I’m going to go on hiatus for a while. Please enjoy past posts and hopefully I’ll see you soon.
My eldest son had a theater performance last night. Their classes all did a kind of lip sync’d but originally choreographed take on Broadway musical numbers from Annie to Hairspray. He did well, had a great time, and came home riding on air.
As I was getting him in bed he told me, “That’s the best feeling in the world, being on stage. I just feel so amazing.” And then he paused, his face hidden and shadowed in the dark room. He asked shyly as if he was discovering something of tremendous import, “Does it feel that way for you when you are onstage?”
Yes. Yes it does.
Being onstage, rehearsing, producing (and to some extent writing) feels like nothing else. No where else do I feel quite so competent as in a collective space working on receiving and transmitting emotions in text and movement and then offering that to an audience. There is a very particular skill set that allows for that kind of space creation and holding it just long enough for a show to happen and it’s powerful and feels, well, spiritual in nature-energetic, a force coming from someplace (maybe it’s all just chemical but it feels transformative at its best).
I felt this sharp tug at my heart when he asked, as much for his question as for my own struggles with having this need to perform. I felt almost a kind of sadness that he felt that feeling because I know it means a life of sacrifices, struggles, and really weird hard choices if he’s called by the dream-like power of Art and Theater, not by Business or some other more valued lucrative force.
I know a lot of artists. Nearly all of them have a day job and then their own gig. Austin is filled with people working and then WORKING on what counts for them the most, what calls them and makes them get up and create. Most of them are not paid well, if at all, for that creative work. Musicians, painters, actors, singers. Most have to support themselves with a 40 hour gig, live lean and forego middle class luxuries.
There are a few who have figured out how to live on art. Some of those few have family money, or have made exceptionally wise money choices, or have supportive spouses. Some don’t have any of that but have pretty much lived on the brink of homelessness to just work in the arts because they can’t do anything else, and by “can’t” I don’t mean skill, I mean that’s the thing life gave them to do. That’s it for them. Art.
I also know a few folks who have actual careers in law, engineering, business, higher ed. They don’t seem to have a side gig, but feel really satisfied by their career. I’m not sure what they do at night or on weekends but it doesn’t seem to be additional production work, or writing. Maybe they invest? Build things on their homes? Go out? (I jest a little, but I know people who do not go overboard with the extra projects, either art or activism like my friends and I do and it confounds me.)
Many of those people make a really good solid living in their career. Their avocations are just that; hobbies that please them outside of career. But what of all the artists whose actual vocation is the thing that doesn’t pay (but which is often viewed as a hobby by employers)? Reminds me of this article in the Onion recently.
All those thoughts cartwheeled through my mind as I tried to get to sleep last night.
“Does it feel like that for you when you are onstage?”
God, yes. The best feeling in the world to be in a show. Or to facilitate a group of people through a creative process. Or to brainstorm and come up with ideas. Or to listen to someone who needs coaching. or to get all the pieces together for an event. The interchange of energies, transmitting and receiving is the dream, the sweet spot where I have something to offer.
I’m lucky that my career and weekly work is such that I can (and do) use those skills-event planning and production, speaking and outreach, facilitation and consulting, because those are the only damn things I’m good at. And I’m lucky that I have been able to integrate the arts and activism into my life throughout my life. Heck, I try to integrate my arts and activism into each other so I can get more done! I’m extremely privileged to live in a town like Austin where you can craft out a side gig pretty easily and it’s something that keeps the town “weird.”
But I wonder and ponder for my son. How to explain to him that even if he could be a full time actor? The performance is still only a small percentage of that career. From auditions, to money management, to agents, to rehearsing, to classes, to promotion and marketing, to just paying bills and maintaining a home, getting onstage is still rare.
And if he’s like the thousands of artists that do their thing on evenings and weekends, how to prepare him in ways I was not prepared, and ways I most certainly ignored out of a romantic idealism about art and purity and my own pathological issues with money?
I don’t want that feeling to be something he chases like an addiction, getting it where he can, if he can, because he has to live a life that isn’t his just to get by. Nor do I want him to treat it like a musical theater-like dream and not take it seriously or give it up altogether. The arts are tremendously undervalued in terms of monetary reward (unless you are famous and then it’s extremely overvalued) and that means people either give them up or try to work the system ruthlessly. It can’t be idealized and it shouldn’t be cynical, but it seems to me those are the choices lately.
