Sorry for the three week absence, folks. My theater brain has been all over the place lately. I’ve got a bunch of irons in the fire, which is fantastic for productivity, creativity, and general artistic fulfillment, but has also left me with precious little mindshare for cultivating cohesive thought. Makes me a bit of a jack of all trades, master of none. I’m okay with that, generally speaking, since donning these different hats is crucial to me determining what kind of theater professional I want to be going forward. I just wish my mind felt less like an overtilled tract of dirt at the end of the day. Still, there’s no way I’m letting another week of this blog lapse, so today I’m taking you on a tour of my scrambled artist brain. No, hang on, let’s be compassionate with ourselves, shall we? Let me take you on a tour of my wisely apportioned and highly active artist brain, instead.
Over here, we have Producer-land.
Did you hear? I’m producing a show in the spring. Hooray! After years of hinting and hedging and hoping and hyping, I’m finally getting off my ass and doing it. The cool thing is that it would not have happened without this blog. After reading my post about Apothecary Theater Company, in which I dreamed of forming a theater company of my own, a director friend shot me an email suggesting we meet to swap theater company fantasies. As part of that conversation, he lent me a play he’d been in love with for years, and as luck would have it, I fell in love with it too. It’s a gorgeous play. I can’t wait to tell you about it, and once some final details are hammered out, I will.
The strange outcome of this exciting development is that it has actually contributed to my constipation in the blog-writing arena. Ever since I decided to make a go of this producer thing, my thoughts have been monopolized by this project. I’m learning so much already and we haven’t even signed a contract on a venue yet. My natural inclination, of course, is to share what I’m learning with you all. At the same time, however, I’m hesitant to chart my course as a first-timer so publicly. How can I debut a theater company from a position of strength, for example, if confessions of my doubts and insecurities are there for the googling? How can I write about the intimacies of collaboration and still honor the privacy of my collaborators? How can I talk usefully about budgeting without disclosing more financial information than I’m willing to share? It’s a fascinating problem, and one I’ll continue thinking on. There’s just no way I can keep this experience completely to myself for the next six months. For now, though, let’s turn our eye towards…
Because, oh yeah, I’m acting in this show I’m producing too. Gulp. And the last time I was on stage in a scripted production was exactly a year ago. Double gulp. So in preparation for my return to the stage, I’ve gone back to class. I’m working on a scene from Three Sisters and there’s nothing like Chekhov for oiling up those rusty joints. Yet sadly, I haven’t gotten round to limbering any actual acting muscles because the first week back (last week) was all about massaging my self-consciousness away. It’s amazing how quickly self-consciousness – that basic human response to speaking lines in front of people – returns when you’ve been out of practice. It was a particularly odd surprise because I’ve been practicing saying unscripted lines in front of people all year…
Here in Improv City.
“Yes, and” continues to be alive and well in Anna World. I’m just finishing up my level 5 class at the People’s Improv Theatre (a.k.a. the PIT) and my indie team Student Driver continues to do a gig or two a month. I still find this art form both inspiring and challenging, which engenders in me a deep desire to master it. That’s no small task. Similar to writing where, I once heard, the first million words don’t count, improv requires constant practice. Far more than the five hours a week I’ve been devoting to it so far. I should be performing nightly just to get those first 10,000 scenes out of the way. But, as in all things, you do what you can until you can do more.
And finally, the familiar fields of Play-goer Park.
I haven’t forgotten this was a blog about seeing plays. In the past few weeks I’ve seen Seed – a new play presented in the 10th annual Hip Hop Theatre Festival – and As Is, one of the first plays written about the AIDS crisis when it began in the mid 1980’s. Yet here again, Producer-land exerts its influence. Watching these plays, I found myself paying far more attention to non-artistic elements than I ever have before – the merits and limitations of the venue, the cost effectiveness of the design, the marketing strategy, the playbill format, the front of house staff, and on and on. This isn’t a bad thing, and clearly is a necessary development for my success as a producer, but it made sitting down to write about Seed and As Is another perplexing proposition. Talking about plays from a producer’s standpoint is a far more dispassionate exercise than reflecting on them from the standpoint of art or human experience. Producing is business – business in the support of art, but business all the same. I wasn’t sure how well that type of discourse would blend with the sensibility of this blog thus far.
Back at the ranch.
So there you have it. That’s the landscape of my artist’s brain, and therefore my stopped-up author’s brain as well. My boyfriend remarked last night that I’m happier when I’m writing my blog and he was right. So it seems to me that the focus of my writing here will have to shift somehow to accommodate the changes in my creative life. It will be yet another adventure figuring out how that will go, and as always I would love if you would come along. I’ll try my best to keep it worth your while.