Ball and Chain

Income increase = Higher loan payment = Still unable to save

Income increase = Tax increase = Bringing home the same $$ as I was while waitressing

Income increase + ObamaCare plan = Owing $2,000 in taxes this April

Income increase = The worst financial shape I’ve ever been in

SOMETHING HAS TO GIVE FOR THE MIDDLE CLASS.

Creative Confidence

When we started this project our goals were two-fold. For this post, I’m only interested in one of those goals because it has been the most difficult to keep up with – being actively creative despite our debts. For months, I have been avoiding this post and it took around 6 hours today to get me to this point of typing. Fear has something to do with it. Lack of confidence does as well. Guilt that I have abandoned my creative child and the lack of credibility I have been feeling in calling myself a theatre practitioner lately. Can you call yourself a theatre-maker if you haven’t made theatre in over a year? The longer the lull, the harder it is to jump back on that’s totally for sure. How do we make it go away?

The guilt of not pursuing a life in theatre for the past year has been hitting me hard lately. I spend my time seeing plays, applying for theatre admin. jobs and “liking” all of my friends production photos on Facebook. It gives me the illusion that I’m involved – the quick-fix. The more time that passes from the last show I was a part of, the harder it becomes to define what “I do.” I surely haven’t been “doing” theatre and I’m not confident in saying that I “do” anything other than theatre. So my answer to this question has become what I want to do/should be doing/ did in the past. But then people want to know what I’m working on now and I haven’t much to offer in terms of examples. I have no confidence in that conversation. But I want to break through that barrier and get on with it. It feels like starting from scratch again and it’s hard because you have to face your un-confidence (its a word now!) in the face, swallow it, and come to the plate humbled and ready to build a new network and prove yourself (again).

I’ll try my best (and hard) to go through this process with “grace” – get it!? The artistic process and career of an artist doesn’t have a deadline and ground rules. Their careers ebb and flow in waves of working and drought. They live untouched by the  measurements and parameters of career success that other professionals live by. I will show compassion and mercy to myself and my lack of creating this past year or so because that’s what living gracefully means. Many other areas of my life have flourished over the past year and for that I am thankful and so very happy. Now I can take the time AND GRACE to focus my attention back on my craft. And now, after clicking “Publish” I am officially back in the game! 🙂 wahoo I have something to say next time and it feels soooooooo good 🙂 Next up on my agenda for establishing myself again is to 1) pull my website together with updates, services, and portfolio. 2) write regular posts on my blog to build more traffic. 3) Join play-writing and script-reading groups to expand my network and practice my new-found confidence. 4) Order new business card with “Creative Consultant: Theatre Performance” as the title. Cheers to starting over and continuing.

 

Wanting vs. Contentment for Creatives

Many events and feelings have been coming to a head. My absence on this blog has been in part due to a creative paralysis. That’s what I want to explore tonight. Why it happened? How it happened? How I felt? And how can I move forward? Which brings me to a larger question. HOW CAN WE HEALTHFULLY AND SAFELY BALANCE THE DESIRE TO PROGRESS WITH CONTENTMENT?

I spend a lot of time thinking about this question and what the possibilities mean for the human psyche – especially when it comes to climbing towards a major career goal.  With job openings low and personal debt (with fluff degrees) high this is a pertinent question of the times. You can only apply for jobs for so many months before being left completely drained, depressed, and with an overall sense of worthlessness and low self-confidence. I would characterize myself as fairly confident, but over the last three months I couldn’t say that without crossing my fingers behind my back. When the paralyzing feeling of wanting happened I began to settle. Not because I was content with where I was. I’m not okay with being a server and not creative – but I was just exhausted and feeling low about the whole thing. Its not even the act of job applying, or the feeling of rejection that got to me. The larger beast was the constant feeling of wanting, or looking forward, wishing my life was something else than where it is at present, not being present, just wanting more every second of the day. Each job I applied to became an image of what could be – followed by the contrast of where I am. It’s the power of consumerism and capitalism that got to me. The emptiness you feel for not having this or that. I needed a break – there’s only so much you can take before being positively driven becomes having a breakdown. I have never felt this way of being stuck in limbo (in the wanting phase) and I needed a sense of peace, of contentment just for a second if I could get it. So I just chilled for a bit and tried to be happy with where I was at the moment.

