Songs for the Struggling Artist

You’re not Just a Theatre; You’re a Movement.
December 15, 2014, 12:00 am
Filed under: art, Creative Process, theatre, writing | Tags: , ,

Not long ago, I had the second in a series of meetings with an arts organization consultant about my theatre company. These meetings are an extraordinary gift of an opportunity to get feedback and insight from someone who has seen the births, lives and deaths of many theatre companies, large and small. After a long discussion about mission and purpose and values, he said something that made my mind split wide open. It was something along the lines of “You’re not just a theatre, you’re more like a movement.”

And I wouldn’t have expected to, but I loved this idea. I think this is because theatre companies come and go. Fifty were born just today in tiny apartments around NYC but Movements. . .Movements have a lasting effect. Movements slip in and make a difference. Movements can empower people, can shift the balance of things, can show people things they hadn’t seen before. Movements can be political, sure – like the civil rights or feminist movement but they are also revolutionary artistically – like the impressionist, the cubist, the futurist, the modernist movements. Movements move things. Or maybe more than things, they move people. They move the landscape, they move the conversation.

That is for me. I’ll sign up for that. And somehow framing my work in this context helps me weather the storms of art-making a little bit better. If the establishment doesn’t give me its resources or its prizes – no problem. I’m a movement, the establishment isn’t supposed to like me. If I find myself at the margins of things, no problem, that’s where movements thrive.

When I have trouble marketing my work well? As this advisor said, “For you, it’ll be less about marketing and more about spreading the word.”
And that is music to my marketing-weary ears.

What I will now do with this new perspective on my work, I’m not yet sure – but what is clear to me is how buoyed I feel by this idea. It feels as though I had a great anvil untied from my feet and now I’m free to bob in the sea, free to let the movement move me.

“You do not become a ”dissident” just because you decide one day to take up this most unusual career. You are thrown into it by your personal sense of responsibility, combined with a complex set of external circumstances. You are cast out of the existing structures and placed in a position of conflict with them. It begins as an attempt to do your work well, and ends with being branded an enemy of society.”
Václav Havel

I’m not yet at the Enemy of Society Stage yet but I guess that’s how I know I’m not at the end.





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2 Comments so far
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Definitely on the right track. I’d go further. Movements don’t “spread the word;” they mobilize around an idea. They are not about their leaders; they are about their shared vision for what could be. For Messenger to make this leap, you will need to articulate what this vision is, over and over, and live it.

And you will need to invite those who share it to join you–not by asking them to fund your theatre company, but by engaging them in work that brings that vision to life with revelatory excellence, and by inviting them into this new way of thinking. A movement is a collective, not the work of a single artist; many many voices echo and change the sound. Movement leaders do a lot of listening.

Oh, and this blog’s content would be very different. Movements’ measure of success is not whether their leaders are paid fairly; it is whether the change they seek is closer to reality.

Comment by Colin Stokes

Wow. What a bummer response! Thanks for the concrete shoes. I’ll just sink right back down now.

Sounds like there’s a RIGHT way to start a movement and everything I’m doing is wrong.
But – luckily – I don’t really care about doing things the right way anymore.
And that’s part of what I’m working on with my advisor.
Yes, you’re right, those things are often the way Social Movements are formed. (Not sure that’s what I’m doing.) And Yes, you are correct. But as Dr. Moshe Feldenkrais, one of the influences on me (and my “movement” – double double meaning) said, “To Correct is Incorrect.” I don’t really care if I’m doing it wrong. This is the way I’m doing it. I actually don’t need anyone’s instructions or explanations.

Details of my “movement” are forthcoming. . .but if Movements come with as much baggage and rules as Theatre, well, then maybe neither of them is what I’m up to. Perhaps I’ll find a different word.

Comment by erainbowd

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