My Secret Sabbatical

My Secret/Accidental Sabbatical.
Or the busiest and most productive year of my life.

At the age of 16 I stumbled on acting and theatre at college, almost overnight I knew I’d found my career path. Over the preceding 14 years I finished college, delved into the local theatre scene, attended two drama schools and founded or helped in the establishing of several theatre or production companies. I have been privileged to work alongside the fiercely talented and hardworking and to travel across the world.

Between 2011 and 2013 I worked on some of the most inspiring and well put together projects I’ve ever been involved with. From telling the incredible story of a recently discovered artistic genius to the tragedy of the millions lost in the holocaust to the hopelessness of a young man who has had the worst start in life and can’t get away from it. From schools to art galleries to big city theatres.
Just over a year ago the curtain came down on one of the most ambitious; the community production of ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’. As the director I implemented what is usually my main focus: to endeavour to bring out the best in the performers on stage.
It was a huge success in terms of how exciting and enjoyable the show was but also the audience numbers and reaction. Also, wonderfully, there were several of us who ended up in employment as a direct result of working in the team.

12 months ago, not unusually for those running a business or working freelance, I turned a corner and hit a wall. Sometimes you are prepared for this, sometimes not. Sometimes you leap straight over it, sometimes not. And sometimes the wall reveals alternative pathways that you didn’t previously realise where there.

I’d like to tell you about my wall and reasons why I decided to stop climbing it.
It is a very impressive and imposing wall, it is strong, durable and full of experience and history. A lot of love and turmoil has gone into it’s construction. But climbing this wall comes at a heavy cost, one which I was no longer able to afford. On occasion, when you gaze up at the wall you see someone at the top, waiting for you. This person is there to ask you to justify what gives you or anyone else the right to even attempt to climb this wall.
So having climbed the wall, defended my honour and then found my way down the other side I have given too much of myself, there is very little left. All of that passion, strength and ambition that went into the climb, defence and descent are now spent and only shadows and scraps remain. So reserves have to be used up, reserves that really should be used for the next climb, which means when the next climb comes the reserves get lower and lower.
So 12 months ago, unbeknown to me at the time, I began a ‘secret’ or ‘accidental’ Sabbatical, of sorts, from theatre.
I have been involved in some theatre and very creative projects for young people at various points in the year but the day-to-day obsession has rested.

It is no secret that drama is down at the bottom of the educational pile.
I see everyday how important drama is to our lives. So many problems could be avoided (or embraced) if the parties involved could communicate with each other or were more aware of those around them. A frustrating thing is that these are some of the very basic and common principles covered with any half decent drama training even for very young age groups.

In 12 months I moved house, took a show to the Lowry Theatre, directed a big community production, got married and became a father for the first time. I realised that all my creative work was focused on trying to help people and be a positive influence on the community. I also had to survive and help my family thrive.
So my sights refocused. I wanted to go in at what I saw as some sort of ‘ground level’ or ‘foundation’ of this stubborn wall. I want to learn how to build and demolish such walls, not just have to succumb to their every whim, and so give more space for those within their confines.
I feel that my experiences and skills can be utilised and of use in educational environments and institutions, rather than for a select few in a theatre for example. Too many are being deprived of so much and I am in a position where I can go in and offer something, hopefully a lot.
Jamie Oliver said that he went in to schools because he wanted to use his skills to help make the world better for his children when they grow up. Well I feel the same and the journey of how to do as much as I can in the hours that each day provides has now begun.
Thank you for listening.
Tom

3 thoughts on “My Secret Sabbatical

  1. I am so proud to know you Tom. This is an amazing piece. I just know there will be young people out there whose lives will change (have changed) because they have had contact with you. I will cheer at the sidelines as you start on the next stage.

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