Thursday, March 31, 2016


(Editor's note: this entry was penned by the artist while she was at the Adelaide Fringe, pleasantly breaking even and playing to 50-ish folks on average a night. Now that the artist is at Melbourne Comedy Festival losing her metaphorical shirt [NOT REALLY MOM, I'M FINE, I HAVE PLENTY TO EAT], she is feeling much more sympathy, empathy, and plain ol' pathy around her subject matter. Still she fights nobly against the tide of dark and grabby feelings. These entries are part of that fight.)

I started theatre classes when I was around 6. I was painfully shy and nervous, and my parents thought it would help me. It did. In a world full of big dogs, loud boys and polynomial subtractions, theatre classes were my one great relief.

I feel very lucky that my first theatre classes were actually really good. They weren't Acting Classes for KIDS like some girls I know took, where they learned to belt like an Annie understudy and deliver monologues from Peter Pan. My classes had no songs or scripts, and my teachers were actors and clowns, so we did loads of improvisation, imagery work, physical exploration, the good shit. And occasionally my teacher would bring in a really cool performer friend to guest-teach, and that was exciting too. I remember finding out one guest teacher had been one of "The Top Free 7", which even as a little kid I understood to mean that she wanted to have her boobs out in public but the government wouldn't let her. And even then I thought that seemed odd. Odd to want to have your boobs out, sure, but odder not to be allowed.

And occasionally the guest teacher would be asked to "talk about the business of being an actor," and we would all sit obediently to listen. And suddenly a change would come over this guest teacher, who had been so open and playful in class. Suddenly now something hard came into his face and his voice, and he started to talk about head shots and agents and auditions, and suddenly it seemed like he was trying to prove something to us, like we had all gone from being good friends to being colleagues at some horrible office party. He didn't seem to so cool anymore.

So when I was little, I learned something big: the art of performing is beautiful and transcendental, and the business of performing turns people into insecure assholes.

I have avoided the world of tv/film and I still don't have head shots, and all of this can be traced back to those moments when those teachers that I admired suddenly got small right in front of my face. Something about the business of trying to make it as an actor transformed creative souls into name-dropping, piece-of-the-pie-snatching insects of need, and I wanted no part of that, then or ever.

But here I am now, in show business, sort of. The weird live-performing side of show business, at least, which is probably a dying thing, but in my spheres it's still trucking along packing 'em in where it can. And I have many performer friends, of course. And one thing I keep noticing is that our knee-jerk conversation topic is How Big Our Houses Are, or Which Big P (presenter/producer/promoter/person) We Want To Come To See Us.

The stuff that makes our eyes and faces go hard. The stuff that makes us stop looking into the faces of our friends, but instead, stare straight ahead of ourselves, like we're on a bad bicycle and have to focus every bit of concentration on just not falling down. The business turns us tiny and grabby: babies only not cute.

I get it! We all want to make money. We don't want to lose money. We attach a lot of meaning to whether we make or lose money.

Just the same, I've seen audiences of 250 go relatively unmoved, and I've seen audiences of 12 be totally transformed and united. And so have you. I've had great shows for 8 people, and I've learned things and tried things out and grown as a performer at those shows, so that while I didn't make money at them, I might've improved skill sets that could make me money later. You have to stay open to the possibility that even something that feels like shit could be of value. Doesn't all energy get used? If we think in terms of quantum physics, as we should at all times, does it make any difference in the universal scheme of things how fucking big our audience is?

It can be fought against, this mind-plague, this disease of numbers. I think more of us can do more to not just get together in groups and move our hard eyes around and talk depressing math. Let the Big P's talk about those things, or talk about those things when you're with Big P's, but then politely excuse yourself and go frolic around some trees.

If you're at a festival surrounded by artists, and you're worrying about numbers, talking about numbers, talking about Big P's, worrying about Big P's, consider frolicking around trees. You want to live an artist's life? One thing an artist does is everything she can not to get caught up in the stuff that hardens our hearts and builds fortresses of fear around our souls.

Jester, you're in this world to jingle your bells.
Being an artist is being a revolutionary. All the time. In small ways. However you can.

Keep your eyes open. Keep your soul soft. When you die, at the end of your Road, if you're lucky and if you do it right, somebody's holding your hand. That's it. Merry Xmas. Play for that.

Saturday, March 12, 2016


The truth is out there. And we artists know it. Programmers, producers, presenters... people. The Big P's come to the Edinburgh and Adelaide Fringe fests looking for artists to book. There is a taste of blood in the air, and that blood is money, money for doing what you love. Delicious, tantalizing, elusive. It could be you, or it could not be you. You feel hungry and desperate, or maybe it makes the glint in your eye go KaZAOW and you get right into it. Some artists thrive on the game, some hate it. 

And some successful artists are great at networking and connecting and promoting, and some successful artists are shit at it. There is no formula here, fuckers. 

