My Artistic Life…OR What the Hell Am I Doing?


The answer to such questions as what the hell am I doing? have very simple answers.

How the hell do I know?

Answering a question with a question.  Maybe I should become a therapist.

NOT!

Seriously, as all artist do, I have fantasies.  Here is my fantasy:  working with a group of other artists in a collaborative ensemble that is based in the Meisner technique.  I envision making work, acting in plays, writing for the ensemble.  I imagine the respect and love I feel for the other artists.  I imagine there is no conflict and little ego, that the telling of stories overrides concerns of who has more lines or gets more laughs or is more talented or prettier or younger or whatever.

I have so much trouble giving up that fantasy.  It is that dream that got me into producing in the first place.  I loved my New York Meisner class so much, I loved the year I spent with them, I loved working with them, I loved Fred Kareman.  I loved leaving the lonely room of the novelist (what I’d been before) and entering into collaboration.  I thought I could come to Boston and build something with other artists that looked like Steppenwolf.

I have not succeeded.  There have been times though, when it felt like an almost.  Certain productions, or times during certain productions, when everyone came together into something bigger than our separate selves.  That sense of connection, of ensemble, of being on everyone’s side, of truly creating together…it’s the ultimate carrot, the ultimate draw, because frankly, it makes mortality and suffering go away.  Instead, you have this almost mystical experience where your boundaries dissolve into a creative whole.

There’s nothing like it.

AND, unfortunately, you can’t be an administrator and have those boundaries dissolve, because being an administrator requires that you hold the boundaries for the company, and make the hard decisions, and tell people what to do and when they’re out of line.  There have been times when I was watching an ensemble I’d brought together find that creative whole while I worked to push the business forward.  It was pretty much like torture.  I was jealous of all the other artists and I kept wondering why I couldn’t get to that fantasy.

I couldn’t get to it because unless I held the container, unless I worked as the businesswoman, everything fell apart, including the creative collaboration.

Live and learn.

I still want that ensemble, though.  I’m still so unsure about how to get to it.  I do know that I really like the people involved in Another Country Productions right now.  I am co-directing with Marc Ewart right now, and he is so much fun, and so easygoing about collaboration, and our piece is working so well (we had rehearsal last night), that I’m finding I have hope.  I know I love acting with Julia Short, and I love directing Joan Mejia.  I am planning to pull together a group of actors to start playing.  And just see.

On the practical level I’m mostly finishing writing projects and trolling auditions to see if there’s anything I want to go for.  The projects:

  • Vessel of Glass: a play about a troubled teen who is taken to live at the convent.  She and the youngest nun fall in love, forcing the Mother Superior into a double bind–does she lose her position or does she betray the girl she’s been trying to help?  (This play is finished, but I had to add in some edits from a staged reading at the Nora.)
  • The Reincarnation of the Children of Llyr: a movement theatre play about a family that’s been alive for 900 years and how they deal with losing family members to death.  (I have to revise the draft I’ve got and send this out!)
  • My Memoir (which shall not be named): I want to submit it to some publishers.  I mean, it’s done, but it’s embarrassing.
  • Run from Fire: a screenplay thriller about a woman who takes on the power structure in her small town and comes close to losing everything (or losing everything) in the battle.  (The first draft is completed, but I’m revising.  In my non-existent spare time.)
  • Saint John the Divine in Iowa, the theater version:  I have 18 pages written and need to finish a first draft by the end of November to submit it to Lyndsay.  EEK!
  • The Reluctant Christian, Unitarian, Pagan, Jewish, Buddhist, WHAT?  The sequel to my untitled memoir, about my life as a spiritual ambivalent.  Comedy.  I mostly have the title and some blogs, but if I can put together 30 pages, I can apply for the Mass Council of the Arts Grant this year.
  • The Coma Play:  A short play about a man in a coma and all his friends who come and tell him their problems ad infinitum until he wakes up just so he doesn’t have to listen to them any more.  It’s an idea.  So far.  We’ll see.
  • The 3rd play in the Mother and the Nun series.  I have a couple scenes running around here somewhere.
  • And, last but not least, getting the actor group together to meet this month.

It’s only this last one that keeps the fantasy alive.

The problem, of course, is that I really feel it’s wrong to work with my students artistically.  I tried earlier this year and it was a complete disaster, complicated by an implant and some other problems.  Given, the student and I were disastrously incompatible in working styles, but still.  It’s tempting, following such an experience, to just say–NO ACTING WITH STUDENTS OR FORMER STUDENTS EVER.

I am tempted to make rules because I have a German mother.

However, Don Foley was my student at one time, as was Julia Short, and no disasters with either of them.  Really, it’s more like clean, honest, enjoyment.  Of course there was a lot of time and/or a lot of conversations about role transitions.  Maybe they are exceptions.

Rules are tempting because they give an illusion of control and of being right.  And, if I never acted with a student or former student again, I would not risk being wrong or making mistakes with a person I feel responsible to support and guide, long after the official relationship ends.

Do I just want to serve my fantasy?

Sometimes I wake up and think, “The hell with the questions.  I’m just going to trust my gut and quit thinking about this shit.”

That lasts for about an hour.  Or half a day.  If I’m lucky.  I’m terrified of hurting people.  And I still do.  Oh, well.

But there’s something in that fantasy.  It doesn’t go away.  I’m not really in the acting just to act.  I want to act in a way that allows this fully creative experience.  I’ve been in shows in which I’ve been great and gotten accolades and I could have cared less.

I’m just weird that way.

In other words, What the hell am I doing?

I wish you would tell me.

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2 thoughts on “My Artistic Life…OR What the Hell Am I Doing?

  1. Good LORD I have that same fantasy – and it is a hard one to give up, I agree.

    Someday for both of us. Hell, maybe we’ll be in the same one together. Would be heavenly to see your work on a regular basis. 🙂

  2. You are so sweet. I still vividly remember reading Pop Psychology with you in Fred’s class and having it just burst into life. Miss working with you! Lyralen

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