Fourth in a series of blog posts by Apprentice Artistic Director Camilla Fitzgibbon as part of the Conseil des arts de Montréal’s DemART-Mtl program

“A theatre. Then and now. Performing a play. Rehearsing a play. Preparing to perform a play. Preparing to watch a play. A talk back after a play. An audition.”

Erin Shields’ own words for the setting for Thy Woman’s Weeds now reads as something of a chimerical existence – distant, phantasmic, wildly fanciful. What I would give to turn the dial of time to a framed moment in which I could find myself materialized once again in that world.

Alas, Tableau D’Hôte and Repercussion Theatre‘s co-production of her play’s premiere on May 20th has been postponed (as has essentially all live theatre performances across the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic) with no new dates yet set in place.

It is an uncertainty mounted on so many other future unknowns that gnaw away at me at this particular time. I am by nature a methodical planner, an obsessive analyst, and a fastidious architect of my work days and months and years, and having to shred the script of my life has left me feeling uncomfortably vulnerable to say the least.

In my mourning of the idealized unrealized, my mind suddenly flashes back to a day of workshopping Thy Woman’s Weeds. It is a January afternoon at Playwrights’ Workshop Montréal. We are exploring a potential scene in which the seven female performers are asked to silently confront the audience. The actors are unsure of what to do, but as they settle in stillness, they allow themselves to see and be seen. Unarmed with props, costumes, text, their souls lay bare. It is a breathtaking ray of memory.

The following fleeting second, I’m transported three years back to a theatre school class in which I ask my teacher, “what do I do with my hands?”. In that instant I cannot bear to just be and not do.

Next, I glimpse at 20-year-old Camila at the Sao Paulo international airport with a one-way ticket to “YUL”, blind to the road ahead.

Returning from the flickers to the present anxiety, I turn to the experts and leaders around me for answers. In the daily Zoom meetings, nobody knows either. They, too, are the most unsure and vulnerable I’ve ever seen them.

As if the usual peaks and gutters of life as an artist aren’t enough, count on unprecedented crisis to further destabilize the uncertain.

I then notice that cloud of thought, however, bears a silver lining. Could it be, perhaps, that the very volatility we fear is what will shatter our modus operandi, so that we may be better attuned to the present? If artistry can be defined as one’s capacity for imagination, could it also be that, in and from this visionless void, our creative facilities will have become more expansive? As creatures so habitually exposed to ambiguity, are we not – dare I say – essentially primed for this weathering of extraordinary bedlam?

For all of the waiting and dreaming we do in the dark, I suspect we are seasoned for unpredictability. We robustly rebuild from loss, rejection, and denial of expression. We are conditioned to resourcefully make from the little and from the nothing.

I think again of Shields’ characters in Thy Woman’s Weeds and the descriptor “resilience” comes to mind.

It is difficult to let go of the image of what today could have been – a full experience in the company of some of Montréal theatre’s most gifted creators, rehearsing for a piece that I relish with every fibre of my being. The erased opportunity is hard to grieve. But I do. I acknowledge it and allow myself to process it. And as I look forward, I continue to plan and prepare, but this time, in the readiness to let it all go.

Artists, we should know: this is not a “no”, but a “not now”. And we carry on.