Songs for the Struggling Artist


How to Be with a Grieving Person
May 8, 2022, 9:27 pm
Filed under: advice, grief | Tags: , ,

There are a lot of things I wish I’d known when friends and family have lost loved ones in the past. I wish I could have known them without knowing such grief myself but unfortunately that is how I learned it. I noticed that those who have experienced a loss like mine were the most adept at engaging with me in a difficult time. It is a skill forged in tears, it would seem.

I know people worry about what to say to someone who’s lost someone – so a lot of times folks just don’t reach out at all. The thing is, though, for all the fear of saying the wrong thing, there’s really nothing to say. There is literally nothing anyone can say that will make a death less painful. It is simply painful and words are unlikely to make much difference. Your words will not be the thing that turn someone’s grief around. Does that mean you shouldn’t say anything at all? No. You should say something but you don’t have to say anything original. You can say “I’m sorry for your loss.” You send your condolences. They won’t change anything but they will affirm your presences with the grieving person, which frankly, is all that is required. Show up. Give hugs if they’re wanted. Hold a hand if it’s needed. Pass the box of tissues if the person runs out. If you don’t have anything to say, just sit quietly. Flowers are really nice.

If you’re far from the grieving person, you can send cards. You can send care packages. You can send text messages. You can send flowers. You can send flower emoji.

People kept offering their ears if I needed to talk and maybe there are people who grieve in a garrulous way. But I did not need to talk. There’s just not much to talk about. He’s dead. It’s terrible. That’s it.

But it was really helpful to hear from people every so often. Honestly, just a little flower emoji was all I needed to know someone was thinking of me. I felt like my needs were so basic but they were rarely met by anyone outside of my immediate circle. Most people, if they did anything, wrote a condolence message on my Facebook post about my brother’s death and that was that. I have done exactly the same with my condolences over the years. I’d do it differently now. First, I’d send a direct message of some kind – an email or a social media message. If I could, I would send a card, if I have their address. Cards are nice because you can look at them again and feel as though the person that sent it to you is with you all over again. If the grieving person was nearby, I’d ask if I could stop by and give them a hug. Then, for the people I know well, I would check back in. How are they now? The loss doesn’t stop. It’s okay to send a second or third condolence/check in.

I think people worry that they’re going to trigger more grief by bringing up a loss but what I know now is that the grief is there whether someone is asking after it or not. I think mostly people are worried about making someone cry when they’re not currently crying. I don’t want to speak for every grieving person, I mean, I couldn’t possibly, but I will say for me, I’d rather be asked after than avoid tears. I really don’t mind crying. And I haven’t cried yet at an inquiry about how I’m doing with the loss. The loss (and the tears) are present whether you ask after them or not. It can be a relief just to acknowledge its presence. When someone brings up my brother’s death, I feel cared for because not everyone is willing to acknowledge such a thing.

In my particular case, the dominant response to the situation was silence. I’m not in a community where people bring casseroles. I did not receive a single lasagna. I think I might have liked one – as those rituals of care seem especially poignant to me now. Like, if you don’t know what else to do, bring food. But I really can’t complain. I received many kind messages (and two sweetheart cactuses) and I am so grateful for all the care. I promise I’m not writing this to get a lasagna out of the deal.

I’m really writing this for myself from before – like, all the things I wish I’d known before – when friends or family lost someone. There are so many things that make a difference that I would not have considered. Things like, checking in with someone more than once. Or, just sending a Thinking of You message. Or an emoji.

That’s all stuff I wish I’d done before for people who are dear to me. It’s fine. I didn’t. I didn’t know. And the vast majority of people don’t know, either – so whatever response they had is also truly fine. One thing death does for you is to clarify the stakes and scale of a thing. The really bad thing is the death, any response to it pales in comparison to that bad news.

A lot of people who’ve been through loss like this mentioned that people can say stupid things on the subject. I’m sure that’s true. – but I mostly didn’t experience anything particularly stupid. Honestly, I think something stupid would be better than nothing. If you say something really stupid at least we’ll have something to talk about. If it’s really stupid, we might get a good laugh out of it even.

I mean – the stupidest comments I heard at my brother’s memorial were of the “I didn’t know Will had a sister!” variety, which, you know, sucks for me, Will’s sister – but it’s that person’s truth, so, no big deal. That’s just facts for them.

What I’m trying to suggest here is that showing up for someone in grief is really just showing up, in whatever way you can and doing it in a sustained way. Send that “Thinking of you” text and then after a few weeks, send another one. It’s simple. But it’s effective. You’ll see. I hope you won’t have to see it for yourself.

This post was brought to you by my patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

It’s also called Songs for the Struggling Artist 

You can find the podcast on iTunesStitcherSpotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotifymy websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

*

Want to help me keep this thing going?

Become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

*

If you liked the blog and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist

Or buy me a “coffee” (or several!) on Kofi – ko-fi.com/emilyrainbowdavis



Should I Quit Acting Because of X?
May 23, 2021, 11:53 pm
Filed under: Acting, advice, art, business, movies, musicals, Quitting, theatre | Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Since joining the acting subreddit, I’ve been seeing a lot of posts with a similar theme. They boil down to, “Will X prevent me from having an acting career?” or maybe more accurately, “I’m X or have X or did X. Should I quit acting?” In this equation, let X be a quality or physical attribute or life history.

I have such complicated feelings about these posts, mostly from young actors looking ahead at a possible professional life in acting. Because on one hand, yes. You should absolutely quit acting and do something else if that’s an option for you. Absolutely you should, if you’re looking for conventional success, run in the opposite direction of an actor’s life. No question.

But on the other hand, the reason to quit is not whatever you’re imagining. You shouldn’t quit because of your science degree or your scars or your background. It won’t be THOSE things that are obstacles to having an acting career. The obstacles to an acting career are everything. Everything is the problem. The problem is not whatever flaw you perceive yourself as having (or whatever some asshole teacher might have said to you). The problem is that it is a very hard business that almost everyone struggles in, in one way or another. The obstacles to an acting career are being born to non-celebrities or not having access to a generous trust fund. The obstacles are a lopsided system that values money and connections more than talent. The obstacles are a commercially driven capitalistic theatre scene that is not accountable to the public in any way but the question of whether or not they will buy tickets.

One thing I did not understand as a young actor is what an ongoing hustle working in the theatre would be. I imagined that I would get one acting gig and it would lead to another and that would lead to the next and so on until I ended up on Broadway. And once I was on Broadway, that would be it! I would have made it and I would be on Broadway until I died.

