Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Disection of a Run - or alternately - If You Build It and They DON'T Come Does It Actually Exist

I've been mulling the experience I have had this year of doing my original play, "4 at 40: Mothers' Letters To Their Daughters" in an art gallery for a performing space. It was a first experiment for the gallery in theatre and as first experiments go it was a mixed bag.

But we will slog on and take what we have learned hopefully and be able to apply it to the next play which will start in Feb. at the odd run, but much shorter than my own, of two performances a month for five months. I performed my play two performances a month this year in April, May, June, September, October and November. Each month it was a new struggle to get publicity and listings in the local weekly. Unhelpfully the weekly did not publish our listing - one month printing absolutely no local listings at all and the following month randomly selecting listings. That did nothing for our audience turnout let me tell you. On my second to last performance my brother-in-law was the only one in the audience who hadn't seen it already....

Which brings me to my semi-point. If you are talented for no one are you really? If I give a brilliant performances in the mirror, am I still brilliant? For years I had struggled the actor's struggle that is if you have no venue, no play, no audience you have no performance, you only have you being ridiculous in afforementioned mirror. I suppose musicians are largely in the same boat. You could be a brilliant songwriter but if no one ever hears your songs then you are what? Without recognition and the ever so important audience, are you really a performance or just a fool?

And then there are those performances where you feel like so much a trained monkey for an audience that you know is not so much valuing you as being patronizingly charmed by you. There have been some nights on stage where I have almost expected coins to come hurling my way.

This is an odd inner struggle. On the one hand I dread the prospect of there being an audience at all. On the other hand I feel foolish if there is not one, or rather not enough of one to give them and yourself the distance of anonymity. If there are too many of the audience they feel safe their laugh or cry will not be singled out for ridicule and likewise if you are performing in front of a happy and appreciative audience then one is certainly enough - but you can't get passed the odds game - more audience members, more likely to be a good audience.

Sean Penn so succinctly described this strange state of the performer when he said in a recent Iconoclasts that he tries to hide from the rest of the crew on a movie set how much he really dreads performing. And yet he still does it. On a much smaller scale, of course, I feel the same. I dread performing and I am compelled to do it. And then there are times when it is joyful and times when that slides toward trained monkey.

I've been trying to figure out the lessons in this experience. One is that when I do my own projects in my own way I feel successful. I feel proud of myself. Whether "4 at 40" was a success depends upon how it is judged. We sold out the house only once to a private audience, which was great. We got good turnout about half the time and little turnout the rest. It was reviewed glowingly but the review gave us very little by way in bump in sales. Every audience member who stayed after to speak with me was thrilled and moved to have seen the show. And that was probably half at least... so it's really six of one, half a dozen of the other.

I guess it is good that I just did it. I proved to myself that I could take on the whole thing. I would have loved for the audience to have been full every night - and we certainly would have been much fuller each night if all those who had promised to attend had. But at the same time I know what we are trying to do is, in this place, unprecidented. If we were in LA or SF or NY or even Seattle or Chicago people would have just scoffed "What, theatrical performance in a gallery space, how droll, how yesteryear, how been there done that!" But in Palm Springs people just really can't wrap their minds around it.

What we have out here is solidly and proudly 'community theatre' and what we are trying to do is professional theatre in a very small space, with original plays, with high performance level... one wouldn't think that would be a stretch of the imagination but I get the sense that people don't really believe it's real yet.

Ah, life and career. Again and probably over and over I will wonder, does my best work go unseen? Is it ME who fails to attract and audience? Do I just not know HOW to work the publicity machine? If an actor falls off stage but no one is in the audience, does he make a sound as he hits the front row seats?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Crunch Time

SO, I am working on thisradio show demo for a spiritual advisor and trying to find ways to reach potential callers and have gotten exactly... 3. Half of what I need.

So here is my plea to you blogosphere - if you would like to speak to a spiritual advisor, or know someone who might, about any ole thing: say, you can't stop biting your fingernails and you don't know why (if only she took 3 year olds!) or just broke up with someone and can't get over it, or have some sort of recurring illness and you want to know what in the bloody hell it all means - please let me know.

