Workshopping Reality

an empty wooden chair in a spotlight on an empty stage

Sitting in a circle at the end of a very intense 10-day workshop, our yoda-in-residence offered one final, very intriguing insight. Short–not Yoda short–big fluffy white Santa beard, and a gentle, non-threatening midwestern demeanor all conspired to hide his deep intellect and vast well of creative experience. In other words, he didn’t look the part of theatrical genius at all. Actually, thank fucking god. I’ve seen enough black turtlenecks for one lifetime. We’ll get to the epiphany. But first, a little bit of “previously on” to set the stage.

The mid-aughts. NYC. A group of hopeful and fiercely talented writers and composers have gathered to hone their craft by writing songs and musical scenes in ridiculously short time frames. If you’re thinking this is a reality TV setup, you’re not wrong–it had all the makings.

That was now some time ago and many details have faded–but not all. For instance, I wrote a kick-ass song in less than two days and for the first time experienced a real sense of accomplishment and possibility. Two, we leared real collaboration is fucking hard. I’ve never been married–or really even dated. (Darling, aromantic is a thing. Google it.) I can’t compare it to that, can’t really compare it to anything. So I won’t. It’s fucking hard. If it’s not fucking hard, you’re not doing it right. The image offered during the workshop was of a tug-o-war where only one side is pulling. Don’t shy away from the tension, discomfort, disagreement. Lean into it, learn from it, deal with it–and then get shit done. Clock is ticking! Oh yeah, and there will be glorious moments when the scales fall from your eyes, you see the whole vista, and realize that the shit strewn on the road up the mountain is totally worth every stinky moment.

But we’re still not at the yodarific nugget I dangled in front of you. That came at the very end, after the work was done, the songs performed. We were doing a kind of debrief and farewell.

Someone (fuck, was it me?) made a comment about having to go back to the “real world.” Ben (aka Yoda) stopped us in that moment and countered my sigh of desperation with a bit of reframing. The workshop, the 10 ball-busting days of glorious creativity and raucous collaborations, is actually the really real world. Everything that’s not burning hot like that hothouse, not pushing and pulling to reshape us into our most glorious selves, not utterly committed and vulnerable, is the mistake, the fake, the loss, the near miss.

Our mission, should we choose to accept, was to go out and start fixing it. Grab on to what we learned and created there and burst forth, taking ass and kicking names. Bends reality to our will and make it look like the workshop, like something you’d actually want to be a part of. You’ll have to collaborate, and that’s really fucking hard. But that beautiful Workshop Reality™️ we want to make is a group effort. It’s not worth a damn if it’s not the best and most courageous, most exquisitely beautiful and terrifying challenge for every last damn one of us. Leave no one behind.

Cover photo: Allec Gomes via Unsplash

Published by Edward Ficklin

Edward Ficklin (he/him), maverick artist not afraid to say gay, is a self-taught painter, writer, publisher and sometimes technologist. He creates sensuous and erotically-tinged queer surrealist art, publishes queer-centered sci-fi comix, and pontificates regularly on a range of topics in his Queer Quantum Dispatch newsletter.

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