I think the moment I fully understood this wasn’t so was when my friend (and acting colleague) closed her show on Broadway, the one featuring several movie stars, and the next day went back to her catering gig. It’s possible there were a few actors in that show who went straight to another acting gig. There may have even been one or two that were slated for another show on Broadway. But for most of them, they closed the show and then went home to hustle up the next job. Possibly even the movie stars had to do this. (Though they surely had a lot more help from their agents and their next job wasn’t food service.)

Any acting career is a cycle of working and not working and an acting career is full of dumb reasons for not getting a gig. Mostly, you will never know. Sure – you could lose a gig because of your hair. But you could also GET a gig because of your hair. You cannot know. And while casting directors or agents may tell you some opinion about your appearance or your background, it’s not actually the casting director or agent who gives you the job. They are gatekeepers. And they are not always right about what the people inside the gates actually want. They might tell you a person with glasses like yours will never be cast but then you meet the director and the glasses spark their imagination and you get a call back because you were that interesting one with the glasses. So much of casting talk is about making people more average, more like the conventional but in my experience of running auditions, I have much more often cast people because they were fully themselves or quirky in a way that captivated my attention. I don’t think I’m alone in this. Sure, there are those who have no imagination and just cast the person like the last person who played Juliet so they’ll fit in the costume from ten years ago. That’s a thing, sure. But the artists out there, the visionary directors and writers, are looking for something more. After a full day of looking at people who all look the same, you, with your X walk in and maybe you change the view.


On the subreddit, it feels important to be optimistic and supportive of these young people’s dreams and just answer the question they asked. Should they quit because of their appearance? No. Absolutely not. They should quit because it’s a heartbreaking business but not because of whatever their imagined obstacle is. Is it possible that their obstacle, their X, will make it even harder? Very possible. But, I know some people with all the advantages. They are Adonis-looking white dudes who have talent to burn and no obvious obstacle, who gave the business their all for decades and are hustling now just like they were at the start. There is no guarantee. Not even for the children of movie stars, who generally have the most legs up of anyone.

Should you quit if you’re not the child of a movie star? If you’re looking for security, then, yes, you should quit.

But will you? That’s the question. If you’re tenacious and determined, no cold water of reality will stop you – and that is what you really need in this business. Not the “right” hairstyle or the “right” body or the “right” background but just some talent and ability to keep showing up and giving it a go. But still – I will only say these things here. In conversation with these young aspirants, I will only give them all the examples of people who had “X” and did it anyway. This is partly because I feel that whatever X represents, it is always something we need more of in theatre. We need more people with X, whatever it is, because they don’t see that represented onstage or onscreen and think they would not be chosen because of that. That’s a sign that we’re failing in representing the diversity of humanity well. So, if that person – with X – can ride the roller coaster of life in the arts, then they should not quit. They should get in here and make things better. Are there possibly fewer opportunities for them? Yeah. Possibly. But there are few opportunities period. Get on in and ride the roller coaster and don’t let X stop you.

Each generation re-makes the business. Your colleagues now can, and will probably, be your colleagues later. If you all have X and you want to get together and make an X movie or an X play, that’s good work! No one with X will worry about X in the future because you kicked open the X door for yourself and made room for those with X behind you. That’s what I want you to do, instead of quitting.

Someone told these actors they should quit because of those Xs. That someone is very silly.

This post was brought to you by my patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

It’s also called Songs for the Struggling Artist 

You can find the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

*

Want to help me keep making stuff so I can hire people with X?

Become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

*

If you liked the blog and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist

Or buy me a coffee on Kofi – ko-fi.com/emilyrainbowdavis



More Tips on Masks from a Mask Theatre Person

Initially, I was just going to add a little note to my first Tips on Masks from a Mask Theatre Person, a little update, as it were. I thought it was going to be a sentence or two. But I got started and before I knew it, I’d written over a thousand words. So, I guess I had a few things to say on the subject, after all these months of mask wearing.

I wrote my initial Tips for Masks a few months ago when mask wearing was JUST kicking in for us in New York. According to my stats, people are still reading it and so it needs a little update. Wearing a mask every single day for six months is a very different experience than throwing one on for the first time. A lot has changed since I wrote that first post and I’ve got to make some amendments and adjustments, as well.

The first thing that is really very present, and was absolutely not when I wrote the initial piece, is the intensity of the anti-mask movement. When I wrote it, maskholes were the people taking up too much space and bumping into the rest of us. Now the real maskholes are the ones who refuse to put their masks on. I don’t have a lot to say to those folks – just, wear a mask, don’t be a maskhole.

It would seem that most people seem to be adapting pretty well to wearing these things. They don’t seem to be overly entitled and unconstrained by social bounds the way the early adopters were. I will note, though, that I notice there is still a visibility issue with masks. Depending on the mask, you might have discovered that your peripheral vision is impacted. I don’t have the science on this but I do know that we normally see our noses but are not at all conscious of them. Now you’re seeing this mask instead and it is distracting for the space-making parts of our brains. You’re more likely to bump in to stuff or just have a different sense of the space around you.

This happens in theatre mask work as well and if you can imagine it as a benefit, as we can in working in masks in the theatre, maybe it will start to feel a little less limiting.

For example, some of my favorite masks to work with are naïve masks AKA larval AKA Basal. Their eye-holes tend to be very small and the mask covers the entire face, so in order to work in it, you have to adapt to a very limited range of visibility. This, in fact, is where the comedy comes in. My mask teacher, John Wright, will usually introduce these masks by having everyone put their hands in circles over their eyes, like they’re putting on hand binoculars. (Try it! It’s fun!) Then he puts everyone in increasingly challenging situations while only being able to see through those small tunnels of their hands. Trying to get everyone into a line when no one can really see is almost always funny. Just because of the limitations, everyone begins to use more and more of the body. If you want to see down the line, you have to lean all the way out and turn, you cannot just peek out of your periphery. You have no peripheral vision. It is comedy gold.

Our pandemic masks do not make comedy gold but they do create a limitation. I’m still trying to work out the performative benefits of that limitation (aside from protecting ourselves and the people around us from droplets, of course). But I’m sure there is one. And since there are such a lot of us in these things, if we all search for it, maybe we’ll find something interesting. Perhaps we will all become highly expressive in the eyes. Maybe we will increase our acuity in sensing things with the body, rather than the peripheral vision.

But if you find yourself a little clumsier in mask maybe just recognize that that is likely a property of the mask and not that you are losing your grace.

