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vulnerability vs. openness: what's the difference + why does it matter onstage and off

There's been a lot of talk lately about vulnerability (thanks Brene Brown).

In a way I see it as our culture using our giant brains and fancy words to point us back to our (perhaps) neglected and wordless hearts that are in dire need of some sweet sweet attention.

I think this conversation can be made more awesome by an understanding of openness, which is a distinction my clown teacher David MacMurray Smith spoke about.

In a nut shell:

vulnerability: you're bleeding. you need to be bandaged and held and cared for and supported.

openness: you have a scar and you're willing to share that scar and that story. You can hold your own pain.

I say in my classes, there are some things that need to be held, and there are some things that are ready to be played with. These are 2 different stages.

In the theatrical realm these are 2 different stages. One is a rehearsal hall and one is ready for performance.

In the past workshop I taught there was a woman in the midst of grieving the death of her husband. When she shared with us, which took until the last exercise, she was vulnerable. This type of connection was earned through the safety and connection we had built throughout the weekend, and eventually she chose to share, in an incredibly raw way, her grief. As a group we were able to hold this space for her and share in her grief. It allowed people to tap into their own grief.

Another person shared a significant and simple story about his relationship with his grandma who always gave him candies. He expressed how, even though he was sharing the story and present with the emotion, he did not feel overcome by them. This I would describe as openness.

When I'm creating something I'll flip between the two. Finding material that's airing itself out for the first time I'm quite vulnerable. Eventually I can move it into a more open, aka playable, version. I use form and structure to hold it in a way that doesn't ask for the audience to stop the bleeding.

Vulnerability is good with safe close trusted people and environments. I think it's physical and visceral and doesn't necessarily happen over social media. Openness is good for audiences. They are not responsible for caring for us.

My two cents...

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