Monday, October 03, 2005

Notes on the Last Post

I generally despise the kind of navel-gazing in which I've just engaged, but it was clear that my posting bottleneck wasn't going to clear without some good ol' fashioned purging. Those of you who read it before reading this, I'm sorry that I didn't warn you. The rest of you are hereby warned.


Blogger Missuz J said...

An unnecessary apology. Hope the purge was helpful. I read C's post and it looks like things might be looking up?

1:15 PM  
Blogger thelyamhound said...

It'll be hard to tell for a few months whether things are truly looking up financially, since we've been several hundred dollars overdrawn by the end of each of the last several pay periods, and it could take some time to pick things back up. But 'Stine's getting this last job is certainly a step in the right direction. I've got a couple of interviews coming up (well, one officially scheduled--another employer contacted me asking when I could meet, and I sent him an email telling him when I was available . . . still waiting on a response, but I'm actually fairly optimistic).

Prospects for solving my, shall we say, creative identity crisis are a little more grim, if only because working umpteen jobs will be my only option for the next few months, and I've come to find theatre (at least the theatre I've been doing recently) hopelessly middlebrow. I just feel like a failure, not having found anything worth doing with my creative impulses after 33 years; and I fear that, at said age, I'm too old to break into a whole new industry (even if I did know what that industry was, which I don't).

Still, one carries on as best one can.

1:28 PM  
Blogger thelyamhound said...

Qualifier: Not every show I've done in the last year or so has been middlebrow, and even those that were were still strong productions, and would probably have been quite satisfying to someone who was less generally dissatisfied with the medium than myself.

1:56 PM  
Blogger the beige one said...

there's always fiiiilm...

4:03 PM  
Blogger thelyamhound said...

Yeah, I always forget that because I haven't really become involved with the local film scene. I sort of thought that film people kept an eye on theatre . . . but then, when I was a kid, I thought that theatre was what people did to practice until they got good enough to be allowed to do movies, so I've been inclined from an early age to think of the two as intrinsically related. I should probably find out how to get on the NWFF roster. Other than that, I'm not sure how one finds auditions downtown (there are a lot of TV and film auditions in the 'burbs, according to TPS; but being carless and all . . . ).

I don't feel right giving up on theatre, mind you. I just need to be pickier about projects, less concerned with "staying engaged" or "being seen" than with doing shows in which I really believe. My aesthetic concerns and the aesthetic concerns of the artists with whom I've been currently surrounding myself are becoming ever more clearly different.

Also . . . There seems to be a sense about actors that we're not supposed to have aesthetic concerns, that actually having something that specific to convey should be the province of directors and writers. Since I've no aptitude for the former, that leaves the latter; and I've yet to find a satisfying avenue for writing for myself as a performer.

All more food for thought. Then again, I don't want for thought, but for a unifying ambition and the resolve to see it through.

4:43 PM  
Blogger the beige one said...

well, good luck on that score. In the meantime, here's another word: agent.

4:47 PM  
Blogger thelyamhound said...

It's a thought. You don't have an agent, do you? I think my worry is that an agent will push me to take whatever work I can get, regardless of why it is I'm doing the work. That being precisely what I'm trying to avoid. Although I guess an agent technically works for me, so I imagine I can always train him him/her away from that work I find undesirable . . .

It all becomes moot if what I really want to be is, say, a music critic, or a composer of gnostic rock operas (really, what I KNOW I want to be is a ROCK STAR; but as I've said before, you don't start art-punk bands in your 30s, you check into rehab and moan that none of the bands influenced by you really get it).

5:04 PM  
Blogger Stine said...

Thing is, if you really *do* want to do acting as a career (which you yourself have said your not sure), then you WILL take whatever work you can get, because that's the point, it's a job and you do a job to get paid. Yes, as an artist you also do it to create the sort of art you want, but if you finally decide that this is what you want (which is the real problem), then you may have to suck it up and do some shit you don't want to do to get a paycheck. So I guess the question is, would you rather be working at Chapter 13 8 hours a day or doing South Pacific? (par example)

My word verification is "xixnxs" which sounds like it should be the great grandchild of INXS.

11:34 AM  
Blogger thelyamhound said...