Another thing I will note is that when I wrote that first post, it was pretty much the height of the epidemic in New York. For us, then, there was never a moment outside the apartment where it made sense to remove a mask. In less dense areas, I have discovered, there is a lot more on and off that tends to happen. You go for a walk in a small town and you can go without your mask for blocks and then need to whip it on as a pedestrian approaches. My “put your mask on and keep it on” advice is useless for you in those circumstances. So, in this on-again-off-again world, you’ll want to only touch the elastic. Take it on and off at the ears, not the front. That’s for safety and keeping your mask as free from the bad stuff as possible. But it is also true for aesthetics in mask that you don’t want to be seen touching the face of the mask.

I don’t have a solution for the fogging glasses problem, really. In the theatre, for performers, I usually encourage glasses wearers to switch to contact lens for their performances or go without. That is a lot harder in the real world where we really need to see. I can mostly only parrot what I have seen others say about the glasses problem – a lot of which seems to involve purchasing either fashion tape, bendable mask wires or defogging goop. I keep trying to just place the glasses over the mask but the glasses often slip or the mask does. The fog seems to entirely depend on the mask, the glasses and the weather. I have been experimenting, though, and I’ve discovered that if I put my front teeth over my lower lip like a cartoon rabbit and say things that begin with F, it does a pretty good job of clearing my glasses. I made up a phrase (“finicky feral finches fend for feed” ) that I found works pretty well. But somewhat more satisfying is telling corrupt and immoral politicians to go F themselves. I was originally enjoying telling Fitch FcFonnell to go F*** himself but then I realized how much more effective it was to begin with a classic, old timey Shakespeare curse of “Fie!” (The i has better glasses-clearing qualities than the u.) So while I walk down the streets watching businesses get boarded up due to the Senate’s abysmal Covid relief response, I can just curse away. “Fie, Fitch FcFonnell! Fie, Findsey Faham!” Lately, I’ve added, “Fie, Famey Foamy Ferrett!” Listen, no one needs to know what kind of witchy business you get up to behind your mask. I’ve Fubbled Fubbled Foiled and Fubbled back there quite a bit. My fillet of a fenny snake has in the fauldron foiled and faked.

Anyway, vocal exercises aside, the main tool an actor uses in mask work is actually available to anyone and that is imagination. The main skill involved in performing in mask is imagining that the mask on your face is your face. That the mouth of the mask is your mouth, that the eyes are your eyes.

One way to deal with the alienating effect of having to wear something on your face all the time is to imagine that the thing is not a foreign object – but an expressive part of your own self. You can imagine scenarios for this, if it will help. You could be an alien species with half a fabric face. You could be a warrior that has grown a protective layer of cloth to prevent you from telling secrets. You could be a cloth doll in the midst of a transformation. You can be someone new every day. I’m not going to say this won’t be challenging. It is actually a lot easier to imagine that a silly forehead with a comedy nose is your face than it is to invent a useful fiction for your new cloth mouth – but it will keep you occupied as you negotiate mask world. And it looks like we’re going to be living in mask world quite a bit longer, so, having a project that’ll last a whole year might not be a terrible idea.

I will update this post as new developments occur. I sure as hell hope we can stop wearing these things every day soon. I hate them as much as anyone. But we’ll suck it up and do it because it helps slow the virus down more than just about any other thing we can do. Wear a mask! Save a life! And imagine you’re a weird cloth monster or something.

You cannot imagine how long it took these masks to get into this line and find one another’s hands. It was very funny to watch them get here. They can barely see.
(This is from my company’s Very Serious Theatre. In the naive masks are: Julia Cavagna, Mia Hutchinson-Shaw, Brooke Turner and Ilyssa Baine)

This post was brought to you by my patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

It’s also called Songs for the Struggling Artist.

You can find the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

*

Want to help me keep exploring masks and theatre?

Become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

*

If you liked the blog and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist

Or buy me a coffee on Kofi – ko-fi.com/emilyrainbowdavis



The Benefits of No One Caring About Your Work

When a friend of a friend asked me for some advice about starting a blog and Patreon, I told her the truth – that most writers struggle to find an audience and the internet is largely indifferent to our work. I realized after I hit send, that this might not be the kind of advice a writer might want to hear. I mean, I know I expected that the internet would fall at my feet and deliver me instant recognition when I first began writing and posting music there. I think imagined that there were people who spent their days just running their fishermen’s nets through the internet’s wide oceans looking for gems. This is what I thought despite the fact that I never used the internet that way myself, nor did I know anyone else who did. But I suppose hope springs eternal? Anyway, there are no gem finding internet fishing boats and putting things up on the internet is largely like going outside in a thunderstorm and shouting your latest sonnet. It’s not likely to be heard or even noticed. Very few people, besides the ones closest to you, are likely to care about a piece you put up on the internet.

This might seem harsh but there are benefits to no one giving any fucks about your work. I mean. Let me pause for a second to say that a lot of people care about my work now. Not all of it, for sure – but I have been at this long enough that I am no longer operating in total anonymity on the internet in most places. I don’t want to underplay my own success. But I do have a lot of things on the internet that in all the likelihood no one has ever seen. There are over a thousand posts on my Hamlet blog that no one has ever clicked on – or at least that have never registered as viewed. They’re mostly the tiny words, which are actually my favorite posts – but no one has a reason to click on them, so they remain as invisible as any other neglected post on the internet. And I have a following. That Hamlet blog has over 107,000 views altogether. But…even so.

But I was here to tell you why it’s good when no one cares. It’s good because you can really grow in peace. The pressure of publishing where a person MIGHT see it means that you’re working on your writing (or your art or whatever) and growing it and developing it outside of what can be a bright spotlight.

It is exciting when posts go a little viral. It is a roller coaster to watch stats and comments roll in. But it is also a distraction from writing. When no one cares what you write, you can develop and share your own voice without worrying so much about what people are saying about it.

And in retrospect, I’m very glad that no one was reading the very first blogs I wrote here. They weren’t that good yet. I think being out here all the time without too much push back has led me to discover my own particular style and confidence in my voice.

There are a LOT of gems in my internet corner and many of them have never been caught in anyone’s net. This one is still one of my favorites and it never got the attention I felt it warranted. And I love this little bit from The Hamlet Project that has only two views. But somehow even though not everything gets seen – the gems do sort of add up. And occasionally one will get caught up in a random google search and become accidentally popular. For example, I tossed off a piece called How to Congratulate an Artist a couple of years ago and now it gets a handful of views every day. I could not possibly explain it to you. It’s not because it’s a great piece. It’s not. It’s just accidentally google-able and the more people click on it, the more people click on it. I guess google is the internet fisherman.

