ALi on [The Art of Doing Less]

ALi: Anytime the Tut’Z come together, I always seem to go through a sort of awakening. It is a time where I am not just asked to be, but am allowed to be completely vulnerable.

As we sat in our rehearsal room (I use “sat” loosely, as there is always a lot of laying down, headstands, stretching, etc.), some of us Tut’z were catching up with all the things going on in our lives. Some of us have been spending more time on relationships, on personal growth, on our careers, etc. It came to me and what I was up to and...

My current goal, in relation to “what I’m up to”, is that I’m trying to not take on anything new. For those who know me, they know this is incredibly difficult for me. I compulsively fill up any tiny space in my schedule with new projects, jobs, and endeavors. Maybe it’s because since I was a teenager, I’ve always felt one step behind everyone else, or maybe it’s because I’m insecure about often taking a less traditional life path and so I worry about what I look like to other people - regardless, I seem to find a sense of self-worth from being busy.

One of the things I really like about myself is that I like to do so many different things and I’m always eager to try something new. I thrive on change. The problem is that sometimes I get a little manic, and overload myself with what I think I should be doing (usually according to what other people think). Busywork, more school, fancier jobs - things that I think might impress people. This is the negative side of that trait. I have a hard time being patient and waiting for the right things to fill my time, inspired by my own personal interests and desires and on my own timeline. I have had ADHD my whole life, and jumping from one task to the next feels good to me. But I’ll eventually loop back around and finish everything, if I allow myself the time to do so.

So, after — graduating with the degree I decided to go back to school for, closing 2 shows, buying a car, teaching workshops, building a website, and filling my crafts room to the brim — I decided that I need to just stop. To stop and let the few things that are constant in my life fill up my extra time and space.

So far, it is still overwhelming.
I didn’t realize that the few things that I have/need are already so much. But when they are allowed to run their course on their own time, I feel way more satisfied and successful. When all I let take my time is Tut’Zanni, my husband and family, (and mayyybe my job), then I’m more able to do each of them well, and have room to grow and develop within them. I’m more present, able to listen more. I’m not frantically thinking about the next thing before I’ve even finished the first. This, of course, is best-case-scenario… because a lifetime of bad habits and coping mechanisms don’t just disappear overnight (and sometimes never do). But every time I catch myself, I try to stop and release and bring myself back to where I am.

I bring all this up, because, like probably everything in my life, it makes me think about Tut’Zanni and the work that we do. We are returning to our second show, Love Letter Lost. It was created in our second year and revisiting it we’ve realized we have outgrown its current form. We had a great foundation, but now have the skills and tools to do so much more, and that is crazy exciting!

We started with the canovaccio (an outline of plot points in the show) and quickly realized that some characters were very undeveloped, and we wanted them to feel more complete.

We had to kill some babies. Every show has moments and bits that we fall in love with, and it’s painful to let go. But once we released what the show was before, we were able to go through and find the best parts and let those grow.

When we “write” a show, what we actually write down is which characters are in the scene, and what the plot point of that scene is (ex: Isabella gives Zanni a letter to deliver). We aren’t always perfect, and a show doesn’t always build in a perfect way, so, of course, we realized what we had was a little sloppy.

In our form, we always make sure we know why a character is entering the scene, what has to happen there, and then why they are exiting. Simply being done with a conversation or having nothing else to do is not a strong enough reason. Running away from getting hit, or going to find someone, or being sent on an errand are all pretty good reasons.

We had to let go of pretty much everything else. That doesn’t mean that we won’t have favorite moments come back, but it did give us a clearer view of the structure of our story.

What I am really excited to do is to get into the meat of these scenes, and find the play in them. If all I have to worry about is 1 plot point, then I have the freedom to explore smaller moments. If I am just there to receive a letter, then how do I react to the person giving it to me? What does the letter feel like, and how do I feel about that? I can share each moment with the audience. If someone sneezes, I have the space to hand them a handkerchief. It’s amazing how just one action can make up an entire scene.

It might not look like it to someone else, but my own life and the building of this show go hand-in-hand. The more I release busywork, the more room there is to be present and enjoy where I am. I am not good at it. But it is something that I am constantly practicing, and it is only making my life and my work better.