28 December 2016
The following is a love letter to theatre from Athena Hagen.
Athena Hagen is a multidisciplinary artfag, teaching artist, and craftsperson based in Tucson, Arizona.
Hagen has worked extensively within the realm of professional stagecraft, theatre education, and alternative and street theatre from a very early age. Her costumes, masks, wigs and makeup designs have been worn on the stages of the Arizona Theatre Company, Geva Theatre Center, and Tucson’s annual All Souls Procession finale ceremony.
Her current focus is the development of several workshops which use simple, familiar means to explore themes of consent culture, personal and societal transformation, and grief. Check out her homepage to see more of her work.
A Letter to my First Love…
I know that you and I have been going through a rough patch lately… but I’ve done a lot of soul-searching and I need to tell you: I Fucking Love You, Theatre — Dearly, deeply and completely, from the bottom of my heart.
The truth is I’ve been madly in love with you since the day we met. I was just a baby girl then, two years old; full of piss n’ vinegar and Reagan cheese. I was a wild-thing, a force of nature, a screaming little night owl and I knew, from the very first moment I saw you, that we were meant to be together.
I was so comfortable in my skin in those days and it was because of you. You gave me outlet for my energy and a focus for my fervency. You gave me a home and a place and a voice. You didn’t judge me for wanting to shout and sing and run naked in the streets. Where others looked askance and clucked their disapproval, you valued my eccentricity and took pride in all my strength and strangeness. You claimed me as your own; you nurtured me and nourished me and allowed me to grow, protected yet unfettered.
You made me laugh and let me cry. You taught me to think for myself and gave me the tools to explore and express my thoughts and emotions. You taught me empathy and trust and respect and the complex beauty of language. From you, I learned the meanings of big words and the power of small words and the flavor of four-letter-words and the vast vocabulary of a beat of silence.
You taught me what love was and all the shapes it could take. Before I ever fell for a man or a woman, Theatre, I was head-over-heels for you.
I lived for you and through you, and you lived and moved in me.
Over the years we stayed close, though at times, I forgot some of your lessons and became preoccupied with other things. You introduced me to your kinfolk: Music, Dance, and Spoken-Word, Circus, Film, and Drag, Puppetry, and Opera. I was enamored of them, also, and had other little flings and crushes… on boys and Massage and girls and Cooking. I liked them all well enough, Theatre, but I kept finding my way back to you…
And then, just when I was ready to devote my life to you, just when I thought you and I were about to “get serious,” I started hearing rumors. I met men and women who’d dedicated decades to you and the things they told me made me very sad. They talked about you like you were a sponge and they treated my deep passion like it was merely puppy-love. “It’s cute that you’re so excited, kid, but you’ll see soon enough,” they’d say.
Still, they shared your secrets with me and told me stories of good times you’d shared… and I was truly grateful to them. But somehow, there was always this hint of disillusionment and I was afraid to talk of my love for you, lest I should appear naïve or foolish.
I knew you couldn’t be as bad as they made you out to be. I tried to keep the faith, Theatre. “They just don’t know you like I know you.” I was determined to love you all the more, just to prove them wrong. I redoubled my efforts. I became obsessed. I hardly ate or slept and, when I did, I dreamt of you.
And when I’d get discouraged or vent my frustration, they’d say, “Oh, suck it up. You knew what you were getting into.” “ What were you expecting, kid?” “It’s hard, draining work just like any relationship.” “Be glad Theatre puts food on the table and allows you to show off once in a while. At least you’re not stuck with Walmart.” When I’d get burnt out or work myself to tears I’d hear, “Don’t kill yourself, kid. It’s not worth it. You can leave any time you want and the good news is: Theatre will just go on without you.”
I became heartsick and weary. I turned into a killjoy, a naysayer, a curmudgeon. If I felt exploited, I lashed out at those around me. Or, I awarded myself a little martyr merit-badge every time I held my tongue. I grew sour and cynical and smug; I ridiculed the enthusiastic and gritted my teeth and dubbed it “professionalism” and “loyalty.”