And all of the things do add up to a rather substantial body of work, which is maybe the biggest benefit. I have written a LOT of things and the evidence is right there on the internet. Some gems, some fish, some old boots. But a substantial body of work, regardless. Benefit #1.

This post was brought to you by my generous patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

It’s also called Songs for the Struggling Artist.

You can find the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

*

Want to be one of the jewels of the ocean?

Become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

*

If you liked the blog and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist

Or buy me a coffee on Kofi – ko-fi.com/emilyrainbowdavis



Now Would Be a Hard Time to Start a Creative Practice

For well over a decade, I have had a daily writing practice. I’ve developed various pieces of it over the years but it has included, consistently, at least an hour of concentrated writing. I have written about it before – here, here and here if you want to know more.

The thing about a practice, the practice of anything, I suspect, is that it is not always easy but the fact of it makes some other things easier. Let’s say I had a daily swim practice (which, lord knows, if I had access to a pool I would have). It might be hard to get in the pool somedays but surely I’d get better at swimming over time and perhaps even challenge myself to learn new strokes as time went by. Days wherein I didn’t swim might feel strange somehow and a little off. This is true for a writing practice, as well.

But the real gift of a practice is when the times are tough. Take now. This coronavirus situation has made it incredibly hard to put pen to paper. (Side note: I wrote this two months ago. Just publishing now. Now there’s even more going on that might make writing challenging.) Every time I sit down to write, it is a fight. But. I keep going because it is my practice to write even when it’s hard and usually after a few pages, I’m back in business. If I did not have the benefit of a previous practice, of mountains of evidence that wading through the hard parts was worth it, I’m fairly certain I’d have quit in the first 10 – 15 minutes. As it stands, I suffered through about three pages of agonizing slow word by word garbage before I started writing this piece, which, has flowed rather easily after all the halting resistance at the top. That’s the practice buoying me up, keeping me flowing when I feel like I’m going to sink.

If you don’t have a practice yet, I’m not sure now is the time to start one. I mean, give it a shot, if you want to – but it feels to me like it would be very hard to begin something new in this time – or even to learn something new. I know everyone’s yammering on about how now is the perfect time to learn that language you’ve always wanted to study – but I’m skeptical. Human brains learn best when they are safe and secure. When there’s a lot of excitation and fear around, learning doesn’t tend to stick. At least that’s the theory we work with in Feldenkrais. From what I understand, we are most receptive to learning when we are comfortable and when our safety is not at stake. For many people that is not right now.

I feel like establishing a practice is similar. You create one in good times and it will sustain you in bad times. I’m so grateful for mine right now but I would not want to start it at a time like this. It feels like it might be doomed to fail. I can feel all the moments I’d be tempted to give up and toss away my pen. I write through those moments because of practice. That’s what practice is for, I think. Not so much to create genius writing but to be a support for us when the sky is falling. Dancers with a dance practice keep dancing, even if they have to adapt to their small spaces and such. Singers keep on singing – even if it disturbs their neighbors in confinement. We just keep afloat doing the practice we’ve always done and it will keep us going when all else falters.

Y’all know this is not my writing set up. First, there are lines on this notebook. Second, uh, water?! Just water? I’m going to need some coffee.

This post was brought to you by my generous patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

It’s also called Songs for the Struggling Artist.

You can find the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

*

Want to help me keep my writing practice going?

Become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

*

If you liked the blog and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat.

https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist

Or buy me a coffee on Kofi – ko-fi.com/emilyrainbowdavis

 



How to Help Artists the Most

As a self-described struggling artist™, when the pandemic struck us and people suddenly started worrying about struggling artists, many folks thought of me. I appreciated it very much. It was quite remarkable to suddenly receive support I didn’t explicitly ask for.

But as a Struggling Artist™ (just kidding, it’s not trademarked,) I have felt some ambivalence about the resources for us that I’m seeing emerge. The bulk of them are emergency funds and they are incredibly necessary for so many people. I bow down to those who are raising those funds. But one thing I’m thinking about a lot is how few artists I know who would actually apply for these sorts of resources. Everyone I’ve talked with about them is leaving them for someone who is in real need.

See, what constitutes an emergency for many artists is fairly extreme. Is it just not having the income to pay rent? Because we’ve all been there before. Is that really an emergency? It is. Sure. But it’s a familiar one.

There were also a lot of institutions out there talking the talk of raising money for artists but essentially paying themselves and/or making artists prove their worthiness for the money raised. The best resources for artists seem to be the ones generated by other artists who are streamlining their processes dramatically. There are also some supports emerging from the unions and guilds. What’s sticky about all this is that the people who can make the best cases for their emergency funding are people who lost something. The actors who suddenly lost their Broadway gig, the playwright who had their show cancelled. Those are clear and obvious things to redress.

But as an artist who did not have a job to be fired from or a production to lose, the loss for me is just sort of normal. Sure, I can’t do some of my day jobs – but for the most part the emergency happened several years ago. I’ve already lost many things. My time for emergency funding has passed. I think there are many of us in this state. Artists who were already living on the edge, who already had our fall.

It’s like, we’ve been compelled to walk a tightrope for all these years and suddenly, now that there’s an earthquake, everyone’s like, “Oh, here’s a little net.” Not a particularly robust net – just a net that might allow you to fall without getting smashed to pieces in one go. And you have to search for the net store and fill out a bunch of paperwork and very possibly have to sit on the phone with a broken unemployment system for hours at a time. And the funding you might have been eligible for as a freelance self-employed person has already run out, thanks to corporations like Shake Shack and Harvard who bogarted the money.

And of course, of course, we’re grateful for the net but also it would have been nice to not have had to walk a tightrope in the first place. And in my case, I already fell. So asking for a net now feels silly. I’ve been knitting one that works down on the ground for years. I’m okay. Not amazing – but I’ve had some surprising nets appear in the last couple of years so I’m okay.

For a brief moment, it looked possible for this country or state to do the things that would have helped provide a real net for everyone, not just artists. They could have canceled rent. They could have provided a UBI. But those ideas seemed to have vanished as quickly as they bubbled up. The real relief has not come, so now it’s emergency grants, left and right. Artists are applying for $500 here and $500 there, which will be helpful in the short term but will only break the inevitable fall.

