3 Theatre Skills that Became Life Lessons to Thrive by Lisa Pezik
The Edinburgh Festival Fringe, one of the greatest celebrations of arts and culture on the planet, takes place each August. With over 3,000 shows taking place across the city, there’s a great buzz and lots of excitement. We’ve reached out to artists who have or will perform in the Fringe to ask if they will share their stories. Our hope is that we can learn from each other and inspire one another to take positive steps to look after our mental health and wellbeing.
Hear from Lisa Pezik and what she learned from owning her personal experience and writing and performing a theatre piece.
In 2020, after having no background in theatre, and no experience in singing (except some late-night karaoke in my 20’s), dancing, or acting, I made the decision to write and star in a one-woman musical. As a kid, I always wanted to do theatre, but my narcissistic mom couldn’t stand the thought of me outshining her, and my persistent dad wanted me to play sports. I just wanted their love and I put my dream on the shelf.
When I turned 40, and it felt like we were going into the pit of pandemic doom, it hit me that it’s now or never. I didn’t want to get to the end of my life and wish I had more time. Call it a midlife crisis, an awakening, spirit led intervention, I decided to take my dream off the shelf. In the beginning, this process really sucked! Even though I’d been through a decade of intensive therapy, my self-sabotaging beliefs began to rear their ugly head.
“No one wants to hear your dumb story. Other people had it way worse. Really, you’re going to do this beside others who have degrees and training in performing arts?”
I wish I could say it was just the script in my head I had to worry about. My actual writing sucked. I was doing everything I could to move away from my personal story. I even tried to get playwrights to ghostwrite it and heard no after no. “It sounds like you have a powerful story to tell. Go tell it.” In hindsight that “No” was the greatest redirection.
Here’s what I learned from owning my personal experience and writing and performing a theatre piece:
Feelings can be a GPS for healing.
I grew up with the belief that certain feelings were bad and wrong and all that mattered were outside appearances. It wasn’t okay to get mad. It wasn’t okay to cry, and it certainly wasn’t okay to talk about your feelings. As a newbie artist, I was so afraid of judgment, yet I was judging my own experience and emotions.
When I had to present a scene in rehearsals and big emotions bubbled up, I knew that I needed to book a therapy session and talk about it, so I can be of service to the audience. Telling our story can be therapeutic and healing, but I believe that we need to be okay first. Then we can realize that our emotions aren’t bad or wrong, they are a GPS to tell us where to go.
Perfection is an illusion.
Perfection is unwatchable. It’s boring. That’s not how we “do life.” That was a scary concept for me as growing up I learned that love was given based on what I achieve. Every time I tried to get it right, it fell flat. I was given the homework to start rehearsing in ways that opened me up creatively. To deliver the scene as the worst actor ever, to go as fast as I can, to pretend I’m doing the play for 5-year-olds. When we give ourselves permission to be human, the realness comes out. No one that loves you expects you to be perfect. Don’t place that unrealistic expectation on yourself.
Not every story has a Hallmark or Disney ending.
Art is very subjective and narcissistic mothering is challenging. It’s hard for society to believe that a mother can be a child’s first bully, but for those of us who didn’t get nurturance, love, and protection, we may have found it in all the wrong places. After overcoming bulimia, dating men who weren’t good for me, attempting suicide, and overworking to prove my worth, forgiveness felt like the next logical step. Yet, I couldn’t get there at first. Much like grief, I don’t believe that you can put a timeline on forgiveness.
I didn’t want to write a story where they all lived happily ever after. That wasn’t my reality and that’s not the reality of many survivors of emotional and narcissistic abuse. Forgiveness didn’t come until later and I never forced myself to be okay when I wasn’t. Don’t be pressured to feel or do anything if that doesn’t feel right to you. We need validation and inclusion. That’s the power of a good theatre. It makes you think and reflect on your own life, and in the end, you can become the hero of your own story.
Too Big For Her Britches is playing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival 4-26 August 2023