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By Jane Griffith
My brain is blank and inside I’m terrified — gut-churning, head aching. I can barely sit still. I’m seeking an idea, a kernel of truth, a nugget of wisdom. My job is to lead. My job is to have the answers and the confidence. My job is to find a way to remove the obstacles and provide the resources for my team so that they can be successful.
I love my job and I hate my job. On the love side, well, I love art, I love theater. It provides a framework for understanding the world, for understanding other people. It is a way to reflect on what is beautiful and awful — what it is to be human. I love my team — they are hard-working and hilarious. Going over a balance sheet can be a conversation that devolves into bad puns and gut-busting laughter. Combining work with play is extraordinary; it serves our creativity and results in innovation. I love trimming a budget of fat. It’s a skill I first discovered as a new PTO President — you cannot justify an $800 folder budget for 300 children when those things are $0.15 a piece during the back-to-school sale at Target. Consider that budget slashed.
What do I hate about my job? Well, don’t we all sometimes? I hate math. I hate financial reports. I hate when people say they wanted to come see the show, but they just never made it (PS: you would have LOVED it).
So where do I go from here? I figure it out. That’s my job. I think we all have those times when we just tap dance so long that we eventually figure out the steps. We get through each day, dodging disasters and relishing those wins.
We are all seeking those moments, those tasks, when we feel competent and valuable. I want to matter. I’m seeking a way to make an impact on the world. I suspect you might be, too. I’ve tried a lot of things. I’ve been a corporate thinker, developing strategies for change. I’ve driven through a white-out delivering food to a school full of children. I’ve hawked auction items to grow schools and homeless shelters. I’ve played tug-of-war with a 500-pound gorilla (yep, I’m talking about an actual gorilla) over a spoon of honey. And, lately, I lead a team of superheroes who are building a world-class professional nonprofit theater right here in Ann Arbor.
I am the Executive Director of Kickshaw Theatre. I remember our inaugural show, The Electric Baby by Stefanie Zadravec, with a bit of reverence. It was an ideal example of the power of live theater. At the end of the performance, the audience would stream out in complete silence. The first night, my heart stopped for a moment. “Ugh! They hated it,” I thought, nausea rising. Then I looked closer. They weren’t just silent, most of them were crying. People loved it. It was true and raw and beautiful. It mattered.
Every time we produce a show, I’m on the edge of my seat. Will people like it? Will it sell? I’m lucky because our artists, designers, and actors are really good. I mean, really good. If you can make me cry just by reading the play aloud at a kitchen table, with no costumes, props, or set, you are really, really good. But will people come to see it? We never know.
From now until October 7 my senses will be heightened, my breathing a little faster as the adrenaline of launching a new play rushes through my body. This play, Milvotchkee, Visconsin by Laura Jacqmin, is everything. It is honest and funny and distressing and moving. It is told from the perspective of a woman living with dementia. Everything we see and hear is what she sees and hears. It will open eyes and hearts and souls. I love this play. Bringing it to the stage has taken years because it has a big cast, therefore a big budget. Raising money is hard. But we’re making it happen. It will matter. Will you see it?
Kickshaw Theater is Ann Arbor’s only 501(c)(3) professional theater which works under contract with the Actors’ Equity Association, the union of professional actors and stage managers. Kickshaw has been popping up around Ann Arbor since 2015.
Thanks to the generous support of Glacier Hills and Huron Woods Senior Living Communities and Saint Joseph Mercy Health System, Kickshaw will bring Milvotchkee, Visconsin by Laura Jacqmin to the Interfaith Center for Spiritual Growth, 704 Airport Blvd, Ann Arbor, MI 48108 Thursdays through Sundays, September 13 – October 7, 2018. Tickets and more information can be found at www.kickshawtheatre.org
Kickshaw is honored by and grateful for the following organizations for their expert insights and education, which helped to shape this production: the Alzheimer’s Association (Michigan Great Lakes Chapter), the Michigan Alzheimer’s Disease Center, Turner Senior Resource Center, Silver Club Memory Programs at the University of Michigan Geriatrics Center and Institute for Gerontology, and Ypsilanti Senior Center.