Only a little crash at the finish line…Posted: January 27, 2013
When I said I would help with scenery for the local theater’s next play I did not fully comprehend what I was getting into. Set painting, picking out vases and chairs are some of the tasks that came to mind. What entailed was 4 weeks and 4 days of hard physical work, strategic thinking, and chaotic family schedule…and painting. Lots and lots of painting. What began as 8 X 10 backdrop panels ended up being 12 X 12. And there were four of them.
I painted deciduous trees and pines in two seasons. Now, I am not a landscape painter. Abstract realism is closer to my style. So, they came out more amateurish than I had hoped. I use the excuse that I was painting on cheap drop cloths, using housepaint from Home Depot, with shitty brushes, while backstage folk regaled me with tales of yesteryear, all while working against a seemingly impossible deadline…but that isn’t much of an excuse. Did I mention that I have a chronic pain and fatigue condition? Fibromyalgia is no joke. It may not be well understood, but it is real and often daunting. I told no one at the theater about how I dealt with the pain of working so hard for a month. So. Throw that in the mix.
One week before opening night the Technical Director called in a young college student to help out. I’m grateful for her help because it meant that I finished all four paintings in time
for opening night. She asked to paint some details. I went through many emotional responses and finally I said yes, feeling generous and grateful. I may not have done it the way that she did, but again, I was grateful for the help.
Jump to opening night. I went out with a friend for dinner then we went to see the play. It was the first time I had seen it all the way through. The musicians did a great job, cramped like they were in the hot cave that is the jump on stage right. The singers/actors belted out their songs with gusto. It was a right nice play.
The cast made short announcements at the reception afterwards. They gave small gifts to the Director, some of the technical folks and then…they gave a gift to “the girl that helped with the backdrops, painted trim and lots of other things backstage”. That’s right, the girl that had been around for a week, and added grass-looking slashes to my paintings with her fingers was getting acknowledged for her work on the backdrops. The ones that I labored over for almost 80 hours.
Boy did my ego have a hard time with that.
Did I not work hard enough? Long enough? Was it like my friend said and it was just that the cast didn’t know me (I worked during the days so that I wasn’t interrupting their rehearsals at night). Was I lured into thinking I did something special because I was told numerous times that in 40 years, no one had painted a backdrop for that theater before, much less four of them?
Did I crash at the finish line? No, not really. The paintings were finished before opening night. My ego was bruised at the finish line but I need to remember that it wasn’t my ego that was painting, so the bruising was ultimately self inflicted. I had an attachment to the outcome, rather than realizing the moments spent painting were all the joy I needed.