What kind of stories do I tell him in order to help him value earning potential but also his innate skills? What do I do to help him build his own mythos, his own path, rather than crush him with the one I was raised with, the daughter of a well known talented composer whose legacy…well, was crushing in many ways and left me focused on the right things but the wrong ways?
I don’t have a lot of answers to those questions. I’m only now, at 45, beginning to really look in the mirror and ask them of myself. Which, I can tell you, is a painful thing right now. I can look back over the last 15 years and think, damn. I’ve really bungled a lot of opportunities and I’ve truly missed the boat by dividing myself. Personal work is the hardest work.
Which is why I think that shy question, in the dark, was so powerful. It was a moment of consciousness from a young boy taking the very first steps into adulthood. Him recognizing, perhaps for the first time, that his parent had a connection to him in a way that felt real and visceral. An awareness of something he may not ever have suspected about himself, and that his mother had also traveled that same way.
It was a stunning moment, at least for me. And I am still boggled as to how to move myself through it, but surely there is no better reason than to make things a little easier for him.
The Henson Generation?– Millennials just don’t get it! How the Muppets created Generation X –Salon.Com
I cannot say I love the title of this piece, pitting as it does one generation against another, but I truly appreciated the insights regarding the stories we of Generation X grew up with and how they .
“Debuting in 1969, ”Sesame Street” was an experiment, to find out if public television could level class discrepancies and change the world. Airing free-of-charge in every home in the country and making learning fun, it undoubtably did. More than a simple lesson on the alphabet, for those of us raised by Big Bird, you couldn’t help feeling a sense of idealism about the future. It’s a message that’s hard to put into words, but you feel it if you watch Jimmy Fallon and the Roots sing “Can You Tell Me How to Get to Sesame Street” – as over a million viewers have. Just the opening bars of that song are enough to make me feel like a kid again.”
I certainly grew up on Sesame Street and my father, a Henson type (though older) was fascinated with what television and media could do to change our culture.
“From the ’60s on, Jim Henson’s work would reach nearly every child, whether it was “The Muppet Show,” “Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas,” “Fraggle Rock,” “The Storyteller,” the Muppet movies, “John Denver and the Muppets,” “Labyrinth,” “The Dark Crystal,” “The Jim Henson Hour,” or “Muppet Babies.” Unlike Sesame Street, Henson’s later work did not have a “curriculum” created by Harvard psychologists at the Children’s Television Workshop. All the same, each show and movie had purpose.
Henson told his staff that with “Fraggle Rock,” he wanted to make a show that would help “stop war in the world” by teaching conflict resolution. “Muppet Babies” was made to encourage imagination. According to the show’s head writer, “[Henson] wanted children to believe anything is possible. That’s the only thing that’s going to save this planet — the power of imagination.” Though “The Muppet Show” did not have any overt “teaching objectives,” it had the implicit message that all kinds of weirdos and goofballs can work together in peace, give or take a few explosions. Underneath the screwball humor, “The Muppet Show” had a message of brotherhood.”
Indeed, reading through this article I saw myself over and over again, the idealism, the creativity, the focus on community and acceptance of difference.
It’s long but it’s worth the read, especially if you are a fellow X’er.
Notable Posts: God Is Not A Christian: Desmond Tutu And The Dalai Lama’s Extraordinary Talk On God And Religion
From the Huffington Post, a recap of a conversation between the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu. I personally love their back and forth, and willingness to doubt a bit.
Do you think God is a Christian? I don’t. Whatever God is, if God is anything at all, is greater than the sum etc etc and far beyond one race, creed, gender, POV, or, heck, species. Yeah, I’ll go that far.
In other radical thoughts, read some of Jim Rigby.
It’s been a while since I’ve posted.
I’ve been doing a great deal of speaking, conferencing, and producing. Between SXSW, Testify, Soundtrack Series, and BedPost Confessions (not to mention some fundraising conferences I’ve spoken at) I’ve found it hard to settle in to write meaningful posts, not that there haven’t been plenty of things to write about.
I’m going to give myself permission to do two things:
1) Write less but post news that’s notable.
2) Use an app to automatically post cool items I’ve seen online (short posts, but still posts).
I would say I’d get up earlier and write more but I haven’t been able to pull that off
Meanwhile, here are some cool things I’m working on.
The Movable Mob-We are gonna get us an RV and go around Texas, encouraging the unruly mob, hearing testimony, and singing songs. June 2014.
Lilith Fund-I’m going to be doing fundraising consulting and support of the amazing non-profit and supports Reproductive Justice all across Texas.
