This Guy

  
This guy. I’m at the Met, and I’m leaving thru this really cool looking $50 coffee-table book where artists talk about art in the Met that they love, and why they love it. I’m reading it, and I’m doing what I often do in art museums, which is wish I’d taken an art history class in college so I could understand all this shit, and I wish I’d become a visual artist instead of a theatre artist, because how cool that all these years later we still have their work and maybe this is what art is and maybe theatre is just bullshit and yada-yada-yada I’m beginning to spiral into feeling of inadequacy and this guy (pictured above) asks if he can take my picture, because “You have that look of, you know, not a a tortured artist? But struggling.” 

He takes my picture. And then as a trade I take his picture. So this is him. 

He made me laugh. That my what I thought was inner spiral was so obviously transparent. Kind of took the air out of it all, which was nice. He also made me a little embarrassed. But only a little. He described himself as not an artist, but married to an artist. He was nice. I wish I remembered his name. 

It’s funny that struggling or being tortured as an artist is a cliche. It means that when you do struggle–and I do struggle–I become a cliche. And strangers want to photograph it. I don’t think its fair. I think other things should share the cliche. Struggling Executive. Tortured Roofer. Starving Cobbler. 

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Firsts

As transcribed from my journal (apologies for the weird formatting)

First mic (wireless)
First international performance
First walk out (2)
First Fringe
First seven shows in a row (one/day)

First rake stage (for …like nobody’s watching)

first real review

first snorkel

first indian ocean

first southern hemisphere

first New Zealand (layover)

first Australia

first extended hostel stay

first five-performance night (as audience)

first watering-hole

first 2:00 AM chinese food

first zero pre-sales

first street juggling

first flyering

first making a flyer

first consecutive 4:00AM + evenings

first Guiness World Record (observed)

first jazz club (visit)

first cabaret (seen)

first time doing …like nobody’s watching w/ “Nightclub” section

first 10:00 PM + performance

first guest spot on live late night

first instagram marketing w/ hashtags (they totally help)
I met people from:

UK

NZ 

PDX

Canada

Australia (duh)

South Africa

Scandinavian countries
first holding bandage on head wound

first “I-think-this-guy-is-gonna-die”

first riding in a car driving on the left side of the road

first shark sighting

first Australia Day

first …like nobody’s watching curtain speech (at open and close of show)

first indigenous land acknowledgement in said curtain speech

first being told to cover up because the loin cloth is indecent

first seeing southern stars

Flyering

  
It wasn’t all beaches and seeing art and standing ovations in Australia(there were no standing ovations (probably just a cultural thing)).  This is me flyering in a loincloth, on a Thursday night. A security guard is taking the photo. In a few minutes a woman will come up to me really uncomfortable, and say, “I know you’re an artist, but you have to cover up, it’s a liquor licensing thing” And then in a few more minutes, I’ll perform for like nine people, most of whom didn’t pay. It’ll be my worst night in Australia. 

The bad parts of Australia: loud music bleeding into my venue the first four nights. Performing a theatre show in a comedy venue at 10:20 in the evening for people who don’t always realize they’re about to see a theatre show (maybe because you handed them a flyer in a loin-cloth, and told them they could totally bring their drinks to the show…). Slow ticket sales. Oh god, the terror of being a few days out from opening and having multiple nights with no RSVPs. The night the house manager came to the dressing room ten minutes before showtimes and said, “So we’re still at zero…” (two people ended up buying last minute, and like a dozen artists showed up so it turned out fine). I had two walk outs. One was a couple, the other was just one woman (whose date fucking stayed, which I feel great about(also it happened in a moment in the show where I could slyly address it, and I did, and that felt good)) and she ended up coming back like 20 minutes later. One night I had two friendly hecklers. Front row, they just sorta talked at me for the whole show. Said “You’re saved!” when the (Spoiler (kind of) if you haven’t seen the show) projection of Tom Hanks seeing the freighter played. There was also just the loneliness. Before I started meeting other artists it was just me and I did things like go to the opening night party, get a drink, look around at all the people I didn’t know, drink it quickly and alone and then go home. Did things like sit alone on beautiful tropical beaches and think about how the one time I saw a therapist the only advice she had for me was that I should be more proactive about dating. I got sunburned multiple times (even though I used sunscreen, just not enough apparently). My phone charger got stolen from the hostel. I let small automatic things like designing/acquiring flyers and turn into massive terrible tasks I was doing wrong and worried about way too much. My reviewer said she’d post the day after she saw my show, but then didn’t for THREE DAYS until I bugged her about it and turns out she wrote the thing, but then just like published it privately or something so that good review only got seen the day before my last show. There were other things that sucked which I’m already forgetting. Some mornings I woke up with this terrible pit in my stomach. 