I saw one resource that would have provided a substantial amount of money to an artist. It stipulated that it was for an artist in “dire financial need” and it made me think about how sticky “dire financial need’ Is. How dire is dire? Some things are obvious. There are those without health insurance or who can’t afford groceries. We know that’s dire. But I know artists who are in a cold panic about what they will do after they’ve paid this month’s rent out of their savings – but, of course, they have a savings. Had. They won’t for long. But meanwhile, someone who’s unable to make payments on their summer cottage may see their situation as dire. Dire is relative and a lot of artists live so close to dire already we don’t necessarily know it when we see it.

I’ve been thinking a lot about all the emergency funds that have sprung up and how reluctant many artists are to take advantage of them. I remember reading an article about artist housing and some jerkwad commented on it, railing about how artists were always looking for a hand out. It made me mad then and it makes me madder now – because not only are artists generally not looking for hand-outs, many can barely be convinced to take them when they are offered with the explicit purpose of helping them. In my experience, artists just want to be paid for their work, like anyone. We literally just want someone to pay us for the thing we do. We want to be paid for our writing, our performing, our music, our art. We would like for folks to buy our book or our album or (when we’re not in a pandemic) tickets for our shows. But the problem is, while most people like and care about art, they’re not inclined to pay for it. So – even now, in this moment where art that can be enjoyed at home is the thing that is making most people’s quarantines bearable, most of it is free.

So artists, not inclined to take a hand-out are languishing, unpaid, for work that is the lifeblood of the culture. The amount of creativity bubbling up out of our sudden removal from capitalist everyday life is really quite staggering and beautiful. I mean – the guy who made a restaurant for squirrels? Come on. No one would have ever given him a grant to make such a thing. But many an artist is too panicked about survival to create a squirrel restaurant and emergency funding to a handful of them who already had access to some resources isn’t going to solve it.

I keep thinking about this funding scheme invented by some artists who have already achieved notable success. They are creating content that people will apparently pay to watch (will they, though?) and then those artists select other artists to receive the money. It is a nice idea. Except it definitely feels like a way for the cool art kids to pass on some resources to the just about to be cool kids, like the kids who have a couple of fancy credits but not a Broadway show yet. Listen, I’m cool but not the kind of cool that Taylor Mac is likely to give a 10k grant to. That grant is def going to the latest indie cabaret star most like Taylor Mac. It just is. And I mean no disrespect to Taylor Mac. If I were in charge of selecting art, I would be more likely to fund the work most like Emily Rainbow Davis, no matter how hard I tried not to. So – the resources are swirling around the places there were resources before, of course. And that makes sense. We can’t fix the whole field while the whole field is benched, can we? Can we? I doubt it. I’d like it if we could. But I doubt.

So how can you really support artists at this moment? You could donate to an emergency fund. There are a few that really do deliver such things. I am a fan of the Indie Theatre Fund and personally know an artist who received funds from them quickly. But the best possible way to support an artist is to pay them to do what they do. If they have a book for sale, buy a few. Get one for you and a couple for your friends. If they have music for sale, buy a few albums. If they have a Patreon, sign up to be a part of it. If they make visual art, buy some! If they’re a performing artist and you can hire them for some video work or voice work, do that. Or you can always follow the advice of Raja Feather Kelly and just ask them what they need.

And, listen, if you don’t like the artist’s work, but you like them, maybe buy their work anyway. Buy it and give it to someone you know who will appreciate it. Hell, I’ll take it. I want everyone’s art! Everyone seems to always be making decisions about whether art is good or bad and they’re very sketchy about paying for art unless it pleases them precisely. Generally, people won’t donate to fundraising campaigns unless they’re really sold on the project. I think they feel like their dollars are the arbiters of taste. Just donate. You don’t have to think your friend’s project is the best thing in the world. We don’t have any national funding for individual artists; sometimes fundraising campaigns are our only hope. You don’t have to like everything to support one.

I feel like sometimes people treat art like it’s furniture and they won’t buy anything unless it absolutely fits with the rest of the house. They won’t buy the book, or the album or the fund the project if it isn’t exactly to their taste. And yet the same person will worry that an artist won’t be able to afford to buy groceries this month and donate to some arts organization that will use it to keep the lights on at their institution. If you want to really and truly support an artist, pay one for something they do. It’s that simple.

For me, there are a multitude of ways to do that. That’s the net I’ve been knitting. Patreon is the frontline. There, my patrons pay me for these blogs and the audio version of the blogs that is the podcast. And, at the moment, I’m fundraising for the audio drama podcast I’m making. This is my big work right now and it is what is allowing me to pay a bunch of OTHER artists to do what they do best at a time when there is not a lot of work on offer. Will it buy me groceries? Not until I’ve paid everyone else. But, yes, eventually, if I can get the whole thing made, it could also buy me groceries. Not yet, though. If you’re worried about me eating, hit me up on Patreon, PayPal or Kofi. But I’m fine. I have a net with Patreon but not everyone has been knitting all this time. That’s why it’s not a terrible time to be this Struggling Artist™ – because I’ve been around this work-drying-up-block a few times and I know how to show new folks around the neighborhood. I also know how to help them and now you do, too. (Buy their art!)

Like this photo? I downloaded it from Pixabay for free but you could pay this photographer for their work. My goal is to pay for the photos I use in the blog one day – when my net is a wee bit less porous.

This post was brought to you by my generous patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

It’s also called Songs for the Struggling Artist.

You can find the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

*

Want to be a part of my net?

Become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

*

If you liked the blog and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat.

https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist

Or buy me a coffee on Kofi – ko-fi.com/emilyrainbowdavis

 



Tips on Masks from a Mask Theatre Person
April 13, 2020, 1:25 am
Filed under: advice, clown, masks, theatre | Tags: , , , , , ,

The masks we’re all wearing these days are not the sort that would play onstage. You’d have to use them if you were playing a naturalistic surgical scene – but otherwise, these protective masks are awfully hard to express one’s self in. They may be very important for not spreading the virus but they are lousy theatre masks. Even so, I’ve been trying to figure out how to apply what I’ve learned from years of mask work to these terrible untheatrical (but incredibly important) medical ones.

First is – once it’s on, don’t mess with it.

On stage, it ruins the illusion if you touch your mask. Actors will go through all kinds of machinations to avoid being seen adjusting a mask in front of the public. Many will just ride out an uncomfortable mask and deal with the elastic injuries later.

Out in coronavirus world, if you adjust your mask, you bring whatever you had on your fingers up to your face, putting you at more risk. Touching your mask once it’s on moves possible infection around. This is why it’s best to try and work out the fit with clean hands before you got out in the world.