So… I essentially did nothing at all. I stopped networking, stopped applying for jobs, stopped writing, auditioning, and blogging because I thought that I was doing all these things in hopes of achieving something that I didn’t already have. Quite frankly, I gave up. That’s what I thought I needed to gain breathing room. At the time I didn’t see it as giving up, but rather: allowing myself to be happy with the present. I viewed art-making in a consumerist sense (which I’ve learned can be dangerous and healthy). Maybe its what happens when you try to make a financially- sound living off of a creative field that you love. Anyways, back to the initial point. Now here I sit and I still feel a sense of longing. Go figure, I’m longing to be involved again, to be making something beautiful and expressing, creating, dreaming. You’re damned if you and damned if you don’t eh? The thing with artists is that the craft and the dream are so personal that when you’re out there trying “to make it” it can be heart-breaking if you view the process as “trying to make it.” The healthier trick perhaps is to think of it is “I’m making it.” That means you’re living in the present. To just do something – go to a dance class, write a blog post, sing a song, paint, draw, write a haiku – just do anything that transforms your wanting into doing.

Balancing contentment with the present and planning for the future has been a daunting task since I finished grad school. You go to grad school with big dreams and big “wants” out of life! You hit the grounds running and it can quickly get out of hand in this economic situation. Every time I try to wrap my head around my present circumstance it quickly becomes an endless list of everything I don’t have – no retirement, no savings, no benefits, no vacation time, no job in my field, no property, no marriage, no kids, no car, etc. etc. How can you be content with the cards stacked like that? The sentiment that goes hand in hand with these thoughts is “I need savings, I need retirement, I need a house, I need to be married, etc.” What’s more, when you focus on what you think you need, you have no energy to count your blessings and feel gratitude for what you have. More aggressively speaking, you completely bury what you do have with everything you hope to have in the future.

At present, I’m feeling another wave of getting back on track creatively. This time around, I’m going to focus on the day to day projects and creative expressions. What can I make each day without feeling overwhelmed by looking at the road ahead. Yes, I have larger career goals, but starting small and focusing on the day to day is the building blocks of an artistic career. Instead of “I want this, I need that,” let’s try “Today I’m DOING this and MAKING that and that is just enough for me today.” Looking back at the months we spent developing our cabaret and first play, I realize that even then I needed a retirement plan, a savings, and a 401K but I felt entirely full. I felt like I had everything and relished in every moment – I wished not a minute away. This is because when we’re in it, we’re in it. And when we’re not then we’re wanting it in the distance and left feeling hungry. Funny how it works, I feel a little more fulfilled already after writing this post. I conversation I had with a friend tonight and this poem I saw subsequently on Facebook lead me to this point.

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So You Have a Solid Show – Now What?

Last Friday, we premiered The S.M. Cabaret: Slaves of Sallie Mae at The Duplex to a sold-out house. Our second performance coming up this Friday is already on a wait-list and we expect it to be sold-out as well (please don’t let the wait-list deter you, there is a high chance of you getting in if you sign up.) I can’t fully express how excited I am of the work we have done, the process we took to get here, and the collective collision of ideas from 4 other incredible women. From the feedback we’ve gotten, we succeeded in the fine balance of politics and pleasure, which was always the goal. With all of this excitement of a well-received show also comes the pressure and desire to keep it going. The Grace Period Blog will no doubt continue to create new works as a collective, but what is to become of The S.M. Cabaret? Now, it’s time to put our business hats on!

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So we’ve been brainstorming. The initial goal is to get us out of our 10 part-times jobs combined and into a full-time position with The Grace Period Blog. This is the dream that every theater-maker wants I presume, but how in the world does it happen? Right about now, I’m wishing I double-majored in Business I’ll tell ya!

1. Find investors who will buy into your product. Broadway producers, philanthropists, corporations with community programs, elected officials, literary agents and managers, and mega Off-Broadway theaters. Anyone out there know anyone that is interested in our cause? We are planning to have a special industry night and cocktail reception this summer showcasing our work.

2. Plan a College Tour. I am hearing more and more often that performance artists are making at least (!) a modest living by presenting their work at universities. With well over 40 college campuses in NYC alone, I am smelling a serious market and a great opportunity to present our work in the gold mine itself, the university. This option seems to be for the entrepreneur spirit and offers longevity if you craft the perfect formula in your proposal.

3. Apply to arts residencies that will supply you with the money, space, and the administrative and technical support to develop your work. The main pros of this option are that: it introduces your work to a broader audience of the theater’s own patrons and supporters, and we can solely focus on the work itself instead of the producing aspects.

