The Courage to Change

by Evan Tsitsias

in Global Citizenship

Post image for The Courage to Change

(Photo: Interrupted, devised as part of the World Wide Lab, Tom Henning photographer. This post is part of the Canadian theatre salon curated by Chantal Bilodeau for the World Theatre Day 2014/Crossing Borders salon series.)

I am a firm believer in serendipity.  This opportunity to share my thoughts about crossing borders could not have come at a more cosmically-charged time in my life.  I’ve been living in the States for almost a year now and it has been a process of immense and unexpected transformation, both personally and professionally.

My story is not unlike the millions of stories you’ve already heard.  With my green card firmly in hand, I valiantly crossed the border from my native Canada to New York with all the proverbial expectations of awakenings and metamorphosis you’d imagine.  I had dreamed of living here my entire life, fueled by films I’d obsessed over in my youth and now here I was…validated, calibrated and hungry to create a new landscape for my life in the USA.  The only caveat was that I was now the writer of my own narrative.  Scary. What I wasn’t expecting was to feel patriotism for Canada I had not felt until the second they stamped my passport and I was officially welcomed as an American permanent resident.  Holy crap.  Now what?

I was fortunate to have a project in which to immerse myself upon my arrival in NY, which afforded me the luxury of a smooth transition.  Over the last few years, I have been working with an international group of directors called the World Wide Lab based in NY.  Our mandate is crossing our own theatrical borders.  We force ourselves to collaborate with our collective of directors from across the globe, whose techniques are often polar opposite from our own.  The results vary, but they are always surprising and inspiring. This has been a perfect tool to help with this momentous transition in my life.

evan 2(The Blind, devised as part of the World Wide Lab, Tom Henning photographer.)

However, once that project was over and the inertia of the move dissipated, I was left with this “feeling.” Horrible word I know, but it was a definite “feeling.”  It began as a tap on my shoulder and eventually hijacked my every thought.  It was fear.  It had begun its surreptitious crawl into my psyche and a smack-down, full-on confrontation was my only option if I expected to get any work done.  I know now that my fear stemmed from a seed of self-doubt.  What did I have to offer to the theatrical ecology of another country that hasn’t already been explored by thousands before me?  What did I have to say?  Why would anyone care?  Why did I leave the security of my homeland to sail such unchartered waters and drown in a sea of uncertainty?  It took Herculean courage and strength to wrestle these thoughts out of my mind.  I’m still working on it.  But even as cliché as this may sound… I walk the High Line or Central Park, I write in Bryant Park or at Bethesda Fountain, I watch the most phenomenal theatre – these are moments of transcendence for me, reminders of what I wanted.  These are the moments when the borders get thinner and the gap between my old and new life begins to vanish.  I am a different person here in the States.  I have to be.  New perspectives and experiences color my work and widen my lens.  All my senses are heightened here.  It’s exhilarating and terrifying but I think, necessary.

I never knew that crossing a physical border would instigate such a tumultuous reaction within myself.  Demons that lay dormant for so long were resurrected and they were ravenous.  A fire has been sparked.  Crossing borders requires learning a new set of codes and examining the world you live in in a new way.  This has had a huge impact on my work.  You move from romanticizing life in a foreign land to reminiscing about the beauty of your old life in a flash.  Whether or not this makes things more relevant in my work is still to be determined.  I have to constantly remind myself why I began this journey in the first place.  Change.

There is an inherent danger in change.  Something I am still learning to embrace.  Change elicits fear but I don’t want fear to govern me.  I want to find a way to negotiate with it and use it as fuel for progress.  I have realized that crossing borders allows for this change.  Change provides us with opportunity and opportunity is what I was looking for in the first place.  An opportunity TO change.  Something I’ve realized has been a constant theme in all my writing.  I find tremendous comfort in this realization.  My stories are changing because my environment has changed.

Change is terrifying.  But lack of change is lethal.

evan tsitiasA native Torontonian, Evan’s plays include Aftershock, Strange Mary Strange, The Murmuration of Starlings and Unstuck.  He wrote/produced the short film BAGGED (CBC/DC Shorts/ WIFT).  In Germany he co-created/co-wrote I am Invisible with Bluespots Productions and Berlin Bound with Sisyphos, Der Flugelefant.  He has been nominated for the John Hirsch Directing Prize, Broadway World Awards and the Tom Hendry Award.  He is a founding member of the World Wide Lab in NY, a member of the Tarragon Playwrights Unit, the Lincoln Center Theater Directors Lab, Chicago Directors Lab and Artistic Director/Co-Founder of Directors Lab North.