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Okay, so, I’m not real sporty. But I got thinking about how a strike in bowling means knocking all the pins down, but a strike in baseball means a miss. Weird.

Strike has a lot of very different connotations, positive and negative, in a lot of different contexts. Striking a deal, striking it rich, and striking a balance all sound like good things. A missile strike is destructive when it hits a mark. Striking out on a new adventure is active and hopeful. An employment strike, on the other hand, means stopping activity, decisive non-engagement — and whether that’s constructive and creative or not depends on where you stand in the negotiation.

Whether any strike is good or bad, I suppose, is determined by whether you’re striking or being struck. And depending on how you’re using the word, either might be the better. It’s pretty convoluted.

The reason I got this in my head this week is because we’re “striking” Sweeney Todd this weekend. Three more performances, then strike on Sunday.

In theater, STRIKE is what happens after closing. The stage is cleared, the set dismantled, costumes and props are put away, scripts are returned, and everyone who has been involved in the collaboration says goodbye.

I have a lot of feelings around it — contradictory feelings echoing with all the ambivalence of everything that “strike” can mean in all its different contexts. It’s sad to finish something that has been such a pure joy. It’s a relief to complete something that has been so time- and energy-intensive. It’s wonderful to feel like we did something really well, but there’s a sense of loss in that we won’t get to do it again. We hit a mark, and now we’re disengaging. We created together, now we’re taking it all apart.

So many committed people bringing a lot of different pieces came together to create something complex, beautiful, and temporary.  It’s a microcosm of the human experience.   People joining and separating, starting this and concluding that, circling through projects and seasons and events both planned and unexpected.

It’s like a Tibetan Buddhist sand mandala. Monks spend weeks creating magnificent and intricate images out of of tiny grains of colored sand. When it’s complete, they sweep it up and pour the sand into a flowing river.

Done. Strike.

As I sort through my thoughts and feelings around this, a few organizing themes occur to me: 1) Coming together and falling apart; 2) The importance of a pause; 3) What it means to be complete.

  1. Whether things appear to be coming together or falling apart is largely a function of our perspective, our position. While we’re standing still, fixed in one place, some things come our way and we might be right in the midst of it. When those things shift or change or go elsewhere, it can feel like we’re being left out or left behind. But the thing is: if we move, too, we have the ability to put ourselves in different places where the action is. Or, if we’d rather, take ourselves out of it when it’s something with which we’d rather not engage. Things falling away or falling apart is only “true” if we refuse to budge. Even the sand mandala being poured grain by grain into a river might be seen as coming together from the river’s perspective.

  2. The word “strike” in all its meanings comes originally from a root that signified to rub or stroke something, to smooth it out. To make it level. The theatrical sense of striking a set may retain this meaning as much as any of our modern usages — in theater and bowling, it’s about clearing the lane. I recognize in this an opportunity to take a breath, to allow myself a pause, a moment of reflection. I want to honor my achievement, evaluate what has been accomplished, and let myself be as clear as possible before I move on to what is next. Knowing that my natural tendency is to race on to the next thing, often before the paint’s dry on the previous thing, I’m considering the value of this strike as a clearing — this strike of Sweeney, as well as every project and relationship and occasion that may be concluding one cycle or season before commencing another.

  3. To be complete can mean both “finished” and “whole.” While we may spend a lot of time trying to cross a finish line, to get to a place of completion, it’s also true that we’re complete no matter where we are in a process. We’re born complete, we start complete, we are complete during and throughout. This feels like an important reminder, whether we’re beginning something new or wrapping it up. Complete isn’t something to get to, but a self-awareness from which to come.

Auditioning for this show and getting cast was a big deal for me. It had been about fifteen years since I’d participated in a community theater production. Though we’ve made theater and movies in our spiritual community (and that has been powerful, magical, and delightful), still for me it’s been quite a different experience. I’ve held a different role. In our Bosque productions, I’ve been more of a producer, organizing (and ministering) more than acting. Being an actor again, not feeling ultimately responsible for the entire enchilada, was liberating and thrilling. I had a lot of trepidation going into it. I was afraid that it might not be as good as I remembered. I was afraid that I might not be as good as I remembered…

It was and I was, and it feels like I reclaimed a piece of my heart. A piece I thought I’d left behind. Done. Complete. Strike.

I can’t wait to be with you this Sunday, June 25. Melissa Martinez will be our musical guest! 10:00am at Maple Street Dance Space. XO, Drew

©2023 Drew Groves

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