To have the bad thing you dread happen, and totally survive it. To fail at something, and realize that you were always going to fail because jesus that was difficult and specific, and at least you failed now rather than pussyfoot around it for five years and then fail all the same, but just five years closer to death. I saw this quote attributed to Steven Wright: “The sooner you fall behind, the more time you’ll have to catch up” That’s part of how I feel about the struggles of Australia. 

The other part of it is a lesson a lot of people have tried to teach me, but I’ve always been very resistant to: namely the importance of failure. From the 10 Rules John Cage popularized, “there is no fail.” I’ve been thinking it over, and I’ll phrase it like this: if you can’t fail, there is just not that much you can do. Trying to make art without failing along the way is maybe like trying to see nature without getting dirty. You’re not going to get very far. And the places you get to, maybe don’t take me there because it doesn’t sound very interesting. 

This trip has been interesting. More than interesting. It has been the most fulfilling experience of my life to date. And the difficulties were part of that. 

Insecurity

  
My first week in Australia I would walk around, look at posters for other shows, and think to myself, I wish my show [fill in the blank with whatever the poster I saw advertised]. I wished I was an acrobat. I wished I had thought of the ideas for the shows that seemed inventive. I wished that I had won the awards and gotten the reviews that the other shows had. I wished that my show was bigger and more expensive, since those people seemed to look more legitimate and then at least I wouldn’t be all alone in Australia. And then one day I saw that big old TV in the plaza, and I wished that I had the budget for big advertisements that would move tickets. 

And the hilarious part of all this is that it actually turned out to be totally free to add your show to the rotation of posters that would pop up on the screen. Totally free. But then I never did it, because it was like a minor technical/formatting challenge and I’M INSECURE ABOUT MY FLEDGLING GRAPHIC DESIGN SELF-PROMOTION! 

Final Night in Australia

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That is me and Niko, my venue technician in Australia. My show has seventy sound cues, so a good technician is really important. I haven’t had a bad one yet, but the day I do I’m going to be really up the creek because operating my show is…harder than a technician-less touring show really should be. So Niko being great meant Australia could be great. And Australia was great.

More on that in a minute, I’m going to try to stick to the photo. It is taken at the Budgie Smuggler. (That, in Australian, means a men’s Speedo bathing suit) The Budgie Smuggler is the artist’s bar. Drinks are “cheap” (alcohol in Australia is really expensive, but the Budgie’s better than most bars), but more importantly it’s really just the place everyone hangs out, if people are hanging out. The Budgie is open until 2:00 on weeknights, 4:00 on weekends. It had a mechanical bull the first week, then inflatable jousting thingies. The Budgie is a place to recognize people whose show you just saw. A place to be a fanboy. A place to yell really interesting conversations over really loud music. A place to get drunk.

And this photo is from my last night at the Budgie. I wish I had taken more photos in Australia. Photos of things, photos of people. By the last night in Australia I was realizing this, so hence this photo.

I didn’t get to sleep my last night in Australia before I caught my morning flight (more on that in a minute). But first, let me just that FRINGE WORLD is a month-long festival, but actually it’s like four separate week-long festivals, since most shows run 5-10 nights. So by my final night, I had that weird end-of-semester-dorms-have-been-cleared feeling. Because some of my favorite people who I had gotten to know had already left. And now I was leaving. And other people I was meeting had just arrived. Comings and goings had me feeling all mystical and appreciative of the beautiful transitory nature of everything. 