Bottom line: You're right. And as I've said, part of what I may have against light bourgeois comedies and traditional musicals is that I tend to SUCK in them. Even the political clown-comedy of Dario Fo, which at least fulfills a number of what I consider to be worthy artistic missions, often finds me playing the straight man (let's savor that irony for a moment) around which much funnier people act . . . well, funnier. By some miracle, I think I was kinda funny in Art, but that may be the exception that proves the rule.

Even if I do have the talent, though, you've hit upon the essential problem of being an actor. While many musicians have to do some time playing weddings and such, eventually SOME musicians get to become Blixa Bargeld, Nick Cave, Mike Patton: rogue visionaries working their own angles, making the music they wanna make. I'm not sure there's anything like that for actors, beyond having a day job and acting exclusively in one's own work or that rare piece that allows one to open up and shine . . . provided, of course, that one isn't rejected for those pieces by people less pathologically invested in the content, which just breeds more resentment.

And of course, that last paragraph only matters IF I have the aptitude to be a rogue visionary, something for which I may be as ill-suited as I am for the comedy of Neil Simon (for instance).

I just need to be more careful about entering projects, I think. Perhaps I should resign myself to acting less, acting for free and using time between projects to either work extra jobs and/or write plays and/or TRY to meet SOMEONE who can help me write this rock opera, someone uncorrupted by the musical theatre aesthetic and as amenable as I, if not more so, to embracing cacophany.

I think what frustrates me is the disconnect between my ear/eye and my actual aptitudes: that because of my modest-to-moderate abilities as a thinker/performer/writer, I feel like I should be able to create the crushing beauty and emotional vivacity of those artists in whom I can infallibly spot genius (Einsturzende Neubauten, Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, Wenders, Lynch, Jeunet & Caro, Takeshi Kitano, My Bloody Valentine, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum . . . You get the idea). If I had NO ability in the area of performance, I might have instead begun by cultivating my ear and working from day one to become an exceptional critic; if I had no ability to perceive beauty and worth, I might simply have cultivated the ability to perform and never worried about the quality, utility or social impact of the projects I chose. As it is, I'm neither a practitioner nor a scholar, and have, I fear, run out of time for finding a suitable compromise twixt the two or creating an opportunity to excel at only one.

Sorry for bringing this debate/lament into so public a forum. This just happens to be where it ended up playing out; moreover, it's worth pointing out that keeping this at home and under wraps hasn't done anyone any favors.
Sadly, if anyone from our theatre community is reading this, I may well be jeopardizing my already shaky standing. If so . . . well, it's regrattable, but so be it. I'm clearly not helping my ability to function by trying to stay on everyone's list of likable people; hell for all my attempts to be likable, I don't feel particularly liked, as an artist or as a person. Maybe if I let myself speak my mind, it will be clearer who my true friends and colleagues are.

3:25 PM  
Blogger the beige one said...

Buddy, things are not as helpless as they seem. They never are. Have you talked with any of our mutual, talented musical friends? DanD, or JohnA, or JohnO, for that matter, may be able to point you to someone who'd be into what you're into.

There are always the want ads in the Stranger, or on TPS, or some musician-focused equivalent. The key'd be to interview people, see what they've done.

Action, however, whether you've fully made up your mind or not, is the key. Once you start moving towards something you at least think you want, answers will start presenting themselves.

4:54 PM  
Blogger Missuz J said...

I keep hoping that some great piece of advice will pop into my head for you. Of course, I know advice is not what you want--and neither is validation--which I could provide in spades, by the way.

I too, feel like my ultimate purpose in this life should have been to be a rock star. No sarcasm or joking at all. I would be a KICK ASS ROCK STAR! And so would you--but luckily I found teaching, and Sophie, and those two things are, well, enough.

Ly--I think you would be an incredible teacher--in any number of fields. I think that the idea that "those who can't--teach" is incredibly ignorant, and insulting. It may apply to 1 in 100 people who teach because THEY buy into that phrase, not because they are interested and invested in passing knowledge along to others. Just an idea.

7:30 AM  
Blogger thelyamhound said...

Missuz J, you've hit on something I've thought about for quite some time. My primary hindrance has always been that when I think about teaching, I think in terms of the traditional channels, i.e., school: The school I never finished, the school I don't want to go back to, the school I despised and the school I'd have to try to convince my students to love.