4. Continue to produce the show ourselves in various venues, open mic nights, piano bars, and cabaret theaters. Or find ourselves in the weekly line-up at a popular venue. Apply to well-known festivals that will get our name and product out there as well. We definitely plan on using this option partly because quite frankly we love performing this show and performing is like exercising your muscles: if you don’t use it, you lose it! However, the downside to this is that we would again be relying on our friends (many in the same financial situation as ourselves) to fund us and we don’t want to do that when there are more profitable fish in the sea who are equally as passionate for our cause.

It’s my natural character to think GO BIG! However, I realize that all great things are a process and financial success doesn’t happen over night. This first small success at The Duplex just gave us a taste of what’s to come and I am finding myself scratching at the door in eagerness. It’s not a terrible position to be in by any means; I am so thankful for the response we have had so far and the generosity of our audience, friends, and press in making this show so special to us.

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I am confident that there is a future in The Cabaret and we are dedicated to making it happen! It will be a learning curve, but I am prepared to do what it takes to get over the hump.

Thanks for Believing in Us ❤

Sydney

The Grace Period Blog

“Are you an actress?”: A server’s least favorite question

Do you remember who you were before the world told you who you should be?

Broadway actress, movie starlet, the next Liza Minnelli, Mary Martin, Bette Midler, and then came – Idina Menzel.

Dancer, choreographer, musical theatre, open-heart, open-mind

Artist.

Broken glasses – it’s my fault

Racing, racing heart. Pressure, pressure, turning tables

Sweating

Dreaming of moving to New York, dreaming of the chance to show them what I’ve got.

I would round up all my friends and I’d have them performing my choreography to Grease “Summer Lovin” before nightfall.

Putting on shows in my living room, which was now my personal dance studio.

Singing “Tomorrow” every night on my bed like I was that fierce and adorable redhead center stage with 500 sets of eyes all on me.

Standing, waiting, standing erect – no leaning, slumping, shifting

Cut-throat, prove yourself, never good enough

Faster, smoother, faster, smoother – with elegance

Like an ice-skater

I knew it would happen, no doubts

Uncertainty did not yet exist

Spilling water, judgmental eyes

Eyes if you’re lucky!

Tears, tears, tears

Tears of hope, of inner peace, of true happiness and reassurance

Knowing I was lucky because I knew for sure what I wanted to do

Talking to hands and tops of heads, how it feels to be invisible

“Not good enough for the dinner shift” –

oh please dear God let me be good enough

Wishing for this like it was my first Broadway callback

Everything I do, I do it for you my dream

That’s what I told myself with each obstacle I faced or struggle I carried

A Bachelor’s will help, a Master’s will be icing on the cake!

Mountains of bills I can’t afford

a landslide of bills can smother your intentions

I have to get out, I have to, what can I do,

where can I go, how will I make it so I can live the dream?

I deserve respect, respect for what I want to do,

respect from the government, respect from America

I am not a sub-citizen. Can’t you see?

I am a human being with dreams, with goals,

with wild hopes and an imagination to support it

Spilling water, judgmental eyes

It’s what I still tell myself.

“Are you an actress?” the men in suits ask me as I pour their coffee

Shame, degradation, what have I become?

How have I strayed so far from my pure self.

I thought I was one of the lucky ones for always having known exactly what I wanted.

“Fuck you” – though it never leaves my lips.

“I Have A Dream” – a collaboration between MLK and an Artist

This is a meditative reflection on the courageous and empowering “I Have a Dream” speech by Dr. Martin Luther King. Although the speech was made specifically towards racial injustice, I have always viewed it’s intent as incredibly relevant to any social and political injustice of the time. How now, is America torn by economic injustice with an over-whelming majority of its citizens buried with student debt. His words still give me hope and resonate with a pulse in my mind when I am feeling that change is impossible. (the italics are Dr. King’s words, the remainder is original)

The Student in debt is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. This was a land that she had such aspirations for—a land that she had dreams of cultivating and enriching with creativity and liveliness. Instead this land is barren and inaccessible. She was proud to have a responsibility to this land, but now she finds herself unable to fulfill her truest role. Her feet and wings are stuck in a cement block of debt.

