even if you aren’t a full-time artist, it’s great to have a clear mind and a way to rest each and every day. Find what works for you and stick with it. Maybe soon you’ll have a new morning routine, too.


Psychological tips, tricks, and techniques straight OUT OF MY MIND and into yours every Monday.

Numb

It’s easy to think that what you do doesn’t matter…especially when you get paid to tell jokes and read minds onstage. It’s tempting to trivialize it, especially when other people are doing such important work around the world.

But I think that what I do does matter…especially now. I’d argue it may matter more now than ever before. I’ve seen a shift in my audiences lately and it all started last November.

A year ago I muted the TV and stared out my apartment window in total silence. If you’ve followed me for any amount of time it should be obvious that I’m a progressive liberal atheist artist and I didn’t handle the results of the 2016 election well. 

For the past 365 days I’ve woken up fearful of what I’d find on the news or read on twitter. Most days, the alerts are too many and the negative actions of this administration are too much to handle. I’ve done my best to stay informed and take action but after a while I started to grow numb to what’s happening in the world.

When terrible things happen but you can’t do anything about them, it makes you feel helpless. It seems pointless to sign petitions or protest or raise awareness when it feels as if nothing ever changes.

After the most recent mass shooting (in Texas at the time of this post) I found myself silencing my phone and ignoring updates. I couldn’t bring myself to read about it for fear of feeling the crushing weight of the world bearing down on my shoulders. When things get really bad you have to step away for a while. We aren’t programmed to handle this much sorrow.

That’s why my shows are more relevant than they’ve ever been. People need a respite from the tweets. They need relief from everyday life. It may sound cliché, but I have a chance to give people that escape. I have a chance to let them step away for a second, then get back to the real world. And giving other people an escape is my way of escaping, too.

A woman approached me after a recent show to let me know that her son had died a year ago and she was looking for a way to get out of the house around the anniversary to forget about things. Somehow she ended up at my show.

She told me she hadn’t laughed that hard in a really long time and thanked me for a fun show. Then she turned and walked away before I could say anything else.

I was flabbergasted.

It’s easy to forget that what you do matters. But it does. And we should all remember that when things are too hard to bear. 

Things may seem bad at the moment but that doesn’t mean they won’t get better. They already are and it’s up to us to keep the momentum going. There’s so much you can do and it all matters, no matter how small it may seem.

Stay informed. Stay involved. Donate. Volunteer. Run for office. VOTE.

And find an escape when you need one, whatever that means for you.

Just whatever you do, don’t let yourself grow numb.