On the other hand, I've been thinking a LOT lately about teaching martial arts, and maybe combining what I know of martial arts with my studies of Taoism, gnosticism, even writing and physical performanc so that I could broaden the whole class concept into a physical/philosophical workshop about being in the world, and focusing my program on at-risk youth and/or people who suffer from depression, anxiety, social awkwardness or postmillenial tension.

The funny footnotes to that are a) this physician must surely first heal himself and b) has there ever been anyone in any martial arts class who didn't fit into one of those categories? Specialization seems almost arbitrary . . .

All kidding aside, though, I'm already taking steps . . . sort of. I can't teach anything until I've completed a fair amount of formal training in a couple of different disciplines (probably something energentically focused, like T'ai Chi; and additionally, something fierce and practical, like Krav Maga--the martial art they teach to cops and the Israeli military). This, of course, comes down to time (i.e., I'd have to all but cease doing theatre for about 3 years) and money (hence my current search for a second job, so that any portion of my income can actually become available for classes and such).

This kind of program would have all kinds of possibilities and applications, including some to performance, film, recording, etc. I could even foresee a book, or even my rock opera, drawing developmental material and strength from such an endeavour.

I think there's something I need to take to heart that's always been thrown at me on another matter: When 'Stine and I still thought we'd be able to have kids the old-fashioned way, but we were still using contraception, family members always insisted that there'd NEVER be enough money or stability, that we'd never be sane enough, and that there was no point in waiting. In a way, creating a new concept for teaching and living that incorporates all of my interests and abilities--physical performance, combat, music, cultural theory, writing, spirituality, social activism--is the child I'm afraid to have because I'm too broke, too busy, too sore, too emotionally rattled to take care of her. But the fact is, there may never be enough money, enough stability, enough time, enough . . . ANYTHING to find me comfortable and confident that I can do it. I may just have to take the plunge. I clearly know what it takes, having elucidated the topic both here and in a private email to the beige one: Find my collaborators, take the classes, buy the books on credit, overdraw the accounts, learn whatever instruments I have to learn and be willing to fall on my face for 5, maybe 10 years until something resembling results seems to transpire. I guess I just need to decide that it's worth risking everything (although, considering our dismal financial state, one might suggest that I'm risking precisely squat).

It just sounds so . . . entrepeneurial. I don't know that I've ever been what one might call an entrepeneur; it's just been clear that I don't really fit.

Anyway, thanks. Everyone. I appreciate that, despite my reservations about discussing this, you've all been willing to "go there".

9:32 AM  
Blogger amandak said...

OK, I just had to add my 2 cents worth. The only thing I really want to say, is that it's never too late, and you're never too old. People reinvent themselves all the time, and at any age. If you feel like you've run out of time, maybe that just means you need to start something sooner rather than later. Enjoy the process, don't get too focused on 'results' and 'success' and it doesn't really matter where you end up, you'll be headed in the right direction.

And I said I wasn't going to give advice. :\

2:09 PM  
Blogger thelyamhound said...

Thank you, and well said. You $0.02 worth, in today's market, is worth at least $1.50 (advice is a growth industry).

I think my perception has been warped by the "youth culture" in which we live. When actors and actresses are getting plastic surgery in their 20s, something's wrong.

Plus, because I tend to skew, musically speaking, towards dissonance and experimentation, my interests in that venue--as related to my music criticism and my intentions as a musician (and with regards to my desire to write a rock opera)--run the risk of appearing as a sort of aesthetic Peter Pan complex. The irony is that my musical tastes are actually becoming less accessible as I age, and that has little or nothing to do with any real or perceived attempt to preserve my youth.

2:29 PM  
Blogger thelyamhound said...

Make that "your $0.02 worth".

I wish I had the patience to preview all of my posts. I imagine the grammar sucked in that last one . . . actually, throughout this thread. My technical abilities as a writer tend to crumble at this level of transparency.

2:34 PM  
Blogger A Man without a Band said...

Wow, there are some serious discussions going on... and I can relate to most of them.

