Wednesday, February 20, 2013

And I Wish Real Life Came With Back-Up Dancers

“’Tis bitter cold, and I am sick at heart.”
                                                - Hamlet, Act I, scene i

--> I am tired of fighting - with everyone, about everything, every single second of every night and day.

I am exhausted by every audience member who believes that buying a ticket entitles them to take my photo, to film my acts, gives them access to me before the show and after the show and during the show and somehow makes them part of my life.

I’m tired of everyone who has ever - or never - seen a show and thus presumes to speak with great authority about the complexities of art and business and babysitting and relationships and talent and experience and personalities and effort and risk that go into every single second of what I do.

I’m exhausted by those who don’t understand the difference between thoughtful critique and adolescent whingeing, between creating and consuming, between opinion and fact, stage and reality, the internet and life.

I am tired of everyone’s hurt feelings and offended sensibilities and ranting outrage - which somehow exists simultaneously with a blithe disregard for the feelings and sensibilities and circumstances of anyone else’s reality.

I’m tired of bad performers who assume that the sheer fact of their existence entitles them to work; of bad producers who assume that the sheer fact of their existence entitles them to endless gratitude; of every single person who simply assumes that they can do what I do.

I am exhausted by colleagues and friends of nearly a decade’s acquaintance saying one thing to my face and another thing to Facebook. I’m tired of colleagues of minutes’ acquaintance somehow having opinions on my life of a decade past.

I’m tired of constantly having to defend everything I create; of having years of focus and effort and craft dismissed as “comic relief” by performers with a different aesthetic from my own; of being too smart to be the pretty one and too weird to be the fancy one and too much of a stripper to be a “real” performer; and of ever caring about any of that as much as I do.

I’m exhausted by the very idea of a loving and supportive artistic ‘community’ that thrives on factionalism and self-righteousness and dishonest business dealings. I am tired of public outrage when perpetrated against and wide-eyed blinking innocence when perpetrating in the exact same way.

I’m tired of this city. And suitcases. And subways and stairs and closing in on forty with increasingly bad knees and no health insurance and borrowed rent money and strings of cancelled gigs every time it snows.

I am tired of glitter. I am exhausted by the very words: fabulous, showgirl, glamour. I’m tired of leopard print, of spandex, of eyelash glue. I am exhausted by the debate over Swarovskis versus acrylics - by the very fact that this is, somehow, a debate.

I’m tired of having fun. I’m tired of talking about how much fun I’m having, of Tweeting about having fun and posting fun photos of all my fun. I’m tired and just right now, I’m not having any fun.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

An Experiment In Focus Adjustment

 --> My high school drama teacher had a sign on his bulletin board for years,* which read:

Theatre is Life;

Film is Art;

Television is Furniture.

To the half-dozen cranberry-haired teenagers fully immersed in the optimistically-named Drama Department of our predominantly Republican, sports-focused rural-suburban learning institution, this helped solidify our self-congratulatory youthful angst and firm commitment to getting beat up weekly by the gym teachers. These days (nearly a decade after having spent nearly a decade in Theatre-with-an-re) I might amend that sign somewhat, to read:

Theatre is full of actors;

Film is fine but I like movies;

Television is comforting;

Facebook ruined society.

Also I hardly ever wear Smiths t-shirts any more.

Nevertheless, although I’ve escaped Theatre for Wiseass Striptease I remain committed to live performance as my artistic medium of choice - for the simple fact that I am still fascinated by the variations from one performance to the next, and inspired by the constantly-changing interaction between performer and spectator. ** The liminal space in which live performance exists is one of quite literally infinite possibilities: it is where theatre, dance and ritual all find roots. ***

What you don’t so much find in that impermanent transitional space is digital cameras.

I’m a firm believer in the inherent social contract between performer and spectator: We’re here for and because of each other; this experience wouldn’t exist if either of us weren’t present. And “present” doesn’t mean “taking photos of the whole thing so you can status-update about what you did tonight.” If you leave with your own emotional response to my performance and feel moved to convey your impressions to others through your own words, it becomes our experience; if you take crappy cell-phone photos of my entire act, you have crappy photos of me on your phone and not much more.

