Friday, February 12, 2010

'Chicken Sour or a Pop Tart?'

I just got off the phone with Kurt. He'd been back in the old LA neighbor hood where we spend five months getting up Bohemian Cowboy. He's out there on another book project, and we were talking about what a great experience we had 'getting the play up'. So often, even though human experience can be rife with vibrancy while it is happening, it takes retrospection to see the full impact of the experience. It got me ruminating about how the process of doing that project effected a small piece of so many lives, mostly, my own. From the theatre director of the space where we performed, (it paid his rent for two months), to the sixty five year old man who wrote a letter stating how the play caused him to change his thinking about the relationship with his father, even though his father was long dead, to the small but vibrant audience. Of course, Kurt and I were discussing the impact it had on our relationship with each other, the city of LA, and of the many people we met there. So, as he went back to meet with several people for his book, he had built reference with 'that' experience. I think, that so often, if we are willing to take action with our dreams and desires, help and support will come from unexpected places.

I've also reached a point in this project where I'm trying to revisit the trajectory of it all, and figure out where it failed to really build an audience. I know from having years of the 'theatre experience' that the small audiences I was able to bring in were altered and appreciative of witnessing it, but it failed to have any kind of lasting force. Like LA, I was able to ascertain 'great reviews here', however, it taught me that a review has lost its power in the world in which we live. Press is still a good thing to have in this circumstance, but only in establishing some credibility. I think the entire culture is rethinking its relationship with the 'experts' in so many fields, and where the 'experts' come from. Perhaps with so many ways of engaging with each other and society as a whole, the playing field of expertise may not necessarily be in the areas where we used to think it was validated. Or, maybe its because in many areas of our country, theatre is no longer an art form that lives in peoples' minds. There is too much it is competing with. I'm not saying it's completely dead, but it certainly is on life support in the section reserved for our collective thinking.

Blogging is great, but we can also consider that language is being reduced to short cuts and sound bites, and we have even reached a point where the only people still using telephones are bill collectors. It won't be long when they will figure out how to text us and face book us as well. I love that both Kurt and my mother can sustain long phone conversations, maybe the only two people left in my life who I'm connected to in this vital way. Remember when the telephone used to be 'to impersonal'? I suppose one could say that a text, a face book, or and e-mail, (emails are also becoming obsolete) can also give us the opportunity to 'think' about our response, still, I'm for that quick and vibrant ability to act and react in the heat of a good conversation. I do love that about a good AA meeting, it demands that people sit amongst themselves and discuss honestly their faults and war stories, and although the entry level for AA has dropped from fifty-one years old to twenty-six, the steps and the way it is organized doesn't allow you to text or face book a response. You have to talk, eye to eye; maybe that is why my reaction to it is so profound. This 'human interaction' alone is worth the dollar price of admission. Sometimes as I listen to myself, I think, "Am I just reaching a point in my life where I am pining for 'the way it used to be?" I suppose it's just my analysis. Here's a perfect example of how things have changed.

Last night, I went to sing at an open mike. For those of you who are not familiar with this, they do it lots in Austin. A coffee shop, a bar, or a showroom has nights set up where you can come (without a contract or an invitation) and sign up to sing. The equipment is provided, (even an instrument if you need it) and when your turn comes, you sing three songs. I was told at this particular night, that you must get there early because it is very well attended. So, I did. I got there a full two hours before, but when the time came to 'sign up' the woman 'running things' set down a clipboard and everyone ran forward to the clipboard to 'secure their spot'. I sat there, a little annoyed, but worked my way in to get spot number fourteen. Now, think about that, fourteenth spot, three songs, that's thirty-nine songs to sit through before my turn. That's three full concerts. So, I patiently waited for my turn, (it started at 8:00p), and by the time it was my turn, it was almost midnight and I 'just made' the cut-off point. I was 'all right' with that, what was different to me was that most of the musicians left after their three songs. The whole point of this is to me is support and encouragement, oh, and also to engage in conversations 'about the work'. To make a much longer story shorter, by the time I sang there were three people in the room. The support rang really false. (The ones left were there because they hadn't sung yet.) Two things occurred to me. The first, is after so many years of performing and 'getting my chops', I still have to claw and scratch to 'get to the list'. The second thing is that I would never think of leaving until the last struggling musician had sung his saddest song. Has all that changed? Are we still really an ultimately selfish society? Does the value of support still have a place in the sun? Or am I foolish in thinking that this is so vital? By the way, I stayed until that last song was sung, and yes, it was just me, the last singer, and the woman with 'the list'. Wake up musicians! If you are young and can learn to 'love the music', and value the principle of support, it will serve your art and your craft… Then it will sustain you…

