365 And Doing Fine: An Artist Reflects #8

I’ve only physically seen Ardith once this year, but she’s been an integral part of my life for some time now. We met at my audition for Goodnight Desdemona, and we kept in contact after it was over. Since October of 2020, she’s been my mentor as part of the Creative Manitoba Youth Mentorship program, and she’s also been a very dear friend. I’m always looking forward to our video chats, impromptu messages that we exchange throughout the day, and I’m always on the lookout for more shows we can watch separately-but-together.

With the end of April came the official end of our mentorship. At the beginning, we intended to focus on the business of theatre and arts administration. But as we all know, plans tend to spiral and evolve as time goes by. While I did learn a lot about business and administration, our mentorship ended up encompassing so much more.

This year was not without its surprises. But one of the biggest, the one that directly affected our mentorship, was that I was invited to have my play read at Red Betty Theatre’s inaugural Decolonize Your Ears Festival in June of this year. It was a national call, and of everyone in Canada who responded, they selected three IBPOC playwrights to develop their plays. I was excited and scared when I got the offer, and I immediately brought it to Ardith at our next meeting. I was worried I was taking on way too much – how would I focus on writing with such tight deadlines, on our mentorship, and still also manage to do all the other projects I had going on?

I brought my surprise to the table, and Ardith had one of her own. She decided, if I wanted, we could pivot our mentorship to accommodate my new venture with Red Betty Theatre. She, along with Theatre Projects Manitoba, would support me as a playwright and mentor me with the development of my first play. She would challenge me to see this process also through a directors lens, a producers lens, and an artistic directors lens. She would give me resources so I could explore this process artistically and administratively, all while giving me the freedom to keep throwing wrenches into our mentorship. And I certainly did. She gave me all the space I needed, and I will forever be grateful to her.

I learned many things from Ardith. But perhaps the biggest lesson of all that she taught me (other than what a draft is, what a dramaturg is and how to pronounce it, and how to write a budget), that I will forever take with me as I continue my career, is… I don’t need to have all the answers. I can leave myself open to see where my creativity leads me. As I was going through the drafting process of my play, I thought I needed to have all of the answers that people were asking me. I thought that every single draft I wrote needed to be shiny and pristine. But I know now, that is not the case. Instead of presenting a perfectly polished piece, I could work through the rough patches. I could leave things messy, I could tell people that I didn’t know the answer to their questions and then reflect on them later. I could completely change my mind with how to approach this piece and how I’ve written it. Understanding that imperfection is such a crucial part of the creative process changed me for the better. It gave me peace of mind, more realistic expectations and ultimately, a piece that I am much more proud of than I was before.

Through creative struggles, navigating through newfound artistic hurdles, criticism, heartache, heartbreak, victories, fears, and not knowing how to budget anything… Ardith has been there for me. Artistically, personally… And as we finish this mentorship and I take the next steps in my career, I can confidently say that I am a much stronger artist than I was. I am braver, I am smarter, and perhaps for the first time this Imposter Syndrome is finally going away. In large part because of Ardith, and what we’ve managed to accomplish together.

Thank you, Ardith. You are wonderful. I’m waiting for the next time we see each other to bug you for selfies so we can send them to Dora. But realistically, I think I’ll be way too overjoyed to see you to even think about it.

Oh, but that’s not the end, everyone. Ardith isn’t finished with me yet. (Her words. I love her.) We’ve still got the actual ride to the festival, the rest of this blog series, and the continuation of conversations about art and theatre. Some days, theatre is amazing. Some days it ducking sucks. And some days it’s a mixture of both. What remains constant, however, is the conversation. Even though our mentorship is officially over, the conversation isn’t going to end. Who knows what’ll be in store for you next, readers? That’s something we’re excited to figure out.

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