Second – no one can see what you’re doing with your face under your mask. If you’re smiling, we don’t know. If you’re gritting your teeth with murderous rage, we don’t know. That’s why, onstage, mask performers learn how to express stuff with the body. Sad? We’ll see it in the tilt of the head. Mad? we’ll see it in your balled up fists. If you’re finding yourself alienated in your inexpressive face covering, try communicating more with your body. Give a thumbs up. Do a happy shoulder shimmy. If you go too big with all this stuff, people might think you’re a strange clown but at least you’ll have an actual human to human exchange with that person six feet away from you, who definitely can’t see the crinkle in your eyes to indicate your smile. Trust me on that point. No one knows you’re smiling at them.

Third – Don’t be a maskhole.
There’s an effect that can happen with some people where putting on a mask makes them feel invulnerable and anonymous and it turns them into maskholes. When I worked Front of House on Punchdrunk’s Masque of the Red Death, wherein everyone in the audience wore a mask, we saw extraordinarily bad behavior from many masked audience members. There were people who seemed perfectly nice and reasonable before and after the show but as soon as the mask went on, they became holy terrors. They’d steal things from the rooms. They’d get belligerent with actors and staff. They got in the way a lot.

You might have noticed this effect at Halloween.

Similarly, in those early days of Coronavirus – there were a handful of people in masks and lots of people not in them. Almost inevitably, the people who one had to be the most careful of were those IN masks. They’d get very close – pass right next to you – barrel forward in the grocery store. And so the term maskhole was coined.

Now we’re all meant to wear masks outside our homes and I’m worried about the increase in potential maskholes.

One article I read said that part of the reasoning to insist on masks was to help encourage people to be more careful but I cannot imagine, given how many people in masks behave, that it will do that. It’s likely that it will encourage the opposite. A mask provides such a strong illusion of safety – I fear we’re bound to see people in them getting closer to each other than they’ve been before. Why not? They have masks! They feel safe now!

So – you know – try not to be a maskhole.

Fourth – It takes time to get to know what you can do in a mask. It will be alienating for a while. At the moment, everyone looks sort of automaton-y and apocalyptic. But I think there’s hope for a more expressive way of wearing our protective gear. Maybe we can develop a smile substitute that we can do from six feet away? I was going to suggest using the ASL sign for smile but it appears to involve touching one’s face – so we’re going to need a hands away from the face gesture that suggests that you’re smiling at someone behind the mask. Maybe, like, one jazz hand? I don’t know. We need something, for sure. I really miss being able to exchange smiles with the few people I get to see out in the world.

Fifth – no one can hear you through a mask. Onstage, you’d probably just have a character in masks like these be silent. Out in the real world, you will have to speak, probably. You’ll have to speak more loudly than you’re used to, to get through those layers of fabric and it’s going to feel weird, because it is. Nobody sounds good or clear from behind a mask. That’s why gestures work so much better than actual talking. Maybe it’s time we really all learned sign language.

I’m hoping some of my fellow mask theatre folk will be finding theatrical ways to deal with these unwieldy, unaesthetic masks. I’ve seen some who’ve designed dog snout masks, another who’s made a changeable smiling mask. I think, if this goes on for a while and it does seem likely to go on for a while, we will eventually see some exciting developments for this type of mask. Meanwhile, stay safe everyone! And don’t be a maskhole!

UPDATE! I have written some more tips all these months later. Here are: More Tips on Masks from a Mask Theatre Person

This person is doing an amazing job of smiling with her mask on. BUT, really, you shouldn’t be close enough to see those smiling eyes.

This post was brought to you by my patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

It’s also called Songs for the Struggling Artist.

You can find the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

*

Want to help an NYC theatre artist weather this thing?

Become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

*

If you liked the blog and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist

Or buy me a coffee on Kofi – ko-fi.com/emilyrainbowdavis



The Other Currency in Theatre Economics
February 4, 2020, 1:07 am
Filed under: advice, Creative Process, theatre | Tags: , , , , , ,

When I write a new play, I’ll usually gather a group of friends together, give them wine and snacks and we’ll read it. It’s a great way for me to hear what’s on the page and for us all to see one another. Every time, someone says, “We should do this more often.”

Because a large portion of my network has largely left town to go raise their kids or whatever, I am always trying to add new people. Those people will go on to be the people I recommend when asked for actors. They’ll become the people I ask to join me if/when I get stuck into a bigger project. Fundamentally, it’s a way to get to know one another in a low stakes, pleasant, creative atmosphere – which is, of course, the way I like to work. It’s not a financial transaction. I make it clear I can’t pay anyone and people self select for the experience.

I am not alone in this sort of methodology. Almost no writer has the resources on their own to fund a paid developmental reading in a living room. And even if they could, there are reasons not to. Those reasons have to do with the alternate currency that flows alongside money in the making of theatre – and possibly in the other arts as well. The alternate currency is essentially Good Will and it is just as easily lost and gained as money. It’s not explicit but it can make all the difference in the world between getting a gig and not.

I started to think about this when I invited an actor to join me for one of these living room readings. They said they were interested but that they could no longer do things for free and would need some sort of payment. This message made me feel bad. It also means that I will never approach that actor again – first, because they made me feel bad and second, because they clearly do not understand a fundamental truth about the theatre business.

Now, let me pause to say that I am a fierce advocate for artists getting paid. I am sympathetic to the need for money and a desire to be paid for your work. I understand that there are a lot of people out there trying to avoid doing the right thing and I know that sometimes folks have to agitate to be valued. The need for money prevents artists from being able to do their work and if their art is not paying them, then they lose double. But I actually do fight to pay artists on every rehearsed project I do. I am transparent about what is possible, that I will fight to pay them and then I do. That’s just policy. It’s important. I do try like hell to put my fundraising money where my mouth is.

But – that said – a thing like a living room reading is not really part of that stream of economics. A living room reading is for social currency. It’s for building good will. Instead of running auditions, we can get to know one another in a creative context and relaxed social setting. The actors have done me a favor by showing up and reading the words I wrote down and I will return it the next time someone asks me if I know any actors who are a real pleasure to work with.

Conversely, if someone asked me if I knew the actor I invited who asked to be paid when I’ve explicitly said there was no money, I’d tell them that story since that’s all I know.

The sad thing about this is how this talented actor will never know this. As my friend said, they “probably read one of those books or listened to one of those entrepreneur gurus who told them to VALUE THEMSELVES and NEVER WORK FOR FREE and now they’re making their stand at a living room soiree read, where are all they’re doing is shooting themselves in the foot. Nobody pays for these things. No one. Tony winning actors read my stuff for free all the time. Only the novices don’t know that the building up of these experiences is how you actually have a career.”

