The Blog of a Theatre Artist

  • by Arron E Smaller

They say that “when one door closes, another door opens.” As a theatre artist, I have to say this is not the case. When doors close, they close. For months now I have seen show after show get cancelled or postponed. With this comes overwhelming feelings of disappointment and despair.

What am I to do? What will I do? How will I survive? These are the questions we face as an artist in the theatre when all the doors are closed. We worry, we fear, and like the roles on stage, we put on a strong face. We push forward and hide the feeling we feel, bottling them in.

The lifestyle of a theatre artist is fast. We learn our audition pieces for our next audition within days. We stay home to learn our lines for the show within weeks so we can focus on the direction and choreography. We practice our music to strive to achieve the golden tone and timing of the piece, just to hear the thunderous applause at the end of the journey.

Right now, the journey we face is not there. We are all ships lost on a map with no end voyage, no applause, no feeling of accomplishment. Struggling to keep focused on our current situations.

I was born on July 8, 1973 in a small town, well back than it was, in England. The grey skies, the rain, the drizzle and lack of sunshine can really affect you domineer. Eventually we moved to Ontario and the symptoms still showed their ugly faces in my head. For years I battled with myself thinking things will get better, it’s only a phase. I was wrong. I started to see my friends and family smile and find happiness in little things, where I found frustration and anger. I saw family and friends grow up start families of their own, where I found isolation and loneliness. I found being in large groups I would get extremely panicky and moody. I found when people would yell at me I would be fixated on it for weeks, months, or in one case my life time. Can I forget the argument? Yes I can and have, but the words echo within my head from time to time reminding me of how the person hurt me. Silly, right? When I am best friends with this person. We don’t ever fight anymore and we are as close as peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but the way my mind works reminds me, always. I started to think what is it that makes me happy. What do I enjoy doing? This “phase” has to stop. I found art, painting, singing, dancing and the theatre. I found it came very easy to me. I could remember lines, the dance steps, and songs faster than most and I knew I could challenge myself with different things and roles and the audience would love it. The sound of the audience’s laughter as I acted on stage, hearing people cry when I was crying onstage. and the applause made me feel like I accomplished something good. All of these sounds washed over me like a feeling I have never felt before. I remember feeling what I believe is true happiness. I felt loved and felt I did something great. It was short lived, though. The show was over as it came to an end after a 15 week run.

Cue the grey clouds and self hate of worthlessness.

At first I didn’t put one plus one together thinking is was the theatre that made me happy. A few months went by and a director reached out to tell me that one of their cast members passed away and they need to find a replacement fast as they opened in 5 days. I told them I would be right there. Oh the stress of learning the show in 5 days. What I thinking? I wasn’t. I just knew I needed to help. I did what I had to do to learn the songs and the few spoken lines to blend in with the cast in two and a half days. Day three I showed up and we ran the show. I was off book and knew my blocking, and they all applauded at the end of that rehearsal. That feeling was back! I did something good, and hit the points of the show without a problem. Then, the show came to an end after a 3 week run.

Cue the grey clouds and self hate of worthlessness.

Six months after that show I was invited to audition for another show. It was then I knew my place, but after every show;

Cue the grey clouds and self hate of worthlessness.

For years and years I went from show to show, not allowing time to go between. At one point I did twenty-two gigs in a two year period, from full on musicals, working fairs and Pride. Working special events as and announcer and working on my own personal theatre business. Then, we shut dow.

Cue the grey clouds and self hate of worthlessness.

Covid-19 brought a lot of old feelings and things in my mind that make me believe I am not good enough. The lockdowns have made me feel like I did when I was a kid; alone, unworthy of anything. There are days where I feel  like I don’t even want to get out of bed as there is nothing for me to do. There is no laughter, there is no applauses. There is only crying, alone. The deep feeling that I don’t belong in this world and I should only be stuck in one place. Not seeing people, not going out, not good enough to smile. Then again, I know I am older than when I first felt like this and am rational and stop, breathe and think. I know what I need to do from lights and meditation to make this think fog into a mist of grey. I keep myself busy with painting and working with polymer clay to create things.

I know the world will heal. We will re-open. I just hope when we re-open people with understand I have been alone and will take a little to re-open to them. The lockdown is just as bad as the hurt. I know I will be okay, but it does hurt to be alone. It hurts to not feel interaction and it hurts to breathe at times.  

I know that the theatre is going to be the last to reopen. With people sitting so close to each other, I know this. However, the way my mind works tell me it will be last open because I don’t deserve to be happy. My minds finds ways to keep bringing me down, make me feel unworthy, and always reminds me I am useless. That is my mind, but I know in my heart none of that is true. I know who I am. I fight to keep strong and I will fight to see my friends. Most of all, I will fight to hear all those magical sounds I long for once again.

Arron E Smaller started his career in local theatre. Now, the award winning Arron E Smaller has had over 35 years in the theatre industry. He brings new and edgy concepts to classic productions while focusing on today’s issues in society. 

Arron feels he can unite people with art, song and shows. Allowing them, the watchers, to be whisked away to a new land and forget about reality and daily stresses for a few hours.

His passion for theatre arts ranges from performing, directing, singing, choreography on stage, to the heavy lifting back stage with the crew, assistant stage manager and stage managing. He feels to be good at something you must learn all sides of the stage to try to understand the mechanics of how a show must run to have a flawless production. 

“It’s time to trust my instincts, close my eyes, and leap!” – Wicked