With my Dream Team in place I accomplished the greatest nightmare of my artistic career.
So many cliché adages can be used to describe the experience altogether, but in the nuttiest of nutshells I’ll summarize with one of my familiar favorites: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.” Though really, the best comparison would be a statement from alt-rock veteran, Rivers Cuomo, in regard to his torment in birthing his band Weezer’s infamous hit-record Pinkerton.
As mentioned in an issue of Rolling Stone Magazine in 2016, right before the 20th anniversary of the painfully pivotal album, he says of the beast that went on to claim diehard fans but receive poor critical response and record sales: “It’s like getting really drunk at a party and spilling your guts in front of everyone and feeling incredibly neat and cathartic about it, and then waking up the next morning and realizing what a complete fool you made of yourself.”
It took me two years to handpick the folks I wanted in my on-going #squad of artists, namely through channels from which I’ve ventured upon as aforementioned in my last post. All the talent and support I needed was there – there to help me present one of my most personally daunting pieces. Sure, I can write and present work about relationships, homophobia, sexism, racism, addiction, stigma etcetera etcetera etcetera, but this had more brevity.
New York is a very special, capitalistic and crazy landscape that has always plagued the “outsider artist”. While I’m quite adept at acclimating myself enough with the “inside” in order to get in long enough for at least a little bit of ethnographic research (I can’t possibly call myself a satirist without this practice), NYC has been tougher to break in for me than other places solely because in other places I have been spoiled rotten with glowing receptions of my work based on its merit, not its selling power – and this fortunate opportunity that was afforded me has caused me to stand up for my convictions, vehemently.
Per usual, I familiarized myself with the place where it was presented and thoughtfully answered the 27 questions on the proposal using compelling verbiage. Once I was in, I was so hung up on the idea of THIS IS IT – MY FIRST FULL PRODUCTION IN NEW YORK FUCKING CITY that I either overkilled or underestimated. I’ll never be sure which one made such a mess of this piece.
My overtly controlling ways aside, there were an unprecedented number of problems that arose during the production, more than I’ve ever had and probably more than I’ll ever have again.
It’s like another saying goes: “Once you think you’ve seen it all…”
I was lucky in all of my unluckiness because it was the most important learning experience of my life albeit, for the first time ever, I actually couldn’t wait for it to be over.
I’ll tell you why: time.
In Philadelphia in Berlin, and I’m sure in other places, people have time. And with that time comes energy and with that time comes commitment – take away time from pretty much anything and you’re left with what is completely the opposite of its potential.
In fast ass New York City, people (especially artists) have upwards to 3-4 jobs just to barely cover the necessities of life. Wth that, you have to add on our horrible transit system, the exhaustion of always running around, the want to keep yourself from being called a hermit (even if it’s just to avoid being ostracized by society), Netflix, required excursions far from Manhattan so your blood doesn’t run cold, human and animal relationships, and all that culture we have to experience to stay abreast (and/or network). There is no time.
After all the drama and the dropouts and the replacements and the late trains and the mix-matched schedules and the typos and the discrepancies and the phone calls and the texts and the edits and the scouting and the hospitalizations and the hemorrhaging money and the confusion and the cancellations and the bad directions and the arguments and the nearly crying and rushing rushing rushing – I knew in my small black heart that my I had checked out.
The day of the show (and TECH rehearsal) I was done. I was on autopilot but not in a good way. Have you ever had a really good cut of steak be overcooked for you? Have you ever stalked a fancy pair of shoes that were perfect for you and you waited for them to go on sale and you find out they don’t have your size anymore? Not even a 6 that you would most certainly squeeze your feet into? Have you ever had a really nice rental car breakdown in the middle of your trip? That.
I could deal with all the headaches of being the Mom/Dad aka “Producer” (though being under the umbrella of a festival is very limiting). And I loved the fact that even though I was pushing for a very technically savvy presentation – the piece was under the guise of a staged reading so as the “Playwright” I was able to get copious amounts of and essential feedback for the work itself. But also being the “Director” was stretching myself too thin, and I was too attached to the piece to be able to step out of it and work with the actors the way they needed/wanted – not that there was any time for that considering I didn’t have them all in the same place until the day of the show, and the show was one night only (on a Thursday at 10:00pm in the summertime – impossible to get butts in the seats).
With the advent of the Show Runner (thanks to so many advances in technology and how audiences experience entertainment and how new ways with which media is disseminated), I know very well, as do many of my filmmaker, writer/director friends will attest to : it’s better to wear less hats. Unfortunately, independent artists are rarely afford this luxury, and while I was lucky to have a technical crew of six, again, there was no time to make sure nothing fell through the cracks – and it’s the director’s job to keep everyone on the same page.
I most certainly will direct or produce something for another artist again, but never again for myself.
The Prize, a twisted horror play in four acts sounds overly ambitious in the first place. Would I not be “DeVo” if it were not? It wasn’t the biting off more than I could chew that was the problem, it was the swallowing that really bothered me. Starts with a P ends with a ride.
Typically I am at my best when there are problems that need to be solved (#Capricorn), but there were so many instances where I didn’t really understand the who, what, when, where, or why of some of the things that happened (maybe cosmic forces were against me and I shouldn’t have signed the contract while Mercury was in retrograde?). So much so that I had to force myself, really really force myself not to throw in the towel.
The show was about a lot of things, but what was illuminated the most for me was the struggle of being displaced in the theatre “community”. While the premise was wildly far-fetched, it spoke of some very seriously fucked up circumstances I witnessed having touched base with many Broadway professionals. I was offering a vicarious experience about all of these sociopolitical issues that so often go overlooked, and I am glad I stuck to my guns in not watering that down or the weirdness of the thing.
I’m very proud of this fierce accomplishment and I really really really couldn’t have asked for better people to work with. Despite the hitches, the end product was…
This was part of my five year plan, and now that I’ve presented, I hope to get produced and then published.