Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Governor's Award for the Arts

Posted by Bruce Miller
Referring to the various theatrical activities that have held my attention since 1975, friends sometimes graciously suggest that I must be proud of all that’s been achieved. Due to brain chemistry or personality type, whatever you want to call it, I don’t think I know what that kind of pride feels like.

Looking back over 33 years, I’ve never quite made it to that mountaintop view. Intellectually—yes; emotionally—not so much.

I comprehend … I live, breath and dream Theatre IV and now Barksdale not as successes that can be wrapped up with a bow. To me, Theatre IV and Barksdale feel like tomorrow’s To Do lists—and three quarters of what’s on each list needs to have been knocked off last week.

I know what it feels like to be proud of my parents, my wife and children, and my friends.

I know what it feels like to be proud of a show—particularly a big show that represents the work of lots of artists. Watching the final performance of Guys and Dolls, I felt exactly like the parents and teammates in the stands looked when their children or pals turned in gold medal performances in the Olympics. I had tears in my eyes from “Fugue for Tinhorns” onward.

I know what it feels like to be relieved when people think that my work is OK. I’m mostly a happy, content, glass-half-full kind of guy. On the other hand, I’m also well acquainted with shame and guilt and defensiveness. I know how to worry. The weight of responsibility is a constant companion. And I’m all too familiar with righteous indignation.

Maybe it’s a combination of the hope of overall optimism, the pressures of guilt and responsibility, and the challenge of indignation that push accomplished people up the mountain. What it all feels like, honestly, is that I’ve been blessed to be in the car with so many talented people as we jointly experience an amazing adventure.

I know what love feels like. That’s what I know most of all. The best thing about my job is that I love the people I work with. I don’t imagine that bankers feel like this, but maybe I'm wrong. The second best thing about my job is the variety. The third best thing is the challenge. Challenge can be very motivating.

Twice since my father’s death in 1983 I’ve felt like maybe I’m doing OK. Maybe I’m coming close to being the man my father wanted me to be—someone who makes a difference. The first time was when STYLE Weekly included Phil and me in the "100 Most Influential Richmonders of the Century" in 1999. The second time was learning last month that Phil and I and Theatre IV were to receive the Governor’s Award for the Arts.

I know … I REALLY know … that awards and recognition are earned not by individuals but by ever expanding teams of thousands of people. I feel guilty to be the one from the team who’s invited to the reception and whose name appears in the press release.

But for someone who’s never been able to look down from the mountain, receiving the Governor’s Award feels like hearing from someone else who’s made it to the summit, who’s surveyed all there is to be seen, and who’s written back to say that things look pretty good. It’s almost like being there, experiencing the mountaintop view myself, standing next to Phil Whiteway and being able to see what the last 33 years look like from a distance.

It feels good.

To the thousands who have made this recognition possible and who deserve this moment just as much as I do … thank you. I'm so lucky and grateful that you've let me come along for the ride.

--Bruce Miller

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