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I’m writing from the airport where I’m about to fly out to Milan, my home-city. I spent the last 2 weeks vacating my room in Brooklyn and selling everything I had accumulated over the last 7 years I’ve lived in New York. My friends and the incredible community of artistic collaborators I have built around me found my latest move quite jarring and definite, but I have been procrastinating goodbyes and telling everyone “oh, don t worry, I’ll be back sooner than you think”. I was so busy doing it all, but now, as I sit waiting for my flight with a glass of wine at the terminal, I cannot help but think “is New York over?”
I came to New York chasing a dream as many of my international theatre friends, and over the past 3 or 4 years I’ve grown used to waves of “Goodbye to all that”s, many of which broke my heart as I observed my international community grow thinner and thinner until 2 or 3 friends and I became the last pillars of that initial artistic ensemble of friends. The reasons are always the same: struggling with immigration papers, struggling to pay rent, struggling to find a survival job, struggling to get cast in a project. The rising price of the game (the rising price of rent as well as of the emotional burden) has got me thinking: was New York always this hard or is the dream fading out?
Is New York over? No, New York is well and better than ever. That corporate New York, the New York of Hudson Yards and the progressive Disney-fication of the city, that New York is doing really great.
But for someone whose main fantasies of the city were Jack Kerouac’s On The Road and Patti Smith’s Just Kids, a generation of carefree artists exploding with life in the backdrop of a restless city, I wonder: has that New York ever existed for my generation? The New York where artists, not banks, were still somehow the lifeblood of the city, being afforded the possibility of working one job and still make art, possessing both the luxury of time andmoney as the career moves forward ever so slowly without burning out. Has that New York ever existed for me?
New York feeds on ambition, a ruthless (and ever so wonderful) city in which nothing is ever enough, the collective common denominator being to always want more. And then our industry: an industry made of “thank you, next”s, in which everyone boogie-woogies to that eternal “you never know” beat, faithful only to that silent voice in the back of our heads that says: “maybe this time…”. Did I somehow miss that sweet spot where you get to do what you do because you are hungry for life and not because you have to get through this interminable to-do list in order to be successful?
Is a life in the arts possible without burn out? Is a life in theatre possible outside of the evergrowing inhospitable grind of big cities like New York or London?
What if we embraced the idea that rest, recovery, reflection and why not, even boredom, are an essential part of the progress towards a successful artistic life?
It's with these questions in mind that I fly out to Milan, and with the permanent bond I have with my artistic family, The Private Theatre, their support and love, I feel ecstatic and free. Together with them I will be looking into other (better and more sustainable) models to create theatre, also favoring a lifestyle more inducing to creativity. We're researching out-of-the-box solutions for producing theatre as well as looking into developmental processes that are more reflective of the global, digitally nomad and always interconnected world that excites us as an ensemble and that have been such a fundamental part of my life.
Yes, I'm a little scared, but I have found life's greatest treasures when I do what I fear. In fact I have found New York seven years ago just the same way. The Private Theatre is an adventurous group of collaborators, and we have often danced at the edge of our artistry, and as a proud member of the ensemble, I am ready to take that mission one step further. In the wonderful words of Private Theatre member Vieve Price, stay curious, certainty is overrated: I feel liberated to be, yet again, back to square one where I get to say “I don’t know” and navigate the incredible mess that makes this life so worth living.