Friday, June 21, 2013

When You Think About "Success..."

Not big on God, but I like the sentiment
What does that mean?

Now, of course, because I'm me, I'm talking about people of a creative bent. I won't say "artists," because I've discussed (probably ad-nauseum) that I reject people calling themselves "artists." I'm not an artist, I'm a creator, I'm a communicator, a craftsman. The audience can decide if I'm an artist.

For a lot of people it means money, pure and simple. That they will do anything, any project, as long as a decent check is involved. The ultimate goal is to "make a living," to not have to do anything else. I get that. I really do, but I often think...what are you giving up?

If you get that major national ad gig, become the spokesman for a product, you have a really lucrative opportunity. Lots of money, lots of exposure, comfort, and some security (to a point), for as long at the campaign runs, anyway.

Yet, I keep thinking...what does that do to your career? How can you move on from that, if you've done so many ads, your face on TV every 10 minutes hocking cell phones, or whatever, who's going to want to cast you for anything else? You're the "can you hear me now?" guy forever.

I feel the same when I hear tales of people chasing gigs around the country, stuff they're not in love with, but do because they need to keep the money coming in. Again, nothing wrong with that, seems to be a case of diminishing returns.

I didn't get into acting, or music, or writing, or whatever other expressive enterprise I try my hand at, to not love it. Granted, I think I would likely enjoy traveling the country performing over office work, and I did that for a (short) while. It was great. It was fun, and there was a ton of freedom to do things like surf and drink.

However, I always had my sights on Chicago, not because I could make a living acting here, but because I would watch early Steppenwolf, or Body Politic, or Red Orchid, productions and THAT was what I wanted to do, to be a part of. Work that made me uncomfortable, that challenged me, that pushed me. Even if it didn't pay me a "living wadge."

The fact is, I'm happy to work a day job when I find myself with those kinds of opportunities available to me.

Here's the truth. I am a story guy, period. I like stories about people who have problems, and try to deal with them. Who may succeed or may fail. I, personally, don't give a shit about politics, the burning issue you just NEED to get on paper, or Brechtian concepts. You can use all that stuff to tell a story, but when it overwhelms the idea of two people, standing on a stage, in conflict, I check out.

The fact is, all the fancy parlor tricks and speechifying quite often does just that. It becomes a barrier between the audience and the performer. Yes, I like realism. I like theatre that says, "these people are just like you, you can recognize them as real, not as some sort of over-baked symbol of an idea." Again, as I've trumpeted ad-nauseum, you can tell any story you want, make any point, but you have to do with people the audience relates to. What happens to these people is what illuminates your point, and often, explaining it any further is killing the catharsis.

See, because on the other side of doing everything for money, is willfully trying to make your work inscrutable.

I guess this is all prelude to the fact that I do not feel "successful." I work a lot, and sometimes it's great, and sometimes it isn't. I take jobs for all kinds of reasons, people I want to work with, companies I want to work with, even because I feel I owe somebody something (*sigh* Hero. Complex.). I strive to give my best in all cases, and I hope my colleagues recognize that.

But I live for the "magic" projects. Those are the ones that make me feel like a success, even if people hate them, even if we get the worst reviews, ever. Where the story means something to me, the character means something to me, gives me something new and interesting to play, and the people around me are supportive and working as a team. The hell of it is, it's often right after one of these "magic" projects, that I feel furthest from "success." When I realize exactly how rare they are.

That's becoming hard for me to deal with.

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