Wednesday, February 8, 2012

'Writing, Music, and Lorca'

Finally, after holding out on the job situation, I'm starting to get work in what the transitional period was always supposed to be. Lorca in a Green Dress opens next week, (I've been directing the show for Teatro Bravo), my Sa Bai Modern Thai gig has turned into two more weekly gigs, (Embassy Suites Hotel on Mondays and Sundays), and I just made more money in one day writing internet content than one of my published plays has made in twenty years. (That's eye opening). Still, with the combination of all the jobs, I can finally see where all of this can actually make me a living. Even though the writing job is less creative and more technical, I can still learn much from it as I am beginning to see. It's hard to explain to people that getting up and writing every day 'is' a job, as frustrating sometimes as any job can be, and with all the discipline it takes to do any job. I've learned that by shear will and persistence, the writing will pay, but like anything else, it has to be met sometimes with shear will.

On the directing side of things, I'm hoping that this latest play (Lorca in a Green Dress) I'm directing will open a door to get more of this kind of work. After directing new work for so many years, it feels good to direct something that actually has a history of success, and its actually been fairly easy to take a great play and make it go three dimensional. I've also been designing the set, which I also love to do and am finding that I'm fairly experienced at it after all of these years. Although I don't have a real shop to work in, with a fairly large platform in the back yard, I can build almost anything using a skill saw, a good drill, a pile of wood, some paint, and some assorted hardware. So that you can understand that better, today I have to finish building a bull-ring gate, which is where so many people were assassinated (a bull ring) during the Spanish Civil War. It's very interesting how a set design evolves during the course of the play. Being the director of the play as well, gives me a keen insight into what it needs to look like, and so often, each aspect of it develops over a period of weeks as the play takes shape. If the brain is trained a certain way, this development can come in to light in various ways. Sometimes, I'll wake up in the middle of the night and suddenly know how to build something, as if downloading the information into my brain leads to solving the problems or getting a vision of what it looks like. If you are an artist, or even if you've just seen and experienced lots of art, imagine a giant art piece, in this instance twenty-eight feet by twenty-eight feet, with the composition of the piece being the set. The actors in their costuming, make-up and movement are the characters in your three-dimensional installation piece. There is a certain kind of precision that I love about doing this. The difference between say a painting and a play is merely the fact that all the characters in your painting are moving around during the duration of your revealing. Its pretty cool, and in many ways fantastically complex. So that the reader has an idea of what I'll go through today, I have to find something that will bend and still look like wood for a unique stained glass window that goes in the set. I've gone through all kinds of material in my head, today will be the day that I have to find that material. One of the great things about theatre however, is that everything you are making or building is an illusion, so I don't have to build something that will last a hundred years, it just has to 'look' like it will. I hope that makes some sort of sense. Because I've always been a hands on director, I will also go out today to various thrift shops (and an army surplus store) to find some costuming elements that the costume designer can't find. Its fascinating how very syncronistic doing all of this becomes, as if the item you need is waiting for you to find it, (imagine a scavenger hunt that lasts for weeks) and after years of doing this, I know which thrift store I'll need to visit to find the item.

As for the music part of my work, the Sa Bai Modern Thai restaurant gig is finally paying off. For a musician, a weekly gig has many benefits. Like any production, it forces you to act during the course of the week in sometimes small ways, but relevant ways. A steady gig gives you the advantage of always playing, and in my situation, I've always believed in adding one more song each week, so during the course of this gig which is going on three months, I've added about ten songs to my set list. With this gig, I've always sought to improve the situation, so I started out sitting on a stool with my guitar playing to customers in an ambient way, to building a small stage, adding lights and audio equipment, and then gradually increasing volume so that now its now a very satisfying combination of ambient music and performing. Once an environment has been created, the performing part of things can be enhanced, and that's how you start to get what I call bounce back business. In other words, if you create something memorable, people start to come back to it on Saturday nights. The owners of the restaurant have been very gracious in letting me do this, (you need that to create a happening), and I've noticed over the course of several months I'm starting to see some of the same faces coming in Saturday night for their that food and their music. As fate (or hard work) would have it, the owner of this restaurant became the general food and beverage manager of the Embassy Suites Hotels, so now I've increased that gig to two more playing hotels which is really sweet! A hotel is great because it feels like you are on the road, because most of the people you are playing for are from somewhere else. So, that's an update on the musician/performer side of things.

On the writing side, I just picked up a job writing internet content for a company that increases leads for real estate. I've been writing real estate articles, which is not to exciting, but still, it keeping me writing and it pays well. I work from home and get an assignment of say, ten articles to write on a particular location in the country, and I have to do the research on the location and crank out articles on why a person would want to live there. It does take some imagination, but the advantage that I can see in doing this work is that it's forcing me to use a lexicon that I'm not really used to. I'm sure the novelty of it will wear off, but in the meantime it pays and it's forcing me to write. Any writing that you can do will teach, so I'm excited about the possibilities.

Okay, well, a shorter entry today than I usually like to write, but its time to hit the thrift stores. And now, the writing for the day is done!

1 comment:

Gerry said...

A working director's and performer's blog. I really enjoyed reading this as I am sure others will, too, especially those who are in the business or aspire to do it. I have always been extremely impressed with performers who will try to sing for their supper (actually get people to pay them for singing to them) That takes nerve and confidence that most don't have. I grew up loving the local musicians who kept a band going to play for our dances. Playing music became a part of how they earned a living. I remember one very talented guy who had to get a day job working on the state road when he acquired a wife and family, as music just did not pay enough, but he still shared his talent with us for years every Saturday night, and people came from all over southern Utah to see his musical show!