Both of these big fringes set up official networking events, which are attended by producers, presenters, programmers, people, and artists. You'll generally recognize the artists by their look of vague sadness, confusion, and determination despite the odds. You'll recognize the Big P's by their ease and obvious satiation, and the fact that they each have several humans huddled around them straining to catch their every syllable. 

It is very lovely for the Fringes to set up these events. I go to them when I'm feeling generally okay about myself. I do not have advice about how to do well at such events. I do have ideas about how to survive them.

WHY GO. Right, I don't really know why you should go. Most producer types I talk to say these events don't do much for anyone, least of all them. Why would they go to your show just because you harassed them at a networking event? Producer types will only come see your show if they've heard about it some other way, or a few other ways. That's just the truth. But still, maybe you should still go.

You should go because something listed as a "networking event" means you get to work on your cocktail party skills. And artists ought to have something resembling cocktail party skills. Right? Or maybe not! Like I said, some artists don't fucking need cocktail skills. No fucking formula. 

But you should go because you will get a goooooood long whiff of the smell of desperation, and you may think it's emanating off of everyone else, but it's probably coming from you, too, and here is a rare opportunity for you to really smell it. It's like the smell of Los Angeles, all the time. It smells like exhaust, artificial sweetener, an old lime soaked in gin, and your cell phone, if you've ever leaned over and really smelled your cell phone. It's a good smell to be able to recognize in yourself and others. Go for that. 

GO TO GATHER INFORMATION, NOT DISSEMINATE IT. I'm specific in my word choice here. I see some artists at these events spurting their flyers and their show pitches like semen all across the land. They do not care if you want to hear, they're not stopping to check if you want to hear. They're just in the Zone, but their zone totally sucks for everyone else. Everyone's getting wet and nobody even asked for it. 

Do these artists succeed in getting Big P's to their shows? Who the fuck knows. But you don't want to be like that, just another ego-spurting gush-mountain of attention-grabbing.  You want to be a secret agent. 

I just had a great experience of secret-agenting at this event earlier today. A group of artists had 15 minutes to talk to this one festival director. We all hovered around him, like bees around the queen. 

"I'm looking for everything: music, dance, theatre!" he said magnanimously. Everyone started fumbling for their flyers. 
I said, "Okay, but what do you like?"
"I like everything," he said.
"But what do you look for?"
It took a minute or two of playful prodding before he came out with the fact that he's looking for only one show and then he'll be fully programmed. And the one show he was looking for was "non-verbal, physical theater." 
Ohhhh, everyone at the table said, and several flyers went away. 
There you have it.

So you've ended up at an Industry networking event, and you've got a Big P within earshot. Find out what the Big P's want, and what they have, and see how specific you can get them to be. Don't even pitch your show to them! Or do, but just give 'em a flyer and go away quickly. Then get their contact info, and send them an email like this:

Hey! You said you wanted dez thingz, and guess what bitch? I got these thingz! Come check my shit out! 

And they may! 

On the other hand, I have no idea if this really works. 


Go because there will be other artists there, and some of them are cool and you'll probably want to know them. And you'll be able to sniff out the ones that are fun and playful and taking it all in stride, and you and they will feel like you belong to a secret club of reasonably cool people, at least compared to some. And that will be nice. 

At the event today, my friends Dan and Clare were there. Dan and Clare are considered successful touring artists, and they are, and they deserve it because they're incredibly special and cool. They had a little table set up, but the vibe at their table was totally different from the other tables, because Dan and Clare are not buying any shows, they were just there to offer advice.

So the talk around the table was a lot more genuine, and super vulnerable, and way more interesting. 
And the basic question that every artist who came up to them asked was HOW DO I MAKE IT.

I've had some success at this festival or that festival, how do I take it to the next level?
I've had no success at all, how do I get some?
I think I should be way more successful than I am, why is the world so stupid?
Does it ever get easier?

All the same question. And Dan and Clare stood there and absorbed it all, and said, Yeah, right, we often have that question too. And the artists all surrounding Dan and Clare hovered in this delicate moment, a moment we've all experienced, the moment in which you realize that you've gone to someone as an authority figure, and they say they may not have the answer, but you had thought, well, if anyone had the answer, these people do, BUT THEY DON'T, and maybe the answer DOES NOT EXIST, and maybe you're not as far off as you thought you were, and maybe, just maybe, you can forge your own path, and it'll all be okay. 

I found it all enormously comforting. 

There's a big poster at my gym. You know those stupid gym inspirational posters that take up a whole wall. 


I like that, these days. Because each level you get to, there's probably another level you want. So if you feel kinda okay, you'll probably always feel kinda okay. And if you feel hungry and desperate, you will always feel hungry and desperate, unless you address that in yourself. And any way you slice it, you probably smell like your cell phone. 

That's not how you make it. I have no idea how you make it. But that's how you make it through.