Sunday, February 29, 2004

I went to build today for the first time for Kiss Me Kate. As always happens lately when I'm walking to a KMK event, my mind was filled with righteous indignation by the time I got there: I didn't sign up for this, I wasn't warned about this, it's not fair for this show to rob me of the sacred days which by rights ought to be dedicated to family, friends, and roleplaying. Those are the sorts of thoughts that go through my mind every time I go to rehearsal, or think about build.

Of course those thoughts are completely unbecoming, but I love the way in which God points that out to me. Over the past few days I have noticed that while KMK can incense me at the drop of a hat, I cannot remain furious with it when I am actually doing it. In the presence of my director and my stage manager, and (I discovered today) my tech director, I simply can't be mad at this show. All my resentment falls away and I love doing it.

Now, what does that mean? For one thing, it's confirmed to me yet again the importance of the chain of command in performance groups. My director is doing a good job, but she is the director, mistress after God. My stage manager is the director's executive officer, my liaison (as an actor) both to the crew side of the company, and to the director, and she does a good job of it. They are not part of the cast, nor should they be - the proper way to support me and the rest of the cast is by doing what they're doing.

Our own leadership must come from within the cast, and it falls to the lead to provide it. This is where KMK fails most critically, in my opinion, for our lead is a star with an unabashed prima donna persona. Like it or not, being cast as a lead makes you central to the spirit of the cast. It is up to the lead to be the link between the cast and the rest of the company, and ours isn't doing his job. And that of course is what makes it completely shameful for me to resent the time KMK demands of me. I can't demand that our lead do his job and refuse to do mine - even if it's a job that I didn't realize I was signing up for, it's one that I signed up for implicitly when I joined the company (which is and must be tantamount to swearing fealty for the duration of the run).

Why is that so important? Because leadership isn't a function of office. Leadership is a function of competence and character. The leader who has both can lead her people into the jaws of hell; the leader who has neither can only lead her people where self-interest induces them to go anyway. In KMK, the competence side of the question is largely decided. Either our director is competent or she isn't, and the same goes for the rest of us. We can improve as a result of our experience over the course of the show, but not that much.

Character, on the other hand, is something which is formed and maintained by everything we do. I have to fulfill my build and rehearsal obligations. Not because people expect it of me, but because it's my duty to do so: it is a debt that I owe to myself to fulfill an obligation I have assumed voluntarily (see sidebar). Difficult it may be, but the reward is ...

... is what? Self-respect? Certainly. The Song of the Lioness and the Protector of the Small beckon me onward in this regard, regaling me with tales of institutional injustice overcome by sheer determinedness. I will not fall short of the example of Alanna and Keladry. But more than self-respect, the reward is character. Am I going to be the sort of person who fulfills my obligations or not? Am I going to be the sort of person whom my company can lean upon or not? Am I going to be the person who does all things without complaining and disputing so that I may become blameless and innocent, a child of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom I shine as a light in the world, holding fast the word of life (Phil. 2:14-16) - or am I not?

Of course this is one of my great Principles of Life - but it is one I forgot with regards to KMK. But here I am, in a company where some leaders melt my resentment simply by doing what they do. I follow them into this show, which I can hate so easily, not because of their position but because of who they are. So I am faced with the question Paul implicitly posed to the Philippians: am I going to be the sort of child of God he describes, or not?

There is a song that Point of Grace sings called "Living the Legacy," the first bit of which goes like this:

My father knew it, and his before him
And it goes way back down the line.
They had a vision - a prayer for the future
For what I would believe in time.
Now I'm not perfect; life's not easy
But I wouldn't take the world for what they gave to me.

I'm living the legacy, walking the path that the faithful have laid down
I'm living the legacy, finding the hope that my fathers found

Years ago when I heard that song for the first time I swore that my children would be able to truthfully sing this song. They may never hear it. But I vowed that my children will know their father as a real Christian: a real man who is a real example of a real Christ. If I am to lead my household in that regard, it begins here, in the sort of person I choose to be when I go to rehearsal.

I want to reiterate that the fact that today I followed my tech director into the figurative jaws of hell (i.e., spending four hours building that I didn't want to spend building) does not mean I was forcing myself to do something I didn't want to do. Take the leader out of the picture and I don't want to build; put the leader into the picture and I do. I even had fun. No, fun isn't the right word for it. This is what the word joy was invented for. I find it is in the nature of duties to be joyous when I commit myself to them; that is one of the things that convinces me that duty is built into the fundamental workings of the universe. But it can take a leader to remind one of that fact and draw one on to the point of actually performing one's duty, and that is a very magical thing about leadership in my opinion. Leaders, by virtue of who they are, draw those around them to the point of joy. That is the sort of person I choose to be.

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