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Serenity Now

September 2, 2013

As a recovering alcoholic — though one who is decidedly agnostic about 12-step programs — I am very familiar with the Serenity Prayer. And though I am equally skeptical about religion, even some atheist friends agree with me that those 26 words attributed to theologian Reinhold Neibuhr may be the closest the human race has ever come to a recipe for happiness:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

In addition to being a former drinker, I am also a former (and still occasional) control freak, and following that very simple formula has always proven difficult. But since entering the world of theater, I have found it not only helpful but essential.

Theater is by nature collaborative, and we each strive to do our own best work at any moment in each production. But we are human. We may fail to achieve our best, or have an off day, or succumb to the intense emotional stress of a production with a meltdown. And, in working with people with very different levels of experience (as I discussed in my last post), our best at any given moment may be far above or far below the best of our scene partners.

And sometimes, we’ll work with people who just suck — not because they are inexperienced or having a tough time, but because they have a bad attitude or refuse to do the job they have been selected to do.

There is nothing we can do about that.

We can do our own best work. We can aid our artistic collaborators in doing their own best work, and in coping with the challenges. But we cannot change the things we cannot change.

Coming off a very satisfying but very challenging production, I learned this clearly. Stressing out over that which I was unable to change would have only frustrated me, exacerbated the problems, and turned a positive if difficult experience into an entirely negative one. I refused to do that, as did my fellow actors. And in the end, we created something beautiful — because we had the wisdom to know the difference.

Peter Sig

One Comment leave one →
  1. September 22, 2013 9:49 am

    This is a great post. Whether or not that mantra is the recipe for life happiness, I can’t say for sure, but it’s *definitely* the recipe for happiness in a life in the theatre! 🙂

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