Turning Pain into Art

Turning Pain into Art

Brad Pontius

As actors and artists, we operate a tad differently than muggles. It’s not that we can’t function normally, we do have day jobs and normal human things we do. In fact, it’s our job to take day-to-day normality and meld it seamlessly into a grand story for the stage. But the most human thing, I passionately believe, is that we feel emotions much more than normal people. Theatre folk get ten times more excited at something great coming into their lives, they love more passionately, they put energy into everything they do… And unfortunately, that also means that we feel heartache, loss, and despair all the more. But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing at all. In fact, one might argue that (if you read the title you know where this is going) you can actually get better art by pouring the negatives into something positive.

It isn’t easy, but then nothing worth being a part of should be. Why on earth would anyone watch a play where only positive things happen? It’s boring. Positive emotions and happiness does not make for a good story. Game of Thrones isn’t popular because people enjoy seeing the good guys win every battle, they enjoy the nuanced morally gray people in the show deal with problems… and fail, and try again if they survive. You don’t watch Les Mis because it’s a happy show about a peaceful change of government, they watch it because we want to see the struggle. Even ‘dopey’ happy musicals aren’t really all that happy. Guys and Dolls is pretty tame altogether, but it’s only interesting because the guys try to win the dolls, fail, and have to make good.

In short, the struggle is good. And you don’t know struggle unless you’ve done it yourself. And that’s rather easy because only the insanely rich ever have to go through life without a care in the world. We have breakups with people we loved more than anything. We have temper tantrums and explosions of anger or jealousy. We talk down to a lover and friends to get them to do what we want. Loved ones pass away and we are forced to deal with that grief. Or even just someone being really crappy to you on the subway that day. It doesn’t really matter the scale of what happens, but the flaws and emotions make us human. And that is gorgeous.

Whether you write shows, or you act in them, or design them, whatever part of the Theatre world you’re entrenched in… Use the pain. Use the fear. Instead of letting it defeat you, let it seep into the things you create. Let it motivate you into greater action and don’t be afraid to use the negative things in your life so you can turn them into positive outcomes.

That being said; it can be excessively dangerous. Because you can let it consume you if you aren’t careful. Unfortunately, many talented artists have lost more from going overboard with that. You have to be able to set your own boundaries when it comes to utilizing emotional turmoil. How can one do this? My personal solution is taking a step back and chatting with friends for a while. Discussing things I love to do (it’s usually Theatre). That way you can build up a sort of barrier between yourself and your art. Because eventually the pain, whatever that may mean to you in the moment, will eventually fade. Or it’ll always be a sore-spot. But until it does fade you can’t let it get the best of you.

Never let the negative overshadow the positive. Just use it while you can and work it out of your system while still striving for your ultimate goal. Get out there and make the awesome art you were meant to!

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