The other issue Kurt and I talked about was the unwillingness of people to come together with a collective vision and stick with it. For example, if five people get together to find a way to make a movie, five people 'together' can find a way to get that movie made. My suggestion to young artists is to find those five people who are willing to put their own individual artistic pursuits on a shelf until you can find your part in an ensemble. In an 'instant' society, this is a very difficult thing to do. Translation: This is the only way the playing field can be equalized between the people with 'capital' to 'do it anyway,' and the people who have no means. Collective vision 'gives you means'. It gives you power. And this may come as a surprise, but it is also necessary to put your ego aside. (Don't worry, after you've learned this you can bring it out of the box, but now it has substance!)

Lastly, I was sustained today by the simple act of making chicken soup and writing this blog. One is thinking, one doing, aah, balance and bliss. Isn't home made chicken soup the greatest? No wonder people get such satisfaction with the simple act of cooking…

Oh, I just wanted you to know that I do love face book, and think it serves a valuable purpose informing each other of how we are thinking and what we are thinking… How is your thinking lately, is it chicken soup, or is it a pop tart?

3 comments:

Chuckh said...

I have found that going to open mic nights is usually not what it used to be. It's good if you want to find someone to hook up with and maybe start a band but other than that...not much happening here in Phoenix. A lot of times folks that show up around here don't want to do anything but play on open mic night. They are not interested in improving or can't see where they are lacking. And generally I find folks to be not nearly as friendly as you'd expect. I stopped going to open mic nights when I realized it was the same people every time. I know what you mean about soup. I love all kinds of home made soups. With crusty bread! Esp. in the winter! I post on Facebook but find it annoying at the same time. I guess it's best if you are friends with people you actually know!

Gerry said...

I was just writing a long blog entry and glanced at my blog list to see that you had posted. I remember when you used to come on the family site once in a while and post a long entry, whereas your brother Gary would come on and post the shortest entries possible. Your brother Dan is just as succinct as he is. I have gotten used to Dan interrupting me and saying, "Mother, how many times are you going to make your point?" He always claims he can't read my blog because I am too long winded.
Well, I have now observed that your brain works a lot like mine. You have inherited that analytical mind that will go around and around a subject until it has been thoroughly dissected. I love that kind of writing. There will always be a demand for writers who think like that. Who did I read not long ago who said a teacher told them the passages they could skip in Moby Dick and those were the passages about whale biology that fascinated her the most. Heck, it was your cousin Jill Carpenter who wrote that in her blog Road Kill Blues.
And there will always be the writers of fewer words. I have seen the signs of a born writer in your blog, so I am not worried about you finding something to do that will eventually pay off. You have had so many interests you just have to figure out how and when you can go with the one most natural to you. I think you had to experience many things so you would have something to write about. Now I know that you done that. You have lived life to the fullest so you can now record it and look for people who are still reading that kind of long winded thoroughness. There are still a lot of book readers in the world like me. I have to have books to read. They are my life's blood. It takes all kinds. So keep on working on that writing! You will make it. You will be as successful as you need to be.
I have always said for these kind of writers this axiom holds true, 'the mills of the gods grind slowly but they grind exceeding fine."

kanyonlandking-annk.blogspot.com said...

Yes, and too much might blow away in the damn wind! Just think of all those people who know they are the next American Idol and can't sing a lick. What's more, they think they are as good as the one who 'made it'! I conclude it is very hard to judge your own talent and know it for what it is. I love having a person who never wrote a poem, thinking their one poem great! There is something about that...
Weaving your way through the complexities of man is not a clear path. We all have so much. We all don't know enough.