Monday, May 13, 2013

"What do you do all day?"

Talent works, genius creates. -- Robert Schumann 

Once upon a time, a friend set me up on something of a blind date with a guy that she thought would be perfect for me -- whatever that means. We met up one random evening and after some initial awkwardness, we began to relax and talk easily. When I told him that I was an artist and explained what kind of performance I was into at the moment, he asked me what I did all day.  I didn't mind the question -- when I'm around certain kinds of people, I get it a lot. I usually enjoy giving a pithy response because what I have to say is so unexpected. No one seems to have any earthly idea as to what this creative life is really like.

It was the way this guy asked me that question that made my spidey sense tingle. Asking me what I do all day is fine by me. Talking down to me is unacceptable.

The funny thing is that it came out as a bit of a snarl, probably because of some leftover resentment for that LA actress ex-girlfriend I wasn't supposed to know anything about. Lord knows I have a good idea as to what she was doing all day. So all things considered, maybe that vitriol was meant for her but he had no business aiming it at me, regardless. This was our first date. This was the one moment when we both put our absolute best foot forward, right?  Try though I might, something in me couldn't ignore what lay underneath it all. So I answered his question.

This is what I told him -- more or less.

There are two kinds of artists -- those who replicate and those who originate.  I am an originator.

Replicators are not in the habit of forging ahead with their own ideas, going through the hell and high water of growing them to end goal completion by any means necessary. The are usually ready, willing and able to facilitate someone else's project. Don't get me wrong -- the enormity of work, dedication and talent that it takes to pull that off cannot be overstated. You take class to stay honed and focused, to keep everything on the level, to keep what you've got, to learn more. After a certain point, you get a show and you're working 8 shows a week on Broadway or in Germany or Japan or God knows where. All of a sudden, 8 years goes by and you don't know what happened.  All you know is, you have to get another show.

While I have certainly proven myself capable of replicating ad nauseam, that's just not who I am creatively. I'm not the kind of artist that auditions a lot and then sits at home, praying for the phone to ring so I can have a job.  Yes, I audition -- and trust me, the constant state of readiness that it takes to audition well is a full time job in and of itself -- but that process is the side dish in my creative life, not the main course.  If I want a job, I create it. So what I do every day is a little different than what other artists do.

At this point, I had my date's full and undivided attention. Unfortunately, he had completely lost mine.  He asked me about things I'd written but I was evasive.  Still and all, I kept going at a brisk pace, mostly because I wanted to wrap the whole evening up when dinner was over.

My day typically resembles that three headed dog from Hades. First and foremost? Maintenance and upkeep. I'm transitioning to on camera work and in that world what you look like is everything apparently, so I wear myself out with boxing on a daily basis and slowly I am growing into the habit of eating clean. There's the hard work of being a girl, too -- I have an eyebrowist -- and then when the physical stuff is out of the way, there's a slew of classes to take, just so I can stay good at what I do.  (Like on camera acting class -- so crucial during pilot season.) Voice lessons. Guitar lessons. Piano lessons. Practice, practice, practice. The art of the hustle is always on -- auditions, callbacks, go-sees, gigs.  Basically, I have to be ready all the time.

Secondly and just as important? Growing and developing new ideas. I am forever swimming through rewrites and workshops and readings, oh my! All of that gets scheduled into my everyday life, with auditions and callbacks sandwiched in where ever they will fit.

Last but not least, of course, is the gig itself.  I do a lot of different things so a gig for me could be bouncing around on tour in Europe, co-staring in a musical, playing a swanky private corporate party or tiptoeing to the mailbox barefooted in my kimono to get a residual check for an episodic.

Of course, he wanted to know what I did that day. As I politely refused dessert, I happily obliged. I had no intentions of ever speaking to him again so why not put a bow on this puppy? Here's the rundown:

I had a late night gig, so I slept in. I jumped on and off the phone, zipped through my email, looked over rewrites and messed around with a song idea on my guitar. Then I had a boxing conditioning class that was so brutal, I sat in the steam room afterwards for 30 minutes, trying to twist my torso without wincing. I paid my eyebrowist a visit afterwards -- beauty is pain, according to RuPaul, and he was right -- and then I dragged myself to the Performing Arts Library, where I did some research for a new idea. I had a callback for a voiceover that was pretty quick and then I met up with a good friend for tea and advice. I went home with a fresh perspective on my rewrites and buried myself in them until it was time for dinner.

My date went home with a fresh perspective that night. Maybe I did, too. I resolved to work smarter, not harder. Oh, and no more blind dates -- with non-artists, anyway.

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