Now, amidst all of my you-damn-kids-get-off-of-my-lawnery, I will readily acknowledge several things:

1. The average audience at any given titty show isn’t there to experience the ritualistic transformative possibilities of a shared liminal space. They’re there to get drunk and see some tits.

2. At any given titty show we are there primarily to entertain, and not necessarily to change the world. If we can sneak that in too, so much the better.

3. Get a grip, grandma, the world’s gone digital and everyone has phones and Photos or it didn’t happen! and that’s just the way the world works and if you’ll excuse me I have to go text my status location to Facesquare so I can be the mayor of my life.

4. Sometimes people want to take pictures because they think you’re awesome. Also it’s nice to have videos of your acts and stuff.

So I try to find a balance between kicking tourists in the f-stop and just giving up and mugging for the sea of screens and lenses. I’ll always prefer the live experience (years ago I stopped taking a camera with me on vacations, after I realized that I was getting so anxious about missing shots that I wasn’t actually noticing where I was or what I was seeing) and I will never put up with rude, inappropriate or disrespectful photographers at any show, be they professional or casual … but for the sake of my ulcers I realize I do have to chill a little and let people experience the performance in their own way.

Thinking about all this (and, occasionally, being driven to tears of rage by it) led to a variety of ideas about how to do something productive with the frustration. This January I had the chance to begin a hopefully-ongoing project through which I will a: make art out of anger and b: amuse the fuck out of myself. Transformative qualities of live performance aside, I’m pretty okay with that; so, then, here’s part one:

* Specifically, several years that started with a “1” and a “9.”
** And not at all because I have the drawing skills of a concussed bee.
*** I just recently paid off my massive student-loan debts. Just as a matter of interest.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Freelancers! Performers! Independent craftspeople!

 --> Do you find yourself spending inordinate amounts of time answering cold emails to no actual effect or personal benefit? Now you can use that time on more fruitful pursuits - like spending hours on the subway in transit to gigs, or updating your FaceTube page in a desperate attempt to get just a few more paying customers to your show - with this handy form letter!

Just choose the relevant information, copy-and-paste, and hey presto! you have a convenient and ready-to-go auto-reply to all those moronic emails from individuals with no grasp of the actual value of your services in today’s world:


Dear Sir / Madam / Thing;

Thank you for your inquiry regarding [circle one] private bookings / costuming commissions / add your own specialty.

Before I waste another second of my life replying to your email, however, please understand that [choose one:]

  • six five-minute performances all crafted to fit within the musical, thematic and physical requirements of your event and space - which does not have a dressing room, stage, or sound system - happening “sometime this Saturday between 10pm and 2am, we’ll have to play it by ear when you get there” will cost you more than fifty dollars.
  • it is not practical to expect a custom-designed gown, wrap and headpiece based on the attached painting of Marie Antoinette but with enough specific design alterations to require ten hours of research and sketching alone, price complete with labor and materials and “also I really want real seed pearls on the hem and I need it for a party next week” for under one hundred dollars.

If you would like to continue this discussion, wherein I clearly and concisely list over and over again my monetary and physical requirements for providing [the service for which you have contacted me] and to which you repeatedly reply “Well we’d really like to have you, I want to make this work” but offer nothing else until you finally simply do not answer my 7th email back to you, the up-front charge is $150 or $25/hour, whichever is greater.

Please feel free to send me your credit card number to start this process; otherwise, thank you for your inquiry, and I wish you much success in your attempt to extract the maximum amount of work, time and effort from other skilled professionals for the barest minimum of money on your part! Please do know that despite our lack of health insurance, professional respect or any kind of dependable income, you cheap bastards really do make us independent artists smile. With many thanks for that I remain

Yours truly,

[Your name here]