In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, would be guaranteed the “unalienable Rights” of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” But what did they have in mind when they promised “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness?” Was it a happiness of corporate America: cubicles, e-mails, paychecks, 401Ks, and benefit packages? Or was it the happiness of pursuing your own dreams and honing the creative skills that would be your best gift to the world around you? Did they mean for Liberty to be the opportunity to attend college and grow an education without the assistance of job placement or the time to build a career of your choosing and passions? Education is a True Liberty I do agree, but the cost of knowledge in no way promotes a pursuit of happiness or a just Life as promised. Today’s life is one of fear and uncertainty. The cost of education is impossible.

It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her college graduates are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.”  I ask now: where is America hoarding the funds we were promised? The top 1% live plentifully while others scrap by. More young adults and adults with college degrees are living in poverty than ever before. When will the greed in this country smoulder to the ashes it deserves to be? The middle-class and now lower middle class along with the growing class in poverty demand to rise up to a true middle class again where the majority of the wealth is disbursed amongst the majority of her people. This should not be up for debate in a true democracy.

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. Don’t we all deserve security of health and home?

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children. Now is the time for us to bring our struggles to the public forum. Now is the time to speak on the Congress floor and for every American to be represented within those walls.

We cannot walk alone.

Trust me you are not alone and soon our shared experience of stifling student debt will boil over and someone will have to confess to these crimes–the crime of privatizing student loans and allowing unregulated businesses to bring interest rates to an unmanageable high.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.

Live your dream and let the rest roll off your back. Be the creative you were meant to be with no apologies.

We cannot turn back.

Resist the temptation to allow your student debt to make significant decisions in your life. We received an education for accessibility and opportunities not for limitations and stop signs. We cannot forget that.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

Create a new reality and a new tomorrow because that’s what artists do.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

Celebrate Black History Month with this Generous Leader who paved the way for so many. RIP:

Why a life in the theatre?

VOICE:          Why a life in the theatre?

SYDNEY:      To empower, to question, to re-imagine myself and the society I’m a part of. What greater life could I live than one that is filled with “doing” and “enacting”

…Theatre has always been my first love because somewhere along the way it has become one of the only communicative forms that I am truly comfortable expressing my personal views and opinions. Perhaps this is because there is a greater risk in the theatrical realm than a one-on-one conversation; perhaps, greater rewards as well. I understand the essential aspect of theatre as not only an expression of an individual’s or people’s values and meanings but it is more extensively an opportunity to re-imagine how our society could be. What is our most fantastical utopia and how can we put this vision on its feet and into our bodies? Or in other words, how do we stage a production? I am a firm believer that thoughts become actions.  With this in mind, I jointly recognize the power of the images that the arts and media fields transmit to society; at times, in ways that we could not expect until after the fact. We have the power to open minds, shift behaviors and ultimately rush a ripple of energy through our society.

This thought leads me to my own personal political agenda within the theatre, if I had to pinpoint only one. In my acceptance of a life in the theatre, I dually propose and promote roles, plots, themes, and hierarchies that empower women to become and see themselves as leaders and active, powerful citizens in their lives and the world around them. It’s an understatement when I say that women in American culture are flooded with disempowering images and pre-determined values that define womanhood. Just a few months ago, I tried to think of well-renowned women leaders because I was in search for a role model and an empowering book to read. Quite sadly, I could hardly think of 10 powerful and well-known women leaders. However, I have no doubt that this short list was not a result of the absence of brilliantly strong and bold women, but it was more a symptom of the reality that their stories are not the ones being told – or even worse, skewed perspectives of women are being told. This truth directly influences my involvement and dedication to the theatre.  It is the will to envision and embody (by means of theatre-making and community interaction) a socially, morally, and economically equitable utopia for women that keeps me absolutely hooked to theatre.

Once a performative act is committed it cannot be undone. I’ve come to know theatre as not only being a magical experience but a corporeal, very real process of effecting and being affected. I’ve come to understand the “magic of theatre” as more than simply the “liveness” of it. Rather, it is the transmission of ideas from real experiencing bodies on stage to the real subjective audience members. A change, or reaction, occurs in this transaction of thought and image. If we accept this understanding of theatre, imagine the real-life everyday magic that could unfold throughout our society if we shared stories where women are the leading voice of their own experience, not used a mere accessories or ingénues. Imagine who young women in our country could become if they received this gift of image theatre. This performative power is what keeps my heart in the theatre. It’s time to act, to perform, to create, and to empower.