which you say
that rug out
which you say
that rug out
Welcome! What would you like to talk about?
First, let me just say, thanks so much for this interview. Most artists, I think, just want to be taken seriously, to be given some real consideration and thought. Attention must be paid and all that. So it's a real privilege to get the opportunity to share some of the thought behind my work.
Should we start at the beginning? The Absurdity of Writing Poetry, in 2006. I've heard you refer to that as a manifesto for Available Light.
That was certainly true. If you wanted a one-hour mission statement, that was it, for the company, and for me. It's shamelessly direct sometimes, right there in the end, I just list out my reasons for making art, plain and kinda simple. The show is dumb in that it's just me putting all my issues front and center with very little artifice.
Where did that show come from?
I had left my first grand venture, BlueForms Theatre Group and wandered out into the wilderness of Iowa City, where I hung out with the only dude I knew who was a big a nerd for theatre and rap music as I was, Sean Christopher Lewis. Sean and I were working on his first one-man opus, I Will Make You Orphans, and getting to know each other's ambitions. He had a friend, Jennifer Fawcett, also a playwright, who also had a one-person show. (They're married now. She might even have been his girlfriend then, I don't know.) I spent a week there making work and hanging out in the library and visiting the art museum and wondering what the hell I was going to do with myself.
I was inspired, to say the least, by their willingness to put their own stories onstage and to put themselves on stage. I hadn't really been willing to do that. I was also re-reading a lot of Anne Bogart stuff. Anne had been my mentor, had given me a big push into Starting BlueForms, and the end of her first book (A Director Prepares) gave me another big push. "Don't wait," she says, until you have the right people, the right platform, the right space, the money even until you know what you're doing. I took that very literally.
I love Prince so much. I bought all his records, even the shitty ones. They weren’t really shitty. If anyone else had made them, we’d call them amazing.
If Prince left one great lesson, though, it’s this: “Get back in the studio.” He just never stopped. Remember his big beef with Warner Bros? One of the key parts of that fight was that he wanted to release MORE music MORE often. Wow.
So, I’m gonna back in the studio. How bout you?
Derek Sivers says “Get Famous.” It’s his first directive. It seems kind of stupid until he elaborates.
Do everything in public, and for the public. The more people you reach the more useful you are. The opposite is hiding. Which is of no use to anyone.
Whoa. So, how bout this? No more hiding.
…we were taking perfectly normal songs and making them hard to listen to.”
Carrie Brownstein, in Hunger Makes Me a Modern Girl, explains why Sleater-Kinney is my artistic ideal.
Seth Godin with another fine list. This is a bunch of ways to succeed (or not, depending on your situation.) Here are some of my favorites…
1. Be very focused on your goal and work on it daily
2. Go to college with someone who makes it big and then hires you
4. Practice every day
7. Do the emotional labor of working on things that others fear
18. Contribute more than is expected
19. Give credit to others
20. Take responsibility
26. Treat every gig as an opportunity to create art
29. When dealing with employees, act like Steve. It worked for him, apparently.
32. Have the ability to work harder and more directly than anyone else when the situation demands it
Some of those reflect my values. Some of those are funny.
There’s that terrible commercial, right? For Five Hour Energy, the most disgusting product I can think of, and some woman chides her co-worker, “Somebody’s got a case of the Two O’clocks!” Urgh.
I don’t get the Two O’Clocks, though. I get the Four-Fifteens. Do you get the Three Thirties? Or maybe you work late and get that really depressing jab of the Eleven Twenty PMs.
Whenever you get it, it takes effort to recognize and deal with that extended moment of weakness. Really, it was just a few weeks ago that I suddenly realized that every late afternoon, in the gap between most of my appointments and seeing my wife after her workday, during which the incoming emails finally slow down, is regularly my LEAST-productive time of day. It doesn’t matter when I got out of bed, what I have left to do, or what I have to look forward to. Those are the couple of hours when I find it hardest to focus on Getting Things Done. Resistance gains a foothold and I just wanna nap, or look at Facebook, or kid myself that online shopping is a productive use of time.
So I’ve been trying to turn over a new leaf. When I feel that lethargy coming on strong, I switch the game, I do the opposite of what I’ve been doing. If I’m home, I leave. If I’m out, I go home. If I’ve been online, I close the computer. I turn off the phone. I read. I write. Anything to avoid wasting those hours.
Sometimes it even works.
Now I’ve just gotta figure out why I always get tired just in time for rehearsal.
From Brene Brown’s incredible Daring Greatly.
I only accept and pay attention to feedback from people who are also in the arena. If you’re occasionally getting your butt kicked as you respond, and if you’re also figuring out how to stay open to feedback it without getting pummeled with insults, I’m more likely to pay attention to your thoughts about my work.
Apparantly, she even goes so far as to carry a list in her wallet of the few people whose opinions truly matter to her. I think I might do that. It’s all part of trying to halt the shame cycle before it begins. Only true fiends make the list, the ones whose connections have been tested, stretched, and proven.
This land of opportunities with no public funding and a queue of talented young musicians lining up for the big time is very, very brutal, albeit exciting and nowhere near perfect… There is something about trying to fight through the masses of people and reach the sprawling musical tapestry, sometimes failing intensely and sometimes not…
Despite all of our free art conservatories and funding, we don’t seem to export Tchaikovskys and Björks as often as you would think. We are mostly exporting pleasing, cool pop acts that fit the current cultural trend, while countries like America and certain areas of Europe, despite and possibly because of their hardships, are leading the way in experimental, progressive music…
In Denmark I was nurtured, given freedom to hone my skills and experiment with my boundaries and in America I had them pushed to their very limits, thrusting me away from comfort into hardship and struggle.
[This was actually many months ago, and I’ve been searching for a while for the little bit of thought I put down on paper about this. I found it this past Sunday, while looking for something else, of course.]
My only insight about struggle is this:
1. When you are struggling, you are more likely to answer the question: “What would you create if you knew you were dying.” You are in touch with the fact that you might not have many chances, and so you feel and you know deep in your soul – viscerally, intrinsically, instinctively, at a cellular level – that you must make this one count. “There’s no time to be merely clever or simply entertaining or interesting.”
2. AND – you make art that’s designed to speak to those who are also struggling. And so you talk about things that matter deeply. You try to help. You are lonely and broke, making music/art/books/theatre for other people who are lonely and broke.
I had this plan to write about the process of adapting James Joyce. Let’s face it, I was so busy adapting James Joyce (A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man) that I was never going to get around to writing about it. So, I set-up my phone and made these quicky videos.