Entries in Dramaturgy (1)

Tuesday
Feb222011

The Family Museum

Julie M. Gale:  Last fall I was one busy momma/wife/professor/all-around human being. I made my directorial debut at the college with The Collected Shorter Works of Samuel Beckett AND dragged through my first trimester of my second pregnancy. The exhaustion mixed with elation was an excellent reminder of what it feels to have a newborn. The production was like a pregnancy--lots of work, lots of effort, some tears, some unexpected surprises and a great experience for all by the opening night curtain. I wouldn't trade any day of it, even the days I literally directed the show lying across the stage with the stomach flu.

How on earth did I do it? Two recent events gave me pause to reflect. First, I was contacted by my uber talented friend Cristina Pippa to guest blog on the lovely collective How She Does It blog. I am deeply honored to join these amazing creative ladies and share my experience as a "Mamaturg."

Here's a little math:

Mama + Dramaturg=Mamaturg

Motherhood + Dramaturgy=Mamaturgy

I hope these words will one day join the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Until then, a girl can dream. You might also need a dictionary to know what a "dramaturg" is and what "dramaturgy" does. It happens often. I like how it makes me feel like a spy, doing secret work in the theatre.

Okay! Back to the original arc of the post. The second event that answers "how I do it" is this:

During a cold day last fall, my five-year-old daughter Iris arranged a collection of items on the floor. I immediately went into tired Mommy mode and exclaimed, "Iris, pick your stuff up off the floor."

Iris replied, "But Mommy, this is our museum. I can't put it away until you stop to look at it."

The child asked her frazzled, morning sick, how-am-I-going-to-finish-the-fall-semester Mommy to stop and observe. These simple objects, arranged by tiny hands, communicated our family to my daughter. The Converse sneakers and tissues belong to Daddy. The American Theatre and film books belong to Mommy. The toys, puzzles and Lite Brite patterns belong to Iris.

At the moment my daughter stopped me, I wasn't in the mood. I had a mountain of papers to grade, I'd spent half the morning lying on the bathroom floor with morning sickness, and I had rehearsal for the show in the evening. But her persuasive insistence won me over. I had to stop and look.

I asked my little curator to explain the museum. Her answer was simple, "This stuff is from everyone in our family. I wanted to see how it all looked together. It also shows we have a lot of fun."

I stared at the objects for a few minutes, gave Iris a big hug and snapped the picture. I wanted the picture to remind me "how to do it." By "it" I mean being a mother, wife and creative person. The only way I know is to put it all together, not isolate one role from the other, and let the parts inform the whole that is me. I also cannot let one of these roles diminish into the background. If I stop working on being a wife, my mothering and art suffers. If I stop working on being a professor, director and writer, I have nothing to say and I will show nothing of my life's passion to my children. If I stop mothering, how can I communicate the nurturing process that is educational theatre or the beauty of a self-donative act of love? It simply doesn't happen.

Sure, there are days where the last thing I want to do is teach a class, make a peanut butter Nutella sandwich or listen to my husband vent about a difficult day. We all have those moments. The key to helping me stay upbeat, stay sane and live my version of the good life is to remember how all of my many roles in life are a reflection of the other. There is inevitable day where I teach to a bored class on Medieval Drama, barely say "hi" and "goodnight" to my husband and make supper using the microwave. But in the end, I "did it," even if it was imperfect. And as my daughter says, "We have a lot of fun." Yup, through it all, we really do.

Julie M. Gale is a Professor of Theatre and freelance dramaturg in North Texas. She is married to PhD English student Nathan Gale. They have one daughter, Iris and one on the way this summer. Julie M. Gale can be easily persuaded with conversation about theatre, the musical stylings of Andrew Bird and Dunkin' Donuts Toasted Coconut donuts. Please visit her wee blog nobasementatthealamo.blogspot.com