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Summer, Post-Conservatory

In May, along with three other collaborators on Panic Everthing’s Fine, I completed the SITI Company Conservatory. It consisted of eight months of training in Suzuki and Viewpoints, as well as weekly compositions, scene study, and movement classes. I’d usually get to the studio around 9:00am and would often stay until around 10:00pm.  I left each day absolutely exhausted, and while I never wanted to wish the experience away, I was in perpetual need of a break. My body was in constant pain—I never was much of a mover before moving to New York.

Now, suffering from August’s version of seasonal affective disorder and a strong desire to quit my day job, I miss the caffeinated mornings and frustratingly long evenings of rehearsal. I’ve got rehearsal from time to time, but now feel like I never have enough time in the studio. Never enough time to work on my technique or memorize text. I’ve often worked through this summer, mostly in theater bars, with a feeling of melancholy. This was a feeling I rarely had while 100% of my time was occupied with theater.

I don’t necessarily miss the way I felt on a daily basis (although there is a certain satisfaction in feeling the effects of your work in your body). But, I have found post-conservatory life difficult because without its structure I must renew my commitment as an artist every day, of my own volition. The ephemeral quality of theater, perhaps its most unique and beautiful feature, also contributes to the angst of the theater-maker. As theater artists, we must move from one project to another. In between, a good deal of us need to work jobs that have very little to do with our passion in order to make rent. While in the conservatory, I had little time for doubt, or for working on much other than my craft. Without its structure, I’ve found old worries returning.

The moments I’ve been reminded of my commitment to this craft often involve interactions with other artists bearing similar burdens. My partner Audrey, a writer and theater-maker herself, and I chat about these concerns frequently. She serves as both a mirror and a reminder that others share my passion. In addition, the other artists working on Panic have held me accountable and give me a tangible reason to show up in the studio every day. Without them, I would have felt even more adrift this post-conservatory summer. My friends are a boundless source of inspiration and renewed commitment.

My work with In the Water has furthered my belief in the benefits of a theater company. Getting to join them for my first project out of the conservatory has helped me grow a community with shared history, and given me work to hold onto in this otherwise uncertain time. Furthermore, because we have this shared experience, the creative process has been smoother than it would be with a brand new cast.

While discrete projects in the theater must come to an end, having ongoing artistic relationships can provide some solace when tending bar in between projects. I’m forever grateful to the In the Water community for keeping me focused on the work when my mind has wanted to wander.

Dante Belletti


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