Monday, November 23, 2009

'Timing, Location, and The Unbearable Lightness of Being'

What a difference a day makes! It was a great Sunday night show, (still a small audience of ten) still, I left feeling extremely hopeful and excited. Yesterday, I met a woman at the 'dog park' who worked at The San Jose Hotel, (a hipster joint here) she told me to bring by my post cards and she would promote the show to her guests. The light went on. Last night and this morning, I've been writing out '2 for 1's' on the post cards of the show. Later on the this afternoon, I'll 'cowboy up' and hit all the 'hipster' hotels and motels in the area, and offer their guests '2 for 1's for the show. I've also been doing 'one on one' promotion, harkening me back to the 'evangelist' days, only I'm preaching the gospel of theatre. I'm realizing if I can speak to at least three people a day and get them a post card, it will increase my audience 21 people each week (that's if they all came to the show) still, its an achievable goal, and I can be pretty convincing when I need to be.

I started noticing several years ago, while in Boulder, if I went to Wayne County for supplies, I always wore a cowboy hat. I observed that people will treat you differently in a cowboy hat. I think because any hat, really, you have to wear with a certain kind of authority to 'pull it off'. Because the cowboys are abundant in Wayne County, you were warmly embraced in the 'cowboy family' whether they knew who you were or not. More than once, I could see them looking at me like, "Yes, I know you but I'm not sure how..." I noticed in LA, a cowboy hat was harder to pull off, because during this part of the 'cowboy cycle', no one in LA is wearing them right now. George Bush and Dick Cheney helped eliminate that. When Dick Cheney put on his 'white cowboy' hat, and George hung out on 'his ranch' I thought, what a bad break for the liberal cowboys, (yes, their are a few), eight years of two faux cowboys really cycled down the 'cowboy mystic'. If I were doing this show back at the top of 'the cowboy cycle', you wouldn't be able to get a seat. In his book, Malcolm Gladwell asserts that the proximity of location and timing is a primary component in achieving success. For example: If you were in key locations in the late sixties and early seventies, especially California and New York, and were an artist, musician, or writer, and you were young and good looking, it was the timing of fate. (I'm not professing that this is true of every artist in the late sixties), but, if you were perhaps, living in Muskogee, OK, this probably wouldn't have worked as well. My point is that I've never had particularly good timing when it came to my location and my interests. I seem to have always been a few years off. I suppose many of us could say the same thing. "Damn, if I could have been in Paris after World War One, I would have been a famous painter or writer..." You get the idea, read the book, 'Outliers', by Gladwell to further your knowledge on the subject. It will change your notion of, "If I work hard, and set my goals, in America, success is eminent." There is much to consider in timing and place. Still, with some innovation and fortitude, a 'force of nature' can overcome 'some' of these obstacles. I heard a guy say at the next table at my coffee shop, "Yea, Austin was great fifteen years ago..." Then again, Yogi Berra said, "No one goes there anymore, its to crowded..." I think, that life has a certain kind of rhythm and cycle to it. I have noticed, however, that because I've placed myself in these 'artistic places', (LA, San Francisco, Boulder, now Austin) the chances increase that I will stumble on an opportunity that will give my little show, 'a life'. As the great songwriter, Sammy Kahn said on the radio, (as I was traveling to Tucson delivering Auto Trader magazines) to a young songwriter who was asking, "What's the best way to get my song to the right artist?" Sammy's reply was, "Play your songs anywhere and everywhere, you never know who might be sitting there listening..." I believe what he was saying is true, but being somewhere where there are an abundance of people looking for songs increases your chances of someone hearing your song, your play, your film, etc.

The key to continuing to being an artist is refusing to be bitter about the lack of success, (American definition), bitterness is the enemy of creativity and the plight of a vision. The other key component is a willingness to 'take chances' and to live an austere life. I am paraphrasing a quote in Tennessee Williams's play, 'Camino Real', but its something to the effect of, "The Voyage, the risk, that is everything..." Although he had money, (as I said in my last blog) he said he lived 'morning to morning', that the morning was the time he was truly happy, because he was writing... For many people, being in the 'creative process' is where they are truly happy. I completely agree with this idea, and will continue to place myself where I can find the highest degree of stimulus to propel me forward... in other words, live in the 'voyage'. So long, for today, but never goodbye...


Connie said...

Timing-I doubt the pet rock would do well if it were to be thrust on the consumers right now..but the timing was right when it did sell...gosh I hate it that there were only ten..the two fer sounds like it might be a good need a promoter..I think Doc is available....((LOL))

Gerry said...

I was hoping you would post another blog this morning so we could talk theater. I laughed at what happens as you get into the action and try to make things happen. I think we all have this agenda of trying to get a few more readers, viewers for whatever we are doing. We are trying to convince people to come look at our 'show.' It is so much fun to have you in Austin making it a little more real for the rest of us with your experiences there. The reason you spend hours playing the guitar, writing, planning, well just working on the show. I think actually the more we bring to our show the lnger it takes to get there. You bring all the people in your plays along with you, all the ghosts in your past, creating images of people who have impacted your life enough to be a character in one of your shows. Who knows but what the ghosts will be there, too. I like to think so. I have been meditating a lot which helps me to cross the space between here and there and I find seeing people is a lot like writing a play. You bring the ghosts to life up there on the stage, so you know they must have a vested interest in being there, too. They always wanted to see Austin, too. Now is the time to go to Austin! And if the ghosts are happy with how you have portrayed them, the people will come, too, and be delighted with what they see. It is the fate of many to have a disappearing father and an onery old grandfather who tries to fill in. And lots of harried mothers out there worried about the kids, wondering if they can take care of them. I can see Pole and Dean in Austin, maybe Sterling, too. They're singing wherever they are, and they are excited to be in Austin to have you represent the family with a guitar and a western song and I know LaRae is in Austin, because she told me she could not miss a trip to Austin. So you will be singing to a crowd out there, there will be tears, and the eerie sounds of ghost music will be mingled with yours, because that is one place heaven and earth can reach in a theater, when the living can gresp the hands of the ghosts through their words, their music, memories, for this is a memory play with a universal message, we do not die. The miracle of art.

TJ in Boulder said...

Hi Raymond -
We're here listening and wishing you well. I like the direct marketing with post cards idea! Kelly and Loch organized a community Thanksgiving dinner at the Town Hall. They are cooking turkey and ham for a donation with everyone bringing some pot-luck item. As of today there are 45 people expected. Should be great! Perhaps the start of another town tradition. I'll toast you with a sip of cider. Love to you from Lauren & I. T said...

TJ - what a good idea, sharing Thanksgiving with others that can't go home to family...I hope it does become a tradition!
Raymond, thanks for your kind words about my poems..early memories. I was thinking that you have 'run away' to Austin Texas to spend Thanksgiving alone. Thank God, we can still talk to you! And we'll be glad when you can return 'home'. I think many spirits are touching yours. Tom and I met Valerie and Stan Huntington in Lin's the other day.
She said, "It's been four years since Dean we've seen Dean." Tom said, "I just saw him the other night, plain as day. He came up and shook my hand. I woke up before he could talk." She wilted
and shed a tear or two.