My boyfriend and I just watched the Stephen Soderbergh documentary on Spalding Gray, and at the end he asks me, "So what do you think of Spalding Gray?" I didn't really have an answer because I've only seen him in videos and not in person. He didn't strike me as earth-shattering, but I liked his style. I also did a long monologue piece about my family 10 years ago and I can appreciate the work that goes into one. I've seen a lot of monologists or one-man/woman shows, and I like them on principle because I like good story tellers, but I don't think they're all that "original". I suppose they are and it's a lot harder to talk about one's life and family and skeletons in one's closet in front of an audience rather than hiding behind the cover of a book, but...again, it's not going to change the world. I've become a fan of Taylor Mac, who does one-man operas (at least that's what I call them...though, he does these with a ukulele, so...the opera world might beg to differ with me), and I did walk away from one of his performances extraordinarily inspired and I also had a new-found respect for the ukulele. So...why am I blogging about this, if I really don't care...well, it's because I've been toying around with a couple semi-monologist ideas and now I'm re-thinking it because in the past six months I've been re-evaluating what my role as an artist is, and I don't think I have that original of a voice. I like to perform, I like to create, and yet, all of it seems quite pointless without, as my friend Emily Windler calls it, the stamp of approval of my dad. Maybe I was only creating for him. Maybe my sense of entitlement about being able to put something in front of others was because he made me feel special, so I had this inflated ego about the work I did. But...I'm quickly realizing that I am not, in fact, special, and that begs the question...why am I still pursuing it? Hmmm...I have no answer to that except the ghost of Laurence Olivier who said only this as advice in his autobiography, and, I'm paraphrasing, (because my copy of it has been kidnapped by someone else), "I do this because I can't not do it." Eddie Murphy also said this in an interview I watched of him in the early 90s. Also, one of my favorite acting teachers, also named Laurence (Ballard), strangely enough, said to my senior acting class, as we were embarking on graduation, "Go work a blue-collar job at awful hours for a year, and if you still want to pursue theater, do it. But, if you like having a life, stay the F*** away." Again, I'm paraphrasing, and I'm not sure if he even cussed, but most of our teachers at Cornish did, so...it's possible. So...I'm sitting with this paradox (a common word used by Spalding Gray...maybe that's was his universal tug on his audience's hearts...) tonight and I have this itching feeling that sometimes as theater artists we just have to do what comes to us. It may not be earth-shattering, but, at least it's something, because some of us don't want to do anything else. I know I don't; I've done a lot of other things, and nothing is as satisfyingly annoying as theater. I suppose I'm just in a funk and I'll find direction again soon, but, one thing is clear to me after watching the documentary and reflecting...you don't have to be special to make good work. Sometimes a good story in a spiral notebook told with painstaking detail is enough. It might not have the immortal feeling from my last blog entry, but it's something, and if this art form is the only something that gives meaning to one's little life, then, I guess, one can't judge it too harshly when it's not immortal or earth-shattering. So, in the near future I might be creating a piece with my friend Emily that speaks about our fathers, and maybe it will be non-linear with movement inspired by the engines of cars (my father) or the engines of airplanes (her father) or maybe it will be something simple with two girls talking about their fathers in the search of telling some good stories about them that might have that universal tug on an audience's minds and hearts. Maybe these two girls will be dressed in coveralls (me) or a flight suit (her), and maybe it will be a comic send off of two very interesting men by two very quirky girls. Who knows? All I know is that I need to do something, and this is the only something I know how to do. Thank you ghost of Laurence Olivier...you've done your duty for the evening; now go pick on someone else.
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Just a theater artist working the "provinces" of the United States...