Jon Snow and Why I Don’t Give Up

Ramsey sends the cavalry charging directly at  Jon Snow. Jon Snow struggles to regain his footing. He stands. He sees the onslaught of death charging towards him. The camera pushes in tight from below, Jon Snow looks down, he nods. He looks up. We can see the whites of his eyes and we know that he has changed. He has made a choice. Now is the time for him to become bigger – to become a bigger human being than he ever knew he was capable of being.
Kit Harrington as Jon Snow in Season Six, Episode 10 of Game of Thrones

Kit Harrington as Jon Snow in Season Six, Episode 10 of Game of Thrones

You have to love the Work, because the work is all you have

I’ve never forgotten Jon Jory warning my apprentice class at Actor’s Theater of Louisville that theater wasn’t a profession of fame or riches despite so many young actor’s dreams. It’s a long brutal slog where the only consistency is the love of the work – not the performance – the work.

What the work meant to me was something bigger than myself. It inspired me, it drove me, it obsessed me and it reminded me that the human condition is bigger and more vital than the anemia of our workaday lives.

Every decision I’ve made has been in pursuit of that work, from the college I went to, to the city I live in, to my (poor) choice of day jobs, and finally to the founding of VirtualArts.TV

I want to quit. Pretty much every day.

And I thought acting was brutal…. My choice of start-up (multi-camera live-streaming of theater) has placed me square in the heart of a floundering industry that seems mostly screaming at me to “Get Out!”

  • an industry that is famously resistant to technology
  • an industry whose common trait is not “competitiveness and cooperation” as Reid Hoffman recently said about Silicon Valley, but pure competitiveness, creating a severe impediment to the creation of art that truly heralds a digital revolution
  • an industry that still sees cameras as a utility rather than an art form, and social media as an invasion rather than an opportunity for our audiences to connect more deeply to our productions
  • an industry whose leaders, despite decades of declining ticket sales (read money to run theaters and pay artists) still fight to keep potentially industry saving technology away from the performance experience

Yep. I want to quit every day…

Steeledance performs the gorgeous Still Waters Run

And then I get to shoot something spectacular, a dance piece, a concert, a performance… In turn, the song, the scene transports me to something bigger and more meaningful than I get to experience in the anemic bubble of my workaday life. Knowing that I was able to transform that moment from a theatrical performance to a live video event that inspires 8000 people at once, all of who Tweet and Facebook and Instagram how meaningful the experience was for them too…

I live for those moments

But the months of moments in-between,  spent mostly behind my computer, stuck in admin and  business development, those moments, not so much.

I’m scared all the time. I wonder who the hell do I think I am, all the time. I want to quit all the time.

And then I catch myself standing, yes standing in front of my TV with tears streaming down my face as the character Jon Snow surveys the army of death galloping towards him, and who chooses to become bigger and stronger  in the face of terrible odds. It is the actor, it is the editing, it is the colors, it is the camera work, it is the story… IT IS THE ARTISTRY… and  I hear myself saying out loud…

Be Big Kathryn. Be Big.

Big is hard for a lot of women, even for brilliant accomplished women (see pages 1-240 of Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In). But Big is where we/I must be if we are to take our place in the world.

I could quit. Or instead I can Be Big. I can continue to proclaim to my industry that YES I have an answer to our ills and it is more inspiring and creative than many of you are yet willing to embrace. I can continue to keep business developing away because it is the one way I know to help the rest of the world experience, for a moment, the kind of theater that can remind us of the gorgeousness, of the bigness  of our shared human experience.

If instead of quitting, I challenge myself daily to Be Big , I can help the world be bigger too.
1 comment…
  • Fran July 8, 2016, 6:47 am

    Fantastic blog post. Your words inspire courage and bravery. Thank you for making this day special for me.


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