I don't know if you ever knew Eric Jones, but I got an email out of the blue from him awhile back (it's been probably 10 years). His passion is painting, but he's been forced into a 9-5 job with the rest of us artists trying to make a go of our art. He had a great line. "I'm positive God did not have a day job." What does this have to do with anything? Probably nothing, but it made me laugh and not take myself too seriously. Some good things I've read from others in your comments.

"enjoy the process" I usually say "trust in the process," but it's about the same thing.

"Once you start moving towards something you at least think you want, answers will start presenting themselves"

"still, one carries on as best one can"

"I would rather be writing my own obituary than doing most of the other jobs I've done to pay the bills. At least it's writing." That's my own.

I, too, had a recent crisis, realizing that the only other thing I could do besides writing was construction, and what if the writing didn't work out, and it just seemed like it wasn't working out fast enough, and on and on. We all go through these sways.

I just heard from a good friend of mine who was actually the director of a non-profit organization I was on the Board for in Missoula... dedicated to helping people live and support themselves on their passions. She has since gone on to be a life/career coach, and even she said that on certain days she wonders if she'll ever possibly make it. Then a little time will pass and it all gets better... then worse again.

C makes a good point. If you want to do it, do whatever it takes. (at least I think that was her point). Find the time, work the shitty jobs if you have to, take the parts you don't want to (at least in my opinion. It seems to me that, while artistic integrity is important, I've done the starving artist thing already. Now I want to eat... and eat well. And as an actor, it seems that exposure helps you get more exposure.)

And go into debt if you have to, for fuck's sake. It's only money. I'm about 30 grand in credit. I'm not happy about it, but I've been able to live the way I wanted, go to writing conferences, work when I wanted to and write when I needed to.

Artists/creative types have a tough road to hoe, but for most of us, it's the only road we're happy on. But I agree with Amanda. There are lots of roads out there, and it's never too late to try another one if you're tired of the current scenery. (whew. long metaphor, there).

11:19 AM  
Blogger thelyamhound said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:23 PM  
Blogger thelyamhound said...

As someone else lamenting his lack of band, I can only applaud your advice and commentary.

Here are some of the conclusions to which I've come:

Regardless of the sacrifices you make, there's almost no way to make a living acting in Seattle. Even the actors I know who have no day jobs have resigned themselves to making even less than I am making currently, which is, in turn, not enough to pay the bills. If I'm gonna starve anyway, I might as well do the art that interests me . . . which means that I'm probably going to give up acting for a time. Truth be told, I'm tired of being an interpretive artist when the way I see the world is so saturating my every cell that I'm at loathe to fight the expression of it for the sake of the agendas of the playwright and director of the moment. In hindsight, only about a third of the shows I've done really served to satisfy the itch that drives me to perform. I've clearly neglected my martial arts study, my music and my writing, and I think the key to creating and generating the kind of work in which I would like to act may reside therein. But realistically, even these projects will simply have to wait until I can get some financial matters resolved, which in turn means I meed to let go of the idea that I'll be too old at 35,40 or 45 to do these things.

I also really want to find an avenue for practicing any and all of these things that's more philanthropically directed than what I've been doing, and I think that, again, my martial arts training will better suit that goal than will my acting.

And you know what? This could all change tomorrow. If someone comes to me with a juicy role in a play that looks like it could be another one of those precious few that penetrate this withered hull of skepticism, I may be inclined to take it. And I have thought about pursuing the more lucrative paths of seeking out film work, particularly action and horror films, for which I'm uniquely suited (martial arts, again), and which are wildly popular, potentially lucrative genres that, unlike those popular theatrical genres in which I can't seem to even feign an investment, don't annoy me (indeed, often please me).

Basically, I need to accept--and this one's very hard--that even my most laboriously considered decisions are subject to change, that sometimes the whim that seems like a distraction is actually a sign pointing me to a brighter future.

I sometimes think I can plan myself out of these periods of madness and scarcity, and often chastise myself for the poor planning that I imagine got me here. But I don't think I really plan any more poorly than most; hence, what I really need to work on is adaptability, which brings me back to--you guessed it--martial arts training.

In fact, two of my most satisfying theatrical experiences in Seattle (Edward II and Trojan Women, for those keeping track) came about immediately following long periods of active martial study. Coincedence? I'm not sure I even believe in coincedence . . .

1:43 PM  

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