What Enneagram 7 Actors Do During a Pandemic

What’s the path forward for a theater company? A traveling theater company? A standing non-profit theater serving a small city? A moderately sized theater company employing 15 actors, director, designers? Broadway houses? A one woman vaudeville style traveling clown and puppet show? All of these questions have a similar answer. Hell if I know. 

In the last couple of weeks, in response to months of cancelizations,  I have pivoted from touring for the foreseeable future toward creating a new project with partner Michelle Milne, co-actor in Ted and Company’s We Own This Now.  We had been talking about the Enneagram for a couple of years while on the road with hosts, and also with friends and family members. It’s a fascinating, complicated, almost endless path in the attempt to understand ourselves and those we encounter in work, home, and social circles. Fascinating and complicated—yeah, like us.  A year and a half ago Michelle asked, “Why don’t we write a show about this?” What a spectacular idea, Michelle. Since the fall of 2018, we have tried to find the concentrated time to read, converse, network, read, talk, laugh, shout, despair, read, soar, agonize, and write. You know, create a show.

And now here we are, in a “forced sabbatical” from touring and time on our hands.

My point in this blog, and I do have one, is I am a 7 on the Enneagram—The Enthusiast. 7s have an active mind, excited by new ideas, always thinking about what is next, sometimes to the detriment of the moment they are in. To avoid pain, 7s  are constantly thinking about the future. Not a surprise to anyone who knows me.

In our times of stress, we 7s move toward a 1, The Reformer, seeking order in the chaos of our minds. This quote comes from Integrated Enneagram: “ As a 7 under stress, you may throw yourself obsessively into activities that offer some kind of relief of the pressure.”

This might explain, in part, why some of us begin to vigorously…ok, obsessively… begin cleaning. Cleaning the basement, check…cleaning the office, check…cleaning the barn…

Wait, you have a barn? 

Yeah. 

Where? 

Out back, it used to be a pony barn. 

Wait, you have a pony?!

No.

So why do you have a pony barn?

(*Actual conversation with my friend Leah from Oak Park, IL. A funny woman, Leah.)

So I now have a clean desk.

* Rabbit trail*  This desk was in the grocery store my parents purchased in 1966. I actually don’t know how old it is. My parents, when they moved the store to another location, had it taken to their house and refurbished. They bequeathed it to me because of my involvement for many years in the meat market business. And I’m still not sure I’m the favorite? 

So this barn; it had been pretty much packed with lawn care equipment and theater set pieces, along with tubs of props from shows created 4-8-15 years ago.  Perhaps in the hopes of again performing them I guess… Live at Jacob’s Ladder, Dovetale, Excellent Trouble, What Would Lloyd Do, Laughter Is Sacred Space.

This is an unprecedented time, a time when many things just stopped. Like the downbeat of an instrumental break. We don’t know what the startup to society will look like or when it will happen, so is it a good time to make a clean break from…the past…routine…habits…old beloved shows you have long suspected you will never perform again? Apparently.

So I began, yes obsessively, to haul out the wooden set pieces that could be burned, and watched memories of art created and performed with passion and love burn away. 

I took chairs, file cabinets, desks, suitcases and books to the thrift store, recycled the metal from sets, took apart beds and doors to repurpose them later into…what?

Many theater companies and certainly schools have this experience of tearing down a set and putting away props to use again, but Ted and Company usually has 7-9 shows currently available, so a show usually doesn’t have a prescribed ending, but rather slowly drifts into limbo dictated by demand, or in some cases the sudden in-availability of a primary actor due to death. Or in happier cases when the actor’s music career takes off.*

*Rabbit Trail*  “What Would Lloyd Do?” was written in 2008 with Trent Wagler who acted in and created  original music for the play. Trent at the time was forming a band that would become The Steel Wheels. If you don’t know who they are, perhaps it’s time you did, follow this link. But as always come back, rather than get lost in their music or in the dreaminess of the general handsomeness.

We toured “Lloyd” for a couple of years along with Jay Lapp, also a member of The Wheels, with occasional cameos from “wheelies” Brian Dickle and Eric Brubaker, until their success in music outweighed the “massive” exposure a tiny niche based theater company could give and Lloyd ended. But when I hear them sing “With It All Stripped Away” 

I think about the fall of 2008 when Trent brought  another song to share on my side porch that just might work for the show.  I would challenge you to listen to the lyrics in light of the present reality. 

All artists are finding ways to to survive, I invite you to consider supporting the Steel Wheels and other independent musicians. 

And we’re back…so the barn.

My thought-filled and brilliant wife Sue suggested I make the barn into a writing nook, alcove, cave, whatever words we use to describe a space where writers grind out thoughts, images and words in the hopes they have a life. Think Young Frankenstein when Gene Wilder screams in the middle of an electrical storm, “It’s…aliiiiiiive!!”   That is what writers hope. 

Truth be told, too many times it’s other lines from the movie, “Could be worse, could be raining,” (cue the thunder) or “Abby someone…abby normal.” But that perhaps should be another blog post. 

In the midst of the “what’s next” question I became somewhat obsessed with turning the barn into, not just a writing nook, but also a video studio, so work has begun. We shall see if that dream becomes “Aliiiiiiiiiive.”

So stay tuned for more word on the Enneagram show, snippets of the script, and videos produced in the barn. As a 7, apparently my only recourse to avoid the looming possibility of disaster and depression is to keep writing, stay creative and look forward…look forward…look forward. 

Leah: You know what would make you feel better?

Ted:  What?

Leah: A pony. 

~ Ted Swartz

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  • Karen Jantzi said...

    I heartily support the idea of a show about the enneagram. I hope it emphasizes the spiritual as well as the practical side. To be honest, I’m tired of the quick quizzes to determine your type as if it’s a simple tool you can use to make your life “the best life you can have”. I think your humor can bring the wonder of the enneagram as well as highlighting the problems with using it as another “tool”.
    I’ve missed your last few shows, either in the wrong place or at the wrong time. But I know they were all magnificent, thought provoking, hilarious slices of life.

    11/30/20 10:40 PM | Comment Link

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