I’m not sure I knew this back when I was acting. I very possibly could have made similarly self-defeating stands back in the day. Maybe I lost gigs because I didn’t understand what things were social currency and what were for literal currency. I wish someone had explained it to me. I wish someone had explained it to this actor. Actors get caught up in the world of agents and casting directors and can end up worrying only about who can get them an agent. They don’t realize that agents and casting directors can’t give them a job. Writers and directors give actors jobs. Agents exist to introduce you to writers and directors who are putting on shows.

Would you rather spend two minutes in front of a director whose eyes are getting blurry after seeing two hundred actors at an audition or three hours with them, doing a whole play and chatting over wine? I know which one I’d choose.

Is it all gold? No, of course not. You might have to turn up at 100 crappy readings before you find good work or people who you hope to work with in the future. But today’s writer of a crappy play, might be tomorrow’s writer of a hit play or TV series or whatever. You don’t know.

The not knowing is why the social currency is not as simple as the economic currency. It’s not transactional. It’s not quid pro quo. It’s not like, “You read a play for me, I recommend something for you.” And it’s not even like putting money in a special currency bank. It’s more like growing a garden of wildflowers than anything. You have to scatter the seeds in a wide variety of places in a wide variety of conditions to allow for the possibility of some growth. You don’t know what kind of seeds they are or what they need to grow, you don’t know if they need wet or dry soil – so you just need to scatter those seeds far and wide. Showing up at things like readings are a way to scatter those seeds. A guy who read a play in my living room a few years ago just had his face on the side of a giant building on 42nd Street for his hit TV show. Those things have nothing to do with one another, really, aside from the fact that I know how widely that actor scattered those wildflower seeds.

Life in the theatre may seem short and transient but if you’re lucky, it’s long and full of unexpected connections. The relationships you nurture now may have surprising results later in life. There are many people I never would have thought would find success but did (and vice versa, of course). The more you care for and develop relationships now, the more likely those people will be to go out on a limb for you or fight to have you be part of their payday gig. This is why you don’t fight for $25 from writers and directors now – so that they’ll fight to have you for much more than $25 in the future. You want your voice to be in a writer’s head, you want your cadence to be the cadence a director imagines when she envisions the show on Broadway or wherever. The writer and the director are the people who could, in the future, give you a job. People pay agents and casting directors to audition in front of them but those people cannot hire you. They can only put you in front of a writer or director who can hire you. Why not skip the middle man, read a play, drink some wine and show up as a hero for someone who might get you a gig in the future. You might not end up with your picture on the side of a building, but you’ll hopefully have a good time and meet some nice people.

That’s the best thing about theatre, really. If you’re missing the social currency, you’re focused on the wrong currency. Even the most successful writer who’s auditioning actors for their hit show still wants people who like them or their show enough to want to do it for free. At that point, of course, no one’s doing it for free anymore but beginning with social currency is always a good idea, even in the paying world. Have snacks with writers. Have wine with directors. Just go.

 

This post was brought to you by my generous patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

You can find the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

*

Want to be a part of both streams of currency in this world?

Become my patron on Patreon.

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

*

If you liked the blog and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist

Or buy me a coffee on Kofi – ko-fi.com/emilyrainbowdavis



The Weird Perils of Surviving in the Arts

It WAS a magical show. It’s not that we didn’t have difficulties – it’s just that they were so minor in the face of the magic afoot. The cast was talented and smart and game. The design team was innovative and generous. The musicians were curious and supportive. The three of us who made it happen thought of ourselves as Charmed Ones – bringing forth good art magic. It was a charmed time, I think. And I don’t think I’m wrong about how good it actually was.

Anyway – that was 18 years ago. A baby who was born on the day we started rehearsals is probably preparing to go to college. Time has passed. But for me, it still feels quite fresh. It is part of my artistic continuum– the first step on a long road – and therefore a still significant card in my deck. For most of the other people involved, it is a pleasant memory. It is a show they did in that (perhaps) brief period of making a go of theatre in New York at the dawn of the century. It has become a bit of nostalgia – something to tell their kids about.

Since that show in 2002, at least 18 children have been born to people involved in it. A few of them have remained in theatre but have moved to other parts of the country. As far as I know, I am the only one left of that 22 person team doing theatre in New York. And even I have scaled way back.

It’s become clear what a young person’s game theatre can be. The large majority of that magical team were young artists. We were mostly in our late 20s and we were all on fire. But without sustaining support, without sufficient opportunities to keep working, most people made the quite sensible choice to leave theatre or New York or both. I did not make that sensible choice and while I wouldn’t have, couldn’t have, done it any other way, I am running into some surprising new perils in sticking around this long.

For example, enough time has now passed that shows that I think of as contemporary are, for others, part of their crazy artistic long distant past. Shows that were and are the most important things I’ve ever done are now, to others, comparable to a fun party they went to a long time ago. It is a very weird feeling. I used to be surrounded by hordes of people who all seemed to believe that theatre was the most important thing in the world and over time, almost everyone has found other things that are the most important to them, while I remain.

I have so many conversations wherein people express surprise that I’m still at it. There is often a tone that sounds a little like, “You’re still playing with dolls?” If feels as if, to most people, theatre was a childish thing that they put away with all their other childhood toys and almost no one can believe I still have mine.

When I first started putting on shows, it was all fresh and new and I felt I had so much to learn and discover. I was pulling on so many threads and bits of training. I figured out how to work with our masks from books, learned Rasa Boxes from our Movement Director and threw in some training in Viewpoints I’d gotten a few years before. I didn’t have a method, per se, but I did know what I was after and tried anything and everything to get it.

Now – I am much clearer about my methods and techniques. All the things I’ve learned over the years have sort of coalesced into my own practice. I have acres more confidence in my ability to get a group of people where I want them to go. But all that hard won knowledge feels wasted due to the fact that I rarely have the will and/or energy to raise the necessary funds to make a show happen. I have had my theatrical heart broken a lot and it is hard to love again.

I can say, with a fair amount of confidence, that I would make an objectively better piece of theatre than I could 18 years ago. I know what I’m doing now in a way that I did not then. But what I had then was a kind of unbridled enthusiasm and positivity, as well as some delusional optimism. Turns out, that may be the more valuable commodity.

Let’s say you met a genie who told you he could give you either endless unbridled enthusiasm for your work OR highly evolved skill and knowledge – but you could not have both. Which would you choose?

