Saturday, June 15, 2013

creating a/broad, June 15, 2013

by Cameryn Moore

Why do I start? Why do I go on? Where do I go? Why do I stop, or change directions, try something new? Is it true what they say, that what doesn’t kill you will only make you stronger? Is this all worth it?

These are questions that I live with, by myself, during the winter and spring. During those seasons I am holed up in my apartment against the winter or the torrential spring rains, or I am out in solo flights to small performances, weekend-long gigs in towns where I don’t meet so many touring artists. That is to say, usually none at all. And no one there thinks to question what the hell I am doing there, and how I got there at all. They don’t care about my process or prospects or soggy cowboy boots. They are just glad to see me.

But come Fringe time, the clusters of other performers begin forming, with heartfelt hugs, short but deep conversations between flyering or tech rehearsals, and raised eyebrows over the cheap, free-flowing beer-tent beer. I find myself in a physical community again, a heady experience after long cold months of only virtual campfires to keep us warm and connected. I need that, oh, god, do I ever. In person we can see the emotion behind the emoticons, the stress behind the simple lines of text, the charge and passion that is so difficult to convey online, and then so easy to get when you’re sitting next to it at a sticky flyer-covered table. In that face-to-face space, in those conversations, there is room again to breathe aloud those questions, to say the words. Yes, this is what I’m wondering, this is what I’m thinking, AND I’M NOT MAKING IT UP AM I? There are people who understand. 

It’s an unsettling sort of comfort.

When someone says, “I’m not sure I want to do this anymore after this year”, it strikes a little zing of terror in my stomach

Because it’s true what they say, about journalists and witches and, yes, performers: words have power. Words can change everything. And so when I say things out loud, like, “I don’t know what the fuck I’m doing anymore and sometimes I get really tired and I would like to have my own kitchen again and that scares me”, it always lingers in the air. Articulating truths that, up until that moment, existed only in my mind, it makes them even more real, and if they’re real, then the pressure is on for me to do something about them, or at least acknowledge that they’re there, and live with them, even if I can’t do something about them right away.

When someone says, “I’m not sure I want to do this anymore after this year”, it strikes a little zing of terror in my stomach—what would it take to break me, or shift me off this path? When someone says, “I want to get my show off-Broadway”, and they don’t mean it in a joking way AT ALL, my heart leaps a little from a complex mix of empathy and fear. They said it. They have said it for someone else to witness. I have made those same sorts of statements, and it’s exhilarating and awful to have one or more of your peers present for that sort of self-disclosure. 

It is a gift to invest that kind of trust in someone, for one thing. I don’t tell that shit to just anybody. You may think I’m telling you deep shit now, but this is just the synopsis, I assure you. I think audiences might have some vague stereotype in their head about the “artist’s psyche”, and some of the more prescient ones might suspect that it is not all fun and games and beer-tent beer, but most of them don’t know for sure, because we don’t tell them. That’s not even about “keeping it entertaining”, you know, keeping it light and fun. Well, maybe partly. Social media makes it so easy to over-share, and I walk that line at least 10 times a week on Facebook. 

For me, it’s more telling myself, look, you already give so much of yourself on stage. You can keep your late-night torments for yourself, if you want. That way you’ll be safe and no one will laugh at you for being a grown-ass woman who still sometimes wakes up crying and trembling from stress dreams, or for getting so excited about your newest show that you spill poutine gravy all over your shirt and don’t notice for 30 minutes, or for wondering, really wondering, if you are unnatural and cold and possibly a sociopath for choosing an uncertain career over a lovely live-in relationship and children.

I don’t trust the audiences with that stuff. Not the raw stuff. Maybe after I’ve written about it and edited it and rehearsed it, you can have that finished product. But when it’s not polished, it’s just raw, raw, achingly raw… I only trust my fellow artists with it. And this is the time of year when I see them again, and the old bruises come up fresh again. I thought I had come to terms with this aspect of my life, that I had laid those questions to rest, but no. I had just stopped talking about them, over the long winter. Now that the sap is running again and the Fringe is on, all that shit comes back up.

Thanks, guys.

No, really, thanks. If I sit with those questions and dilemmas for too long, I feel terrible, like a chronic headache from all the excitement and a persistent heartache from all the life stuff that art can fuck up. I would rather have that all out on the table, yours and mine, all of us artists together, even if it becomes real, even if voicing it makes it almost too real to bear… I would rather do that than stuff it in.

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