Bowling-I’m raising money for abortion funds while bowling badly and in costume. Support me here!
And of course, BedPost Confessions. We are starting to plan BedFest for fall, still producing Quickies, and plotting all kinds of world take-over.
This is why I have no time to write! But I’m trying
Presenting South by BedPost: An intimate night of storytelling with the sex-positive participants of SxSWi. This is an unofficial event.
The ladies of Bedpost Confessions are celebrating their participation in SxSW Interactive (Julie and Sadie are both leading Core Conversations) by hosting a FREE storytelling event at one of their favorite places – The Butterfly Bar Austin
9:00 pm-11:00 pm
Butterfly Bar at Vortex Rep.
With stories told by these sex positive folks from different parts of the country:
☮ BedPost Confessions co-producer and author of the memoir Open All the Way –
☮ Author of An Open Apology to All My ExGirlfriends – Stirling Gardner
☮ Rapper, writer and performer -
☮ Kink Academy Founder and FemDom Foot Goddess -
Princess Kali Erotication
☮ Sex worker’s rights advocate, sex educator and relationship coach -
☮ Writer and columnist –
☮ Emceed by BedPost Confessions co-producer, writer, performer and activist -
Come on out to the Butterfly Bar and enjoy hearing some amazing tales!
My husband Christopher Lucas has been a producer on an amazing documentary filmed and directed by John Fiege of Fiege Films and premiering at SXSW.
Above All Else “is an intimate portrait of a group of landowners and activists in East Texas who tried to stop construction of the Keystone XL pipeline, a $7 billion dollar project slated to carry tar sands oil from Canada to refineries on the Texas Gulf Coast. Risking financial ruin, their personal safety, and the security of their families, these unforgettable people and their stories become an exploration of the human spirit and a window into how social change happens in America.”
There are three screening times at SXSW.
Monday, March 10, 12 PM, Paramount Theater
Tuesday, March 11, 4:30 PM, Alamo Village
Saturday, March 15, 2 PM, Topfer Theater at ZACH
Help us fill the 1200 seats at the Paramount! $10 Individual tickets will go on sale 15 minutes before each screening at the venue box office. Arrive early in case of lines.
$12 advanced tickets can be purchased here.
SXSW Badge and Film Pass holders are given seating priority – you can purchase badges and passes here at SXSW.
BedPost Quickies is a NEW and FREE open mic night that occurs the 1st Tuesday of the month at the ND. Come and test out your story in a fun space with great people. At BedPost Quickies you will have 5 minutes to read your material and practice your performer skills with a live audience. You do not need any stage or writing experience, this is a safe and brave space to share your story.
Sign up is from 7:00 to 7:30 PM. We will take the first 15 performers. You’ll be assigned an order number and when it is your turn you’ll be given 5 minutes in the spotlight.
What Are The Rules?
5 minute maximum
Your piece should be about sex, sexuality, feminism, gender, relationship.
It can be political, personal, fiction or non-fiction.
No offensive, non-consensual or illegal material (please check with us before performing, but you should stay within the ethos of BedPosts Smart, Sexy Stories filled with ethics, education and entertainment)
You must bring a written copy of your piece!
Where and When?
The North Door
502 Brushy St., Austin, Texas 78702
7:00 sign up
I’ll be reading a story at Testify tonight about mental health, motherhood, and the mayhem my brain got up to after a chance encounter at the Austin State Hospital.
“Touch has a memory.” – John Keats
Our lineup this month has an excellent collection of particularly palpable stories, ranging from heartfelt to comical, regarding touch – emotional, spiritual, physical, and imagined; its cold absence and its (at times) overwhelming presence.
Testify is proud to present the following storytellers live on stage:
Jessica Rue Wilson
See you soon!
The Producers of Testify
(Abby, Erin, Genevieve, Kacey, and Kate)
Doors: 7:00 pm
Show starts promptly at 8:00 pm
Tickets: $5 cash at the box office ($6 for credit cards)
**PLEASE NOTE performances may contain strong language and adult content. No one under 18 will be admitted without a guardian.**
Artists, performers, poets, musicians, dancers, activists, scholars, pundits, healthcare providers, filmmakers, photographers, journalists, feminists and freedom fighters! Join us for three nights of skits, sketches, schtick and succor.
Remember the filibuster!
Remember the Mob mentality!
Remember our voices!
Rouse the Unruly Mob will be curated performances, open-mic rants and rhymes, live forum fun, and a consciousness-raising romp!
When: February 27, 28, March 1