Blog: Reflections on Mentorship & Performance Art, Through Tasseography

Ripples evade us

Traveling beyond our eye

Touching shores unknown

***

In this photo is my Turkish coffee from our latest visit to my mother-in-law’s. Her mother was known across Serbia as an expert in reading coffee grounds and tea leaves (tasseography); people would travel for days just to consult with her. As a result, we drink (at least) one cup with my mother-in-law every time we’re in town and see what the grounds have to say. More on that in a moment.

During the pandemic, I’ve been focusing a lot on mentorship + thinking about the future of performance art. Providing mentorship to current students at my alma mater, in the IGDA, and who are simply new to game dev has been incredibly fulfilling for me. There’s also a certain solace in feeling like I’m doing everything I can to steer marginalized devs toward a (hopefully) less challenging and painful road than the one I’ve traveled so far.

Mentorship is different from some of the other goals I’ve pursued over the years, in that I don’t get to see direct effects up close. Although I periodically follow up with mentees and happily reply when they email me with questions, I mostly have to take my hands off the wheel and let them drive. I have every confidence that they’re all doing the absolute best they can, given the state of the world and the unique challenges that each person faces.

But every toe dipped into a pond creates ripples, even if we have no idea when or where they’ll land. All we can do is try to make sure those ripples are based on good intentions, an informed perspective, and positive change.

I’ve had to do (and continue to do) a lot of work to grow beyond problematic beliefs with which I was raised + huge mistakes I’ve made that hurt others and myself. But, as my wise friend Travis G. once said to me, “If you don’t look at the past and cringe at least a little, you’re probably not growing.” Every day is an opportunity to do better, and we are what we do.

The concept of ripples is something that I also think is important for performance artists to remember during this time of...well, limited/no performances. Whether you’re an international pop star or a singer in a local chorus, you’ve had an effect on others. Your soulful singing at your religious service brought someone some peace. Your comedic community theater acting made someone forget their worries for a night. Your local dance troupe inspired someone to learn to dance.

Those effects matter. My mind was BLOWN when I saw “Phantom of the Opera” at a local theater in Kansas City at age 9; I started singing lessons shortly after and have enjoyed a life full of music ever since. My husband completely changed his perspective on a past trauma after we saw a touring production of “Hamilton” two years ago. The actors will never know what they did for us, but that doesn’t matter. Whether they’re aware or not, those effects were real, and now that attending live theater is (hopefully only temporarily) not an option, they are sorely, deeply missed.

Back to my coffee cup. In it, my mother-in-law saw a long-haired woman singing, mouth wide and her arms outstretched with feeling and unbound joy. On each side of the standing woman is — you might’ve guessed it — ripples. Emanating from both sides of her robe, the ripples of her song are off to inspire people and places unknown.

We may never know how we impact others. But whether it’s helping mentees avoid your struggles, singing holiday songs for your community, or carrying on a family tradition of reading coffee grounds, you have gifts to share and their impact will likely be felt in ways you could never have imagined. Copyright Alexandra M. Lucas 2020

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Copyright Alexandra M. Lucas 2020

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