Taping will take place on November 29, 2007 between 12:30 pm and 3:30 pm (that's Pacific/California time). We can call anywhere in the US, no problem. Just post a comment here with an email address (if I don't have it) and I will get in touch with you.

Let me know soon, as ah time is ah tickin'. Eeeeek! Crunch!

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Tell Me Why I Don't Like Wednesdays...

...tell me whaa ah don' lawk weddd-days, tell me whaa...

Oh well, doesn't go as well as 'Mondays' but you get the idea.
Boomtown Rats everyone.... prescient...

Aaaaaanyway, not as dramatic as all that but I do seem to have tough Wednesdays... I've been thinking about writing this blog for several weeks and it seems I keep having news things to complain about each Wednesday that passes (to be clear this is a bitching monoblog so stop reading if too irritating).

Most people are likely to suffer from heart attacks on Mondays - or so I have heard research has shown - we can infer from the day of the week because they don't want to go to their jobs... But I relish getting out of the house and to the distraction of the job on Wednesdays.

Number One: Wednesdays are early days for S.O.v.1 at kindergarten. All the kindergarten classes start at 8:20 am on Wednedays. As S.O.v.1 is in the afternoon class we are accustomed to leisurely making our way out of the house to school. But Wednesdays mean I have to wake up at 6:30 am which means I have just gotten back to sleep since the last time I woke up in the middle of the night either to get milk for S.O.v.2, to quell a nightmare, or the ever popular just because. I never feel as if I have gotten enough sleep anyway so 6:30 just seems insulting.

Then because we have to hustle there is usually a fuss from S.O.v.2. It is generally a shoe issue but sometimes it involves a snack or clothing choice or fuss over what to eat - or eating at all which if she wins means even bigger fuss as her blood sugar plunges. I get irritated, S.O.v.1 gets irritated because he hates to be late to school (lest he be the one to screw up the all present and on time popsicle party offered for every class with perfect attendance at the end of the month), S.O.v.2 is already irritated and probably dirty at this point from flinging herself to the ground and tear stained... oh wait, that part's usually me.... It all usually ends with the mommy-handling of the girl as I wrestle her into her car seat because if we don't leave NOW then there is no way to be on time... Strapped in, mad dash to school with some questionable driving and then a run to the school from our hard won parking spot way too far away from the gate. Then after S.O.v.1 is safely ensconced in his classroom there is some more fuss from S.O.v.2 because she hasn't had a chance to play on the playground. Then there is the public humiliation of picking up a kicking and screaming 3 year old from the ground and me trying to calmly explain that if she had just put on what I chose for her to wear, since she decided that mama should choose this morning, then we would have gotten here in time for her to play... hahahahahahahaaaaaa! Reasoning with a 3 year old, that's funny.

Then last Wednesday, S.O. got let go from his job. We are trying to avoid saying the F word, especially around the house. We are saying "Daddy isn't working at his old job anymore and is looking for a new one" because the stress freaks out the kids and then they misbehave. They are like little canaries aren't they? You can tell when you have been snipping at each other too much when your children start misbehaving!

So that was a pretty stressful day. But he got some severence and will get unemployment and silly me thought, "Oh well he'll be around to help me more with the kids for a while". And to be fair he did take them to sitter and school this Mon and Tues but come this morning S.O. has a migraine - his body obviously battling the sick all of us have experienced these past few days. But since he does not now have a job to go to, he was free to sleep until his meds kicked in whist I, sick, head congested, snuffly, spacy have had to slog myself to the one job we still have despite feeling lousy to get in as many hours as possible. I mean, we always did have to be careful about taking days off for sick or whatever because it does affect the family finances - ah the glory of working for an hourly wage (why can't we put congress or the President on an hourly wage with no time off for sick days or overtime or vacation days?) - but now it is even more stark.

So I've been coughing and sneezing all over my phone, keyboard, desk, trash filled with tissues. Luckily I am the only one in the office at the moment as the boss is shooting a film in FL at the moment. But you know, it was just a sock you in the face moment. The Gods or fate or kismet or the universe or whoever is in charge going "Na na na na na na" at me.

Now, tell me again why I don't like Wednesdays? I'll take a Monday any day...