But that didn’t last too long. The reason I didn’t sleep my last night in Australia was on my way home I saw a fist-fight from a few blocks away. It was short,  one guy just got knocked out in a punch and when I got there, he had hit his head on the sidewalk from the fall, and there was a pool of blood forming under his head. He wasn’t immediately responsive. I didn’t have an active phone in Australia, so I ran to a security guard. My shirt in this photo ended up being the first thing on his wound.  The guy turned out to be fine-ish. I end up standing around for ninety minutes with no shirt before giving a statement to the police. Cold in the Australian night. By the time I got to the hostel it was time to go to the airport.

Arriving in Perth, Australia for Fringe World

So you take off at LAX, and you’re over the ocean in under ten seconds. A 12 hour flight over the pacific ocean, and it is entirely the pacific ocean you fly over. I had a window seat. Which is lucky, I decided, on such a wide plane. Ten seats across, (three-aisle-four-aisle-three), you have a 40% chance of a middle seat, 40% chance aisle, 20% window. And I got window. Which actually paid dividends at the end of the flight, as New Zealand popped up from out of the water. Very green, New Zealand. Saw a few sheep from above. Pasture that went right to the water’s edge. 
Three hour layover in Auckland. They had fed me on the plane, and I decided not to buy anything because I didn’t want to have to exchange money just to use in the airport, and yes, I could have used my debit card, except I still hadn’t contacted my bank yet about my trip to the other side of the world–I did that on line (in line, on line, on queue? (they’re not british, but its close sometimes)) at the Perth airport. 
Long line to get out of the Perth airport. Reunited with my bag, though, so I was happy (took a different flight to LAX after first one was delayed, hence the bag anxiety). Long line concluded, I caught a bus to the city center. 
Met a German backpacker on the bus, coming from Indonesia. He had just had a carton of cheap indonesian cigarettes confiscated. I told him about my show, he had heard of Cast Away (2000). 
Then the hostel. I am at the cheapest hostel in Perth. There are no frills, not everything works. Its population is half travellers, half people who for whatever reason would rather live in a hostel than have a real residence(as I said, it’s real cheap(significantly cheaper than my place in Portland, cheap). Its got some positive qualities, though. Big backyard where I can juggle. Big kitchen. And my bed is furthest from the door in the 24-person suite. 
A note on the 24-person suite: I’ve hosteled now around Europe, and in a few American cities. Suites range from 2 to this, 24 being the largest I’ve encountered. And often hostels will have multiple options–the larger rooms being the cheaper ones.
However. 
In my limited experiences, I have found the larger hostel suites far more amenable. Its like difference between trying to read in a room where two people are having a conversation, versus reading in a busy cafe with a hundred voices all around. The single conversation requires effort to tune out. The noisy cafe, however, becomes a white noise. So in the larger hostel suites the comings and goings of my suitemates is more constant, and therefore–paradoxically–less obtrusive. It also helps that I have the best bed in the suite–furthest from the door. 
Okay, so that’s where I’m staying. I wanted to get thru the other stuff, though. So I checked into my hostel, walked around the festival grounds (it’s all walking distance from the hostel, another plus), got my artist’s pass, took an impulsive trip to the ocean. 
The bus to the ocean took about 35 minutes, out of the city, thru the suburbs, to the beach. The beach was windy. I got there around 5:00 thinking I might catch the sunset–which I didn’t, of course, cause it’s summer here and the days are long. 
So windy ocean, on putting my toe in the water it felt cold. Not cold, I should say. But not as warm as I thought it would feel. 
But then once I got in the water, it was perfectly warm. And the waves were strong and large. And you’d duck under one, confidently emerge on the side, and open your eyes just in time for the next wave to knock you backwards. 
So walked around the beach a bit, and then caught the bus back–which took a while, and was a little more of a trial than it should have been, since I had no idea when the bus might come, and watched a couple busses pass nearby without stopping at my stop before I walked to a higher traffic bus stop. 
So then back to the hostel, tired, went to bed. 

Today I visited the art museum (its free), the library (also free), got to juggle in a really gorgeous hall made 100 years ago in memorial to this couple’s two sons, who both died in World War 1. After I finish this blog post I’m going to get dressed and head to the Fringe World opening party. I’m nervous and excited.