Yesterday, I went to see The Seagull by Chekov with my school. The general impression I got from that play was that art ruins your life, seeing as all the artists are miserable except for one really shallow person (who is also rather miserable, if you analyze her) and one ends up committing suicide.
After the play, we got to speak to the director and a bunch of the actors (including Alan Cumming - yay Scottish accent). I asked them about the message of the play and if there is a way to defend art based on that. The director said that art only ruins your life if you can't exist in art. Someone who is not willing to see art through for the sake of art, but more for the sake of themselves, will not make it. Only one whose true calling is art will survive.
I want to disagree. I want to disagree with the play as a whole, actually. Throughout the entire performance, we are never presented with a character who attempts it but is not good at art. I would have liked to have seen a talentless artist so I could see what that person's outcome would be. For me, the factor is not "can you exist without art in your life?" but rather "how much weight do you put on success?" If someone's true calling is not art but they decide to pursue some artistic endeavors anyway (such as acting, writing, etc.), that person can totally not let art get in the way of his happiness if his happiness is not dependent on the success of his art. In that respect, it's the exact opposite of what the director explained. Someone who puts the weight of his entire life and happiness on his art will never be satisfied. Then again, I suppose it depends why that person is creating art in the first place. If it is to please others, or worse, to please himself, he may never be satisfied, but if it is just to sell or just to create without concentrating so much on the end result, as in, doing it more for fun, then why should that ruin someone's life? Even if the person wants it to come out good, but creates art more to fulfill a desire of immersing himself in the art rather than anything else, I believe that person can still be perfectly happy.
Constantine's suicide is a result not of art, but of something much deeper. It is a reaction to his relationships and of the desire for acceptance from those who are distracted by other things. True, it is tied into art in that everyone else in the play is so preoccupied with one art form or another that they fail to see Constantine for who he is as a person and abandon him, but on the other hand, if that were not the case and Constantine were merely frustrated with his art, I don't believe he would have killed himself.
Basically, I'm frustrated with the play, with the message of the play, with the message of the director, and I am frustrated that I am coming down with a cold. Hmph.