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Looking for the Helpers

By Victoria Plettner-Saunders

It’s been three weeks since the election and while the initial shock seems to have waned a bit, the strong emotions that have many still feeling pain, disbelief, anger and disempowerment continue. This space, the Café Notes, has been silent as I’ve tried to find the message I want to share. Thanksgiving weekend seemed the best time to craft a way to break the silence.

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Before the election I filled my workout playlist with Bruce Springsteen. The anguish and despair expressed through the songs on Born in the USA seemed to match my own. Springsteen’s storytelling through music matched the mood, Downbound Train in particular seemed to resonate.

Since the election however, I’ve found I can no longer let myself be in that despair filled space. I realized that I couldn’t let anger become my mantra.

In personal protest, I put together a workout playlist with my favorite ‘80’s dance music – my anthem is now Madonna’s Holiday and I feel some days that I could put Huey Lewis’ The Power of Love on a loop.

What’s happened internally is that I stay angry for shorter periods of time and am prompted to remember who I am and who I want to be – an optimistic, caring, warm, celebrative person.

This Thanksgiving it seemed that for many there is little to be thankful for. But I was reminded of what I am thankful for at the end of election week when I spent three weekend nights in local theatres at different performances all of which dealt with hard topics …. ripped from the NPR headlines topics like – the effects of immigration laws on family relationships, the life changing effects of combat on veterans and the destructive realities of our nation’s deeply conflicted Muslim-American relations. None of these stories had happy endings.

By the third night you’d think I’d be completely depleted but instead I felt catharsis. I was grateful every night that I work with a community of people dedicated to expressing and exploring our most difficult issues while creating safe places for their full airing and examination. Real conversations took place on stage and hard issues were dealt with honestly.

What I think many have craved is real dialogue, open honest and respected. Theatre gives us the opportunity to experience that. And I am grateful that you are my people, my tribe, my comrades and my extended family.

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We all know that Mr. Rogers tells us to “look for the helpers” – these are my helpers:

1)     Dance music that reminds me that I can be a joyful, loving, celebrative person who refuses to let other dominant voices take that away from me;

2)     Regularly experiencing the arts and creativity – dance, theatre, music, visual arts, spoken word, stand-up comedy, a good book… anything that connects me with those who express hard topics as well as the joys of being human;

3)     The knowledge that I can turn off the chatter by turning off the radio, tv or social media whenever I can’t absorb anymore;

4)     All of you who go to work everyday, doing what you do in this community to make our world a more thoughtful place; and

5)     A heartwarming cup of tea with a good book when the going really gets rough.

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Do not quit. Do not give up. Do not stop doing what you do.

Do not let the forces of despair and hatred keep you from remembering that you can choose to celebrate your ability to be joyful – even for the three-minute stretch of a pop music song.

Express yourself and give thanks.