Unless people know an artist, they have no idea what artist’s do.
This notion has become my latest obsession. When talking to non-theater people in my life, conversation is tricky and usually ends with me feeling crazy and frankly sad. Sad in a way that seems stupid but despite my better judgement, sits in my gut like a dumbbell.
When I say I do theater, some people tell me it’s nice that I have a hobby. When I go home to Los Angeles, some relatives say things like the sarcastic “It must be nice to live your dreams” or the always pleasant “When do you think you will grow up?” When I complain about arts funding, many don’t know there’s a problem with arts funding. Etc. etc. etc.
I want people to know what it means to be a theater artist. The nuts and bolts of it. Where does work start? What struggles do artists face from that small nugget of an idea to performance before a live audience? And for that matter, why make work for the stage? My profession may be part dreaming but it’s also a hell of a lot of work.
Hello, my name is Angela and I am a theater artist. Come into my office.
Right away you can tell two things:
I am a Mac gal. PCs have crashed too many times and many scripts have been lost in the aftermath. I know all too well the horrible gut drop caused by the sudden black screen abyss associated with laptop suicide.
I have a coffee/water problem But the plus side is clearly I love the environment.
Now, this is not just a desk, this is my office. I spend HOURS here. Just…hours.
And how can you tell this desk belongs to an artist? Well…
WAYS YOU CAN TELL THIS DESK BELONGS TO A THEATER ARTIST
My desk showcases props from past shows
At the end of each performance run, there seems to be a treasure trove of items that are not the best quality but oddly sentimental and therefore, need a home. See that white coffee cup? Prop from the first show I wrote that performed in ’05. That stupid IKEA cup has been with me longer than any man, we’ve lived in five apartments together, we are in a very serious beverage relationship. And see that white bulldog?From the production of my play Spark in February. It was placed behind the sex window. You don’t need to know what the means but the dog is a bobble head. So yes…
Theater momentos are transformed
That beer bottle full of ivy, that beer stein stuffed with flowers, both pieces were acquired doing theater related activities. And clearly I am creative because they are being used as plant holders, a bohemian way to disguise the fact that I don’t want to invest in vases.
Flyers, theater swag and more
See that flyer? See that foolsFURY water bottle? I support the arts cause I am the arts.
A bag of binder clips
This is the first way you can tell you are in the presence of a writer. Scripts eat up trees and 80 pages later, Mama needs some clips. I have a special radar for binder clips, if there is one hanging around I will slip it in my pocket faster than you can say “fastener.” Just call me Binder Clip Klepto.
Evidence I have done The Artist’s Way
What is The Artist’s Way you may ask? It is a creative self-help book you turn to when your creative life becomes a great hollow piece of nothing. Where you see no color, you wonder why you didn’t become a doctor, all words look stale, all art seems pointless, you are producing nothing but sawdust. You are not blocked, blocked is too nice of a word. I prefer to say I am buried or, more to the point, that I am losing my goddamn mind.
So one chapter in the The Artist’s Way says you have to include something on your desk that makes you smile, makes you feel creative. See that pink feather pen? It is totally sparking my creativity as we speak.
Long form post-it notes
Cause I have to-do lists. The items from my writing list include:
- Make his body fall apart piece by piece
- Paper airplanes? As a way to connect to the audience? Research.
- Things you can’t do in rubber gloves. List.
My arsenal of writing tools
iPod, eyeglasses, candles, headphones and hair ties. If I don’t have these things, creativity will get clogged, stop cold before it starts. I won’t be able to read the screen, my hair will get in my face, the NYC sirens outside will distract me and there will be a void of magical ambiance. And then I will get pissy and that will throw me into an existential crisis. And I am an artist, I wonder what the hell I am doing way too much anyway.
Research material is taking over my life
I need books, I need music, I need to grab from life to inform the stories I write. So that Tale of Two Cities is sitting in the corner is there cause I am really pissed at the economy and I live in a city where the division of me and the wealthy is like a cast iron skillet slabbing you across the face. And the fiscal cliff…don’t get me started on the fiscal cliff. The Social Animal is there cause I am writing a new piece on online dating. I don’t know what makes me more angry, Congress or OkCupid.
This is where the magic happens
The frustrating, amazing, tired, confusing, “say what?!” magic. This is where stories start. They don’t hop out of the printer. They take nights, hours, months, years before they get anywhere. Of course, not shown is my printer. It is way to the left and currently needs more ink and paper. Which reminds me, I need to make a Staples to-do list…