Monday, March 16, 2009

T. Alva Edison is Yelling at You!

Thomas Alva Edison once said, "Genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration." Now, I'm the first to admit that I'm no mathematician. However, I did score higher on the math section of my SAT's than I did on the reading/writing section, so I think I know a thing or two about percentages. In addition, I have a calculator on BOTH my computer and my cellular telephone. When I, an obviously astute observer of the numerical form, take a look at T 'n' A Edison's quote, I see a truth so true, it out-trues other truths. Follow me to the next paragraph and I'll explain in further, full color detail.

I reside in Los Angeles and, like every other amazingly awesome sucker, I am pursuing a career in the film industry. I have been here for so many days that I can't even count it on all my digits put together (including toes and naughty parts). I share the same struggles and frustrations with everyone else and most assuredly understand why people drop out of this particular rat race and look back with bitterness. It's tough. It's tough like Steve McQueen's face on Sylvester Stallone's body. 

One thing that I do notice in all of our struggling artist hearts is that complacency can sometimes run rampant. "You have to know someone to even get a meeting with an agent." "All they make is crap anyway." "My face deserves money for how awesome it is." etc., etc...
We blame outside forces for our lack of production and opportunity. While there is certainly some truth hiding somewhere in that spicy frustration burrito, it's not necessarily honest. I once saw Chazz Palmenteri speak when he was more famous (so it was more true then than if he said it now) and he said (heavy paraphrase coming), "Just do something. Write something and perform it on the street if you have to. People can't know how good you are if they can't see you." He's right. It's difficult as hell to get something off the ground and get it going. Writing, finding performance space, getting costumes, filming, makeup, kraft services, lighting, singing, luring an audience and so on and so forth. We see the daunting task ahead and assure ourselves it's a ridiculous venture in the first place and we stop before we've even begun. However, if you don't love your art enough to sweat for it, do you really love it? If hard work is the thing keeping you from your goals, are you sure you want to choose something with such low odds of success? The arts are hard- and they should be! If it weren't difficult, there would be no struggle and if there were no struggle, there would be no art. "Following a pipe dream will lead you through the sewer." That's a quote I just made up, but it fit my point, so screw you. I'm keeping it.

Now, I don't mean to sound like a downer. In fact, I mean to sound like the exact opposite. An upper. Ritalin, let's say. I do believe that there is an element of magic in simply doing. There are so many reasons not to do something, but it's in the doing that you find yourself. Wait, that was confusing. Here's a real quote from a real person with real intellect:

"whatever you can dream 

or think you can do,

begin it.

boldness has genius,

power and magic in it."


I really believe that the universe bends to positive action. There are so many wonderful coincidences that occur around progress. I could meet a producer in a spaghetti shop and tell her that I'd make a great movie if only I were given the chance. I could also meet a producer at a taffy booth and tell her I've already made a wonderful short or written a wonderful script and would she look at it if I bought her some taffy. Which one of those me's has the better shot? The moral of this story is that spaghetti shops are a preposterous place to do business. There's sauce everywhere, ready to stain any contracts that might be drawn up. It just doesn't make sense.

Okay, I've prattled on and I haven't even begun to get to the point of this whole damned blog (that's an internet word. it means "well structured and edited article stemming from the professional minds of the interweb."). What I want to talk about is the show I went to see for the second time this past weekend. The official title may or may not be:

"The Loft Variety Hour
Naughty Nancy"

It is essentially a two-part show running in downtown Los Angeles. It is live theater that includes, but is not limited to: comedy, music, nudity, puppets, love, dancing, glow sticks and Telemundo. I would love to talk a bit about the group that put this show together, but I have wasted time with my extremely important introduction. I will provide you with a link (another internet invention that means, "portal to time.") that will lead you to their site at which they provide actual information:
Shame on all of us for not attending more theater and shame on all of us even more for not attending more original theater and yes, shame on us even the most for not attending original theater that is actually fluid. The first half of the show I'm currently yelling at you about is a wonderfully mad-cap comedy adventure. A group of actors dance, sing and play on stage, exuding such energy that it actually made me sweat through my shirt and into my seat (so if you go to the show, you can soak some of my old back sweat back into your pores). Part of what is so fun about the show is its fluidity. As with any live performance (music, theater, stripping), there are numerous adjustments that occur based on audience reactions, actor energy, pole slickness. With this particular variety show, there is something more. I saw this back in October when our president was a lame whitey and then again this past Sunday when our president was black. There were some new actors, new skits, new songs and new puppets. It was an exciting treat- not unlike some hispanic snacks that my white-boy palette finds frightening and sexual- and I dare you to experience it for yourself. While I fully support theater in the classic sense of performing a play, I can't tell you how cool it is to see something that has changed and will continue to change over time. It's a living thing. Pieces get cut, pieces get added. Where a performance of "True West" is always going to include lots and lots of toast, this variety show may have an Ohio Jones sketch one month and then a murderous pizza sketch another. 

-- Wow. Hold on. This blog is far, far too long by my standards and I still have a few brilliantly idiotic and disjointed things to say. What I'm going to do is talk briefly about the second half of the show and try to wrap this up. Are you ready? I don't care, I'm going either way. Plus, I have no way of knowing if you said, "Yes, I'm ready now, Andy," or, "Hold on just a second as I do this thing that I have to do before I continue reading."

The second half of the show is far different than the first. It is a one act featuring Christina Howard as the titular character, Naughty Nancy. Nancy is a prostitute living and working in the red light district in Amsterdam and we follow along as she discusses and lives a life that has worn her down. She's a fascinating character who reminded me far too much of an ex-girlfriend for me to discuss for too terribly long. Ms. Howard puts in an amazingly strong performance as a woman who won't allow herself too much pity, nor will she allow herself to walk away from this life. I'm likely butchering this as I try to explain the nuances of a piece that should be seen and not read about on a douche's blog. What I will say is that going from the wackiness of the first half to the progressively sobering and sad story of Nancy is a strong experience in itself. It is a rare opportunity to watch an ensemble give you two different flavors in the same evening and with such dedication that you can't help but feel just about every emotion in the rainbow. Naughty Nancy is the Yang to the Variety Hour's Yin. 

It is an impressive duality that this group lays before you. I feel as if it is perhaps your duty as an artist struggling and/or succeeding in Los Angeles to see other artists throwing their genius at a wall and seeing what sticks. They put in the all-important perspiration after the inspiration came and they invite you to witness their creation. To see other artists put in the work might perhaps inspire you to put in the work for your creation living somewhere in your brain. Go see it, then be inspired and create your own genius and then show that to the world and give me a 5% cut for giving you the inspiration to be inspired in the first place.

"I never did anything worth doing by accident, nor did any of my inventions come by accident. They came by work." - TnA Edison


Andrew said...

Is this the first chapter of your new motivational self-help book?

I miss you pal, what've you been up to lately?

Lauren Modery said...

Yoah, you wrote in your blog!

Times in Important Places