In previous years, I’d have thought that skill and knowledge would be a better choice but having seen how things work, well…part of my hard won knowledge is the realization that unbridled enthusiasm tends to get people a lot further than skill. Take the genie’s first offer. With your enthusiasm, you can fundraise and hire someone with knowledge and skill.

In the not quite two decades since we put on that first magical show, I have made many things, taken many risks and put on a lot of shows. The company lost actors to other professions, other callings and other cities. Two of our regulars were lost to fatal illness. Things happen in 18 years. Births, deaths, art, all of it.

That first show eighteen years ago was connected to the cycles of the world. It was about Persephone and how she came to live in two places – the Underworld and the world above. Since we made it, there have been seven Spiderman movies and a couple of versions of a Spiderman musical. Given the way the world retreads the same stories again and again, it has not come as a surprise to me that a show based on the same mythical source material has become a hit show on Broadway. I’m sure there were many wonderful Persephone shows somewhere before ours ever came into being. It’s clear if you live long enough that you’ll see these sorts of things happen often. It’s probably never easy to watch the world embrace things that it ignored when you made them but maybe you get used to it the longer you keep at it.

There’s a chapter in Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic where she talks about ideas sort of floating around in the atmosphere and then gifting themselves to the person that is ready to receive them and bring them forth into the world. I have found this concept comforting and motivating. It has helped me welcome the crazy ideas that occur to me and justify my work on them. I think, “Well, that idea chose me to come through. It must be a good one and I have to honor it.” The part I have yet to be able to reconcile is the bit that comes later – after I’ve made the thing and after I’ve fulfilled the promise to the best of my ability – and then the idea goes and flies off to someone else, to go do it for a bigger audience.

I don’t think anyone could have warned me about some of the more unexpected perils of sticking out a life in the arts. No one could have prepared this particular road for me. The only things I could say to my younger self if I could time travel and give her advice are: Grab hold of that unbridled enthusiasm and ride it for all its worth. Catch hold of the ideas flying by and ride those, too.

But everyone will tell you that sort of thing. And honestly, that’s pretty much what I did. So…I don’t know. Merde?

I suppose my real hope is to speak to those, like me, who have been at it for a long while to just say – Yep. Of course it’s unsustainable. Yep. It’s weird in so many unexpected ways. Yep. I’m here too. We’re here and it’s weird.

This post was brought to you by my generous patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

You can find the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

*

Want to help me nurture the ideas that gift themselves to me?

Become my patron on Patreon. They get all my good news before anyone else. 

Click HERE to Check out my Patreon Page

*

If you liked the blog and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist

Or buy me a coffee on Kofi – ko-fi.com/emilyrainbowdavis



“Believe in Yourself!”

In the bathroom at my local café, someone has written on the wall with chalk, in what I’m sure is meant to be an inspirational font: “Believe in Yourself!”

I hate this note. I know it’s meant to be uplifting but I cannot imagine that anyone could look at a note on the bathroom wall and change their belief or lack of belief in themselves. In response to this cheery message, I may have given a bathroom wall the finger. I’m not proud of it – but I think I’ve been pushed to my Believing in Myself limit.

My having reached Believe in Yourself capacity is probably coming from my time in acting where the main career strategy is to Believe in Yourself hard enough that good things will come to you with secret attractive magic. But then – ironically – if a director told an actor to believe in himself while acting in a scene – he would be at a loss. “But what do you want me to DO?” he’d ask in frustration. That’s always my question, too. But what should I actually DO?

The thing that’s dangerous about this Believe in Yourself business is that it often becomes a way to explain one’s success or lack thereof, particularly in fields where luck plays such an extreme factor. As people search for explanations for why we succeed or fail, it often tends to boil down to, “Well, he didn’t really believe in himself, did he? If he had – he’d be doing great!” Belief in self becomes this mysterious magic that can be dark or bright.

In my earlier years, I often took this sort of thing to heart. Someone would try to instill confidence in me by telling me that I just needed to believe in myself more and I believed them. I thought that the reason I hadn’t achieved whatever I was trying to achieve was because I hadn’t had enough confidence in it, that my belief in myself had been insufficient to achieve the goal. It strikes me now as insidiously destructive. The magical thinking that pervades the arts makes our success or failures hinge entirely on an unmeasurable metric of an ethereal thing when most of success is actually based on a series of systemic advantages or disadvantages. To transcend the disadvantages, one needs a champion or champions. I think we can all agree that the fabulous Billy Porter probably believes in himself. But he does not credit his self belief in the same way he pays tribute to the people who supported him. Here he is in an interview with Diep Tran for American Theatre talking about his relationship with Huntington Theatre:

Yeah, Peter DuBois and I were both working at the Public Theater under George C. Wolfe back in the early 2000s. Peter was a producer, and I had a writing/directing residency there. When he got the artistic directorship at the Huntington, he called and asked me to direct there. He believed in me. He has believed in me as a director from the very beginning. He’s one of the few who has given me the opportunity to exercise that muscle and become the best that I can be—because you can’t get better unless you have a space to practice. He’s given me a really safe theatrical home for me to expand my art and help everybody else understand what that expansion is.

I am so glad that Peter DuBois supported Billy Porter from the beginning and on through the years so that we could have him inspiring us now and only wish I’d had a Peter DuBois. I long for someone who might have provided me the same sort of support and encouragement and a safe theatrical home.

I have seen men do this for each other over and over again. It makes no difference if the mentee is as brilliant as Billy Porter or as mediocre as the most mediocre white bread man in the world – men escort other men into the circle. I have seen it happen over and over again. I have anecdotes. I have receipts. And I have never seen a man do this for a woman. At this point, I think there are not quite enough women in the inner circle for women to be able to do it for other women, either. The women I know who made it into the center did it by banding together and getting their crowd through. No one brought them in or made space for them.

Maybe we don’t need everyone believing in themselves more. Maybe it would be good to try believing in someone else, for a change. Choose someone and be their champion – be their best believer. That has a whole lot more value than believing in yourself.

This was not the message on the bathroom wall. This is far more arty and tasteful. (It is by HaseebPhotography via Pixabay.)

 

This post was brought to you by my generous patrons on Patreon.

They also bring you the podcast version of the blog.

You can find the podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-1-33-28-am

Every podcast features a song at the end. Some of those songs are on Spotify, my websiteReverbNation, Deezer and iTunes

*

Want to express your belief in me?

Become my patron on Patreon.

*

If you liked the blog and would like to give a dollar (or more!) put it in the PayPal digital hat. https://www.paypal.me/strugglingartist

Or buy me a coffee on Kofi – ko-fi.com/emilyrainbowdavis

 




%d bloggers like this: