This weekend, during the School of Dramatic Arts faculty retreat, Oliver Mayer, one of our Playwriting faculty members used a wonderful word in the context of our School’s need for a shared space.
Itinerancy (as defined by Merriam-Webster) n. A system of rotating ministers who itinerate.
Itinerate is then described as “to travel a preaching or judicial circuit.”(Crossword fans remember Iter is Latin for road, right? Well, itinerans is Latin for to travel.)
This Moebius strip of a definition seems fitting because an itinerant is always itinerating, yet the action seems defined by the iter and not what it is that the itinerant does while he/she itinerates. I would also take Merriam-Webster a bit to task for the limiting the defined parties only to the ministerial and judicial spheres, but given that the word came into being in the 1789 when those professions may have been more forward in peoples’ minds, I guess it is excusable.
As a life long member of theatre’s itinerant tribe, I feel a complete comfort and affinity with this lifestyle. In fact, Itinerancy is one of the most appealing things about a life in the theatre.
We are on the go a lot, which while tiring, perhaps, is always invigorating. I don’t mean necessarily being on the road on tour, either. I recognize that unique theatrical productions provide islands of community from which we hop to and fro. I tell anyone who will listen that “there are only 100 people who work in the theatre,” because that is what it can feel like when you find yourself in the room at a theatrical opening, or indeed, at a first rehearsal of a play. We experience warm reunions or sometimes cool nods of the head with people we may not be so pleased to see or be seen by. My life itself is not itinerant in any significant sense, but I welcome my daily work jaunts to these theatrical islands not as vacations, but as the norm.
Being itinerant requires a blend of flexibility, spontaneity and extreme planning . We theatre artists blend these into our lives and work. I talked a few posts ago about the kleptomania of theatre artists who steal anything and everything from their daily encounters for use in their current work. Well, we also find pleasure in the constant encounters happening in the intensely human interactions of rehearsals or techs. We add these feather weight talismans to our psychic suitcases like pretty travel stickers of trips gone by.
This week provided the perfect illustration of the beauty of itinerancy.
When faced with an over scheduled week, I am not relaxed, or pleased or without stress. This weekend was shaping up something like this:
Friday – 11:00-5:00PM Faculty Retreat (Hotel on the westside)
Friday 6-10PM Tech at the Bing (Shift Rehearsal)
Saturday 9:00-5:00PM Faculty Retreat (Hotel on the westside)
Saturday 6:00-10:00PM 10 out of 12’s at the Bing
Sunday 10:30AM Walk through of area needing painting at my condo
Sunday 12:00PM 10 out of 12s continue at the Bing
Sunday 4:30PM Strike Set for Summer Brave
Sunday 6:00-11:00PM Attend LA Stage Alliance Ovation Awards (Black Tie event) (San Gabriel)
This schedule with all its geographic breadth is a macro version of what we do at USC all the time – walking all over the campus to visit the spaces in which we work. Hence the use by Oliver of the word itinerancy. You have noticed that there is more than a hint of martyrdom in any good self-respecting itinerant. I or others of my tribe might list a schedule like the one above to impress with how busy we are, the subtext of which is “Look how much more I can fit than is humanly possible into my schedule.” You know the boring old cliché of human doings and not human beings? See above.
Well the beauty of my schedule was that sometime around 2:00PM today, after leaving the house ready to trudge from assignment to assignment, I was suddenly free to return home for 3 unscheduled hours! I was positively giddy.
And now, in the luxury of that unexpected island of time, I can prepare myself to attend the LA Stage Ovation Awards. It will be like stepping onto a tropical island, filled with other itinerants drawn to the sandy, sunny, and familiar shores.
Pass me the sunscreen, won’t you?