Yet, however much I questioned my devotion, I could not bear the thought of leaving you. I decided the best way to avoid getting hurt was to just stop caring altogether. I looked for other loves to soothe and amuse me. I engaged in passionate affairs with Painting and Jewelry but they did not make me happy the same way you once had.
Finally, I was too heartbroken and too miserable; I realized I could not keep it up any longer and I needed to take some time away…
I’m back now… and I’ve missed you, Theatre. And, now that I’ve had this time to reflect, I’ve come to see that it wasn’t you at all… You are as good and as worthy as you have ever been.
I should never have listened to the complainers and mud-slingers. They took you for granted and treated you like a burden and a meal-ticket. It wasn’t your fault they were bitter. It wasn’t your fault they were unhappy. They spoke ill of you because they’d forgotten themselves. They scoffed at our love because they didn’t understand it. Perhaps they were only jealous. And yet I do not blame them, either.
I’m sorry I lost my faith in you, Theatre; I know it was no one’s fault but my own.
You were, and always will be, my first true love. You’ve been there with me through good times and hard times. You and your kin and your other lovers raised me. You gave me a warm place to grow and a window to the wider universe. You continue to challenge me and teach me and inspire me, Theatre. Ours is the most fulfilling, most over-arching, and all-encompassing love I have ever known. I do not intend to take that for granted anymore. I promise to never again deny my feelings. I’m prepared to commit now; to give this thing a proper go; to keep up my end of the bargain. I’m ready to give this partnership the passion and energy and respect it deserves.
You know I’m not one for monogamy, Theatre. I can’t be the only girl in your life and I don’t intend to give up the good thing I’ve got going with Painting, Jewelry and others. I know that for this love to be sustainable and rewarding, it must be open and fluid and powered by the infinitely renewable energies of trust and vision.
I don’t want to “keep you to myself” or “settle down.” In fact, I promise to share you with everyone I meet! I want everyone to see how beautiful and inspiring and amazing you are! I promise to teach newcomers to fall in love with you, just as I did and to help those jaded old-timers fall in love all over again.
I know we can make magic if we go all-in and all-out and we’re all in it together. We can sustain one another and we can help each other thrive. We can keep each other young and endlessly evolving. We can promote compassion and incite transformation and bring vibrancy and poignancy and soulfulness to people’s lives! And doesn’t that sound good, Theatre baby? Doesn’t that sound like exactly what each of us needs? Like something the world needs right now and on into the future? Doesn’t that sound like what both of us were put on this earth to do?
Let’s stop fighting fate, Theatre my love! Time is a wastin’ and there are stories that need telling, brain-children that need birthing and seeds that need your fertile ground! I love you, I love you, I love you, as I have and will, always.
Athena (AKA Valhalla Toadplant)
30 November 2016
Introducing SlashnBurn’s new Visual and Performance Arts Editor, and play-date organizer, Kate Meyer. To learn more about Kate, check our staff page. The following is what Kate is looking for from arts submissions:
“In looking for works to publish, I am inspired by pieces/concepts that draw in the audience through fine or performing arts that involve or incorporate the community on a participatory level. Be that through a lengthy process that relies on the inclusion of partners or public displays that are planned as a junction to draw people in or some other procedure, I am attracted to works that give those outside the piece/artist a way to interact, be included, and/or have an active roll in production.”
Following is a sampling of Kate’s art, from her performance installation, “Jane Doe.”
“”Jane Doe” was produced for the Hey Baby! Art Against Sexual Violence pop up gallery. Cathartic and therapeutic in execution and a release of old and new trauma, tension, and tight rope walking. It was a way to fully express and expel the rage, sadness, desperation, and degradation of being manipulated, twisted, and held down; created to evoke and awaken all the missed opportunities of the past, present, and future to speak up or defend myself against attacks be they physical, emotional, or psychological.”
The following series of photographs are from Kate’s performance, Clownette:
“Clownette is the Id incarnate. She is impulsive and almost childlike in pure and simple pleasure seeking. She is a master at negotiating social constructs and always gets her way through her charms and charisma. While she also has her dark moments, and feels deeply the broad and vast spectrum of emotions in every interaction, she is also a fire cracker a spit fire and a joy.”
Following is a selection of Kate’s visual art: