I've spent a ton of time thinking about my responsibility as an artist this week (sometimes Journalist/Filmmaker/Storyteller... you get it). I planned to write some sweet little piece about the power of art and the way well researched projects make my heart swell with happiness. And that's just it... it's sweet. Doesn't really say much about the true depth where great art can take you or what really moves me to do what I do. Great art is SO much more than well researched displays of information. It has the power to grab its audience by the scruff of the neck and say LISTEN TO ME, THIS MATTERS! And you HAVE to care about it. That's the kind of art I want to make.
Despite moving to New York in August and digging into a field I love, I've been feeling void of my creative powers. Certainly not short of ideas, but definitely the willpower to follow them through. Maybe part of it is a lack of focus or that I completely uprooted the life I'd known for six years. Doesn't matter, but I need(ed) some inspiration. The boyfriend listened and relistened then memorized the lyrics and began repeating them back at me of Hamilton, the latest Broadway hit musical. I grumbled that a show about the lamest politician of all time replaced my recent musical obsession, If/Then. But with many bus and train rides between New York and DC, I eventually caved to listening to the soundtrack for this mind boggling show.
It was just that... mind blowing. One listen wasn't enough. I'd listen to the whole 3 hour show for the first three hours of my bus ride, then immediately start it over from the beginning for the remaining two. I did this for flights, trains, busses, and car rides. The more I was on the road, the more I was mesmerized. Captivated. Not just by the bold, often callous moves of Alexander Hamilton or the cautious, yet thoughtful plans of Aaron Burr, but by the way the show went from mind to stage to movement to revolution.
I wanted to see it. After numerous attempts at the lottery (I refuse to give up) and many conversations with myself to justify a ridiculously overpriced ticket to sit in the nosebleeds, I finally got my shot tonight. Only a hour before the show started, I casually checked Ticketmaster and there was an Orchestra ticket for less than a spot in the nosebleeds. I called my sister to convince me to change my mind but she justified my decision more. And off I went.
Five minutes in I was tearing up. Thirty in, I was audibly laughing. One hour in, I decided I needed a few more eyes to pay attention to all of the details at once. Then more crying. More laughing. And obviously more applause. By the end of it, I felt like I was on an emotional roller coaster. I saw the original cast in a revolutionary show that I'd willingly tell my future nieces and nephews about to gain a few cool Aunt points. But I don't think I'd remember to tell them the most important part: I felt raw and inspired.
(My before and after the show face)
That's what great art can do. It changes the game by pushing its audience to a place of emotional realness. It can be a fascination with the character or the creator, it doesn't really matter. What matters is that living art has the opportunity to inspire change and ignite a conversation that pushes the envelope. I know I'm not special in saying the Hamilton is worth seeing. You can read about that here, here, here, here and here (putting it lightly).
This show reminded me to take chances, fall in love with an idea, and find the vulnerability in creating something worth showing. Excellence comes with patience and iteration. And it is not without criticism.
So I haven't necessarily lost my powers, I've just been playing it too safe. This show reminded me that the best art has gull. It is OPINIONATED. It calls it like it is. And it's not afraid to do so.