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From Bill – Life of the Artist (part the second) – Where the Fun Comes From

December 8, 2011

Two lovelorn clowns

The hardest thing for me about doing anything is the challenge of working with other people, and nothing is more demanding on one’s interpersonal skills than creating theatre–creating anything that you actually care about and that someone else has some degree of control or influence over.

Painters have it easy. It’s them alone with the object. Writers, too. They have to deal with audiences’ misunderstandings or criticisms of their work, but the work itself is theirs and theirs alone. In the performing arts, that is very much not the case, and in Ensemble Theatre, where everyone is a partner to one degree or another, you have to deal not only with criticism, misunderstanding, but just plain old differences of opinion and taste.

But most of the time, that’s where the fun comes from too.

Emma keeps track of some of the more humorous reactions to this stress. Here are a few of the easier ones to understand if you weren’t there in the moment:

We try to be open to all ideas at first, but it’s the plethora of possibilities, and deciding which to choose, that is at the heart of the creative problem–

  • BILL: “Okay, I have another idea… that combines with shadow…!” JP: “Bill, remember how I said there were no bad ideas?”
  • MARY: [Proposing a  scene] “It sounds stupid, now that I’m saying it…” EMMA: “We did dinosaurs [last year] – we can sell anything.”
  • BILL: “I spent two hours going, ‘Oh my god…the fire of existence is like…”
  • MARY: “I solve my creative problems by shopping.”

And invariably along the way we’ve got to deal with our sexuality–

  • ROB: “I think the phrase ‘throaty moan’ is the dirtiest two words I’ve ever heard in the English language!”
  • EMMA: “Would you light my candle?” KATY: “I don’t want to light your candle!”
  • MARY: “It’s true—size really doesn’t matter.” ROB: “It’s how much applause you get.”
  • BILL: “Cathleen, would you be willing to create a clown? Based on your failure as a lover?” CATHLEEN: “…Sure… I mean, I’d have to dig deep…”

Our insecurities–

  • NICOLE: [as PJ Sister] Write? We just learned to talk this year!”
  • BILL: “It’s kind of stupid. Or pathetic. It’s like something I would do.”
  • MARY: “I’m really good at looking silly.”
  • KATY:[as Cathleen goes over Christmas Mouse]…I’m feeling really bad for the mice I caught.”

Our political inclinations–

  • JP:[weighing options for PJ Sisters] Either one promotes my libertarian values.”
  • BILL: “I left Saddam Hussein on the cart—god rest his soul—and he was upstaging me for the whole scene!”

The stress of the work–

  • BILL: “Does anyone have a remedy for getting [‘Don’t Stop Believing’] out of my head?”
  • JP: “Christmas City Follies XII – guaranteed to make you sick to your stomach.”
  • LISA:[having to explain a costume choice] Because she’s green… and you’re green… and it’s not easy being green.”
  • JP: “If Bill screws that up again, you grab the ukulele and smash him over the head with it.” NICOLE: “Yes!”
  • LISA: [enforcing the “must hang up costumes” rule] I know who hangs up and who doesn’t. I’m like Santa Claus.”

And on and on. The work creates heat, and without humor and a self-deprecating good will, there’s no way to dissipate it. It requires respect for your co-workers and all their efforts no matter how wonderful or laughable. Eventually, time does its thing, the rehearsal room is silent again, and what is left is, I believe, more than a memory. It is an indestructible knowledge of life itself, ever evolving into something more, something else.

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