Or, “Don’t Call it a Hobby”.
This post is long overdue.
No, it’s not directed at you. It’s a general, long-brewing feeling. It has been exacerbated recently by people being very. very. very. excited about my upcoming wedding. This is awesome. I’m excited, too. When people are more excited about that than they are about a performance, it’s confusing and, well…hurtful. Sit back, have a drink. It’s gonna be a long one.
First of all, the people who attend my shows humble me. Their effort acknowledges the culmination of 30 years of work, and they make me cry with their support. It means… the world. My world. It means everything. This is not about them.
It happens Every. Fucking. Time.
“I’m sorry I didn’t make it to your show. I’ll try to make it to the next one.” What follows are a litany of excuses that are the reason I’m not a manager for money. I don’t care. I don’t care why you didn’t go, and your need to awkwardly defend your choice of time and money is degrading to both of us. It is not a priority for you, and I understand that. And that is fine, for fuck’s sake, it’s beyond fine. We have lives, we have priorities, and we cannot all be best friends. Who has the time? So this isn’t about not going to shows. It’s only partially about the gross excuses with which we all feel the need to placate each other. It is a lot about a few other things.
If you know me, you’ve heard this first part of this before, and it bears repeating – I have been doing this, as of September 2013, for 30 years. 30 years I have been performing. Rehearsing. Dedicating time and effort at a rate of, oh, let’s say 100 hours of rehearsal/practice per 1 hour of performance time, for … well, longer than most people have been doing most things. Longer than most people my age have been masturbating. Think about it. At that age, to go to school, then go to rehearsal while other kids were doing homework, then come home and do my homework while other kids were watching TV. And to practice at home on non-rehearsal days after school. Every day. And weekends of music theory and rehearsal and performances. Since I was *7*. Yes, it’s dedication. Yes, it’s an insane amount of time and, yes, it’s a practice the culmination of which can be observed. For, theoretically, entertainment. You hate opera? Fine. I’m not the biggest fan of kids (except my nephew. he doesn’t count. he’s cuter than all other kids. and smarter.). Hear me out, I’m going somewhere with this.
If we are lucky, we have dear people in our lives. We enjoy them, what they have to say, their insights, conversations with them. We become friends. We support each other’s endeavors – we go to their birthday parties. We go to their weddings. Their baby showers. Their bridal showers. Their Landmark Shit. Hopefully, they celebrate ours. If we are fortunate enough to have artistic and creative friends, we support them. We buy their wares. We purchase their services. We promote them. We attend their events. This is what friends do.
Now. Sometimes. Occasionally. Ok, often, there are people who fall into the category of traditionally accepted milestone celebrations (birthday/wedding/baby/showers/yaddayadda) who do not participate in the latter, creative milestones (making art. opening a store. starting a clothing line. whatever.). We are provided opportunities to support their life choices. This is fine. This is great. Good for them. Where this falls off is when we celebrate them, and their choices, and then… well, and then they don’t support ours.
Here’s where the outcry of time and money comes out. And where I say… bitch, please. We all have 24 hours in a day. Most of us work 8 of them and, in the Bay Area, commute for two more. This leaves 14 hours for most people, minus the 6-8 we sleep, to prioritize. Weekends? Weekends, parents Parent, creators Create, homeowners Homo… wait. You get my point. We have the same amount of time in the world, and how we fill it shows the world, and those closest to us, our priorities. So, if I attend your performance/talk with you on the phone/send you a card/go to your kids’ birthday/go to your birthday/attend your talk/send you a text/[even]post a funnny to your facebook wall because it made me think of you/help you to promote what *you* create, these are my ways of prioritizing you. They take time. Additionally, if I need to purchase a gift or service I’ll try to purchase it from one of my creator and/or business owner friends. Because I want to support them more than I want to support some stranger. Because I want to see us all be successful.
2013. In addition to the shedding of unhealthy habits and relationships, one of the themes is reciprocity. In work, in love, in relationships, in friendships… in everything.
Some unpleasant truths come up when we look for reciprocity. When we are not mercenary, necessarily, but we look at what we give, in time and in energy, and what is returned. And, folks, the numbers, they aren’t adding up.
All you had to do to get to be a year older was not die. And, you know, given the odds of 2012… thanks for that.
For your kid to get to be another year older, all you had to do was not kill your kid. Good on you.
For me to get on the stage with a leading role in an opera takes… well, more work and more years and more dedication and tenacity than most people who haven’t done it can conceive. In addition to those years of work, years, dedication and tenacity, it takes approval from other people over whose judgment we have no control, and constant, inexplicable rejection by them. And, after each rejection, we do the impossible – we get up and ask for more. And they wonder why artists are nutty and hyper-sensitive. Point being – I had a show running for 4 weeks last year. The previous one of this magnitude was in 2005. I have no guarantees of another, and any noises people make about their certainty of my having another major role (closer to their home, for their convenience) show an utter ignorance of this field. “I’ll come to the next one” is hollow and downright infuriating. I perform all the time. One a year, one every 18 months, the Big Ones? Not asking too much from people who call themselves friends.
Additionally, a performance is entertaining. Music is FUCKING AMAZING, and opera, holy shitballs, this shit is difficult and incredible. What it takes emotionally and physically is like a trapeze workout, jogging, and an all-night fight with your lover that ends in incredible sex, all at once – trust me, I know; I’ve done the legwork. And the armwork. And the… yeah.
What we do for FREE when there are more people onstage than in the audience is the last trembling leaf of fall – bittersweet and brilliant.
Is it worth the cost of two drinks? 1 fancy drink + tip in San Francisco? 3 packs of cigarettes (I’ve no idea; I haven’t bought cigarettes for a boyfriend since I can remember.)?
The outliers are people like my friend Suzanne, who has a toddler, an infant, is pursuing her own operatic, teaching and directing career, and makes it to a significant number of my performances. Oh, did I mention she drives up from Gilroy? In return, I come to as many of hers as possible. We make it a priority.
For someone to live in the same area and not have *specific plans* or illness the evening of a major performance, then call themselves my friend and miss said performance in the same breath…well. You and I have different definitions of friendship…friend.
I would much, much rather a person celebrate with me my specific, directed, hard-won life choices than celebrate a milestone that simply means I’m above ground. If it’s not a priority, that’s fine, but please, don’t invite me to your birthday party. Thanks for not dying. I’ll try to make it to the next one.