Monday, December 31, 2012

2012: It's Not The Work. It's The Stairs.

I'm ending 2012 more upbeat than when I started.  Looking back, I've worked pretty hard this year.  Was anything gained?  Not sure. 
IIIIIIIIIIIIIIII'll drink to that.

But I am reminded of the old quip with which the great Elaine Stritch opened her one-woman show At Liberty.  "It's like the prostitute said," Stritch deadpanned in her signature rasp, "It's not the work.  It's the stairs."

It's the appropriate description of my life in 2012.
Both metaphorically and physically, I spent 2012 climbing stairs. This is a picture of the first of THREE flights of stairs which I climbed to do A Midsummer Night's Dream. The year proved to me that such climbing is necessary to progress artistically and professionally.
The year was defined by my learning to straddle life in two cities at once.  I have not perfected bi-urban living (a term I believe I coined, I hope it catches on), but I'm getting better at it.  The first months of the year, I was always eager to return to DC if I spent any more than a few days in NY. 
At least I never had to queue up outside, like these actors.  But
the AEA required EPA process, correctly nicknamed the Cattle
Call, is not for the feint of heart.

That feeling of unease in Manhattan was exacerbated by the fact that I spent the early months of 2012 attending Equity cattle calls, which always provide proof that my chosen career is not for sissies.  By my count, I attended more than 60 of these ego-busters in 2012.  No wonder I was usually glad to return to the security of the DC Branch.

As time went on, though, I became more comfortable in the Big Apple and by year's end, a curious change had occurred.  I now find that, if I spend more than four or five days in one city, I start to think about the other one.  I take this as a good sign.
I played Gremio in this production, which wins the award for the Largest Number of Different Rehearsal Spaces (six, by my count).  The final performance space was one of hundreds of Black Boxes in the city, with lousy/non-existent backstage area and primitive air conditioning.  The audience actually entered through the loading dock of this building, and as the location was in Queens, our audiences were not robust in numbers.  But I was treated very very well by Titan Theatre's brass, with whom I shared many mutual colleagues.  I will be working with them again, stay tuned.
Whether it's healthy or not, I almost always judge a year by the amount of work I achieved, and by that standard, I had a good first year in NY.  I snagged three very different Shakespearean productions, and while each had its stairs to climb, as it were, I came away from all three considering them successful, at least artistically. 
The "stairs" I had to climb with Richard III all had to do with our rehearsal process, which took place outside.  In July. I am never comfortable in extreme heat, so I never rehearsed without being wet and sticky.  But an interesting reversal happened once we opened.  Our evening performances in August were a joy to do, with audiences and actors alike sharing nature's elements.  R3 holds the distinction of being this year's show which I hated the most to rehearse, and the one which I loved the most to perform. 
The fact that I made no money from these three projects means that I must consider them only marginally successful, professionally. After all, this is my vocation, not my hobby.  But in each of the three projects, I climbed those metaphorical stairs and did the work.
A Midsummer Night's Dream ended my performance year.  I only wish I had felt better during its brief run.  I had a nasty cold and cough throughout our performances, which sapped a lot of the fun for me.  And the stairs here were not metaphorical, as the theatre, another Black Box with limited back stage, was a fourth-floor walk-up. 
The new year will begin in the plus column, as I will start a project tomorrow in DC which actually furnishes a little bit of money.  It will keep me in the DC Branch of my life, give or take a night or two here or there, until early March.  My current plan has me returning to NY in the spring, to play with some of my new NYC friends in another Shakespeare.  I'm betting that that show, and any others I snag in this new year, will require me to climb more stairs. 

I've never been involved in anything worthwhile which didn't require it. If you can coast through a project by staying on the ground floor, it's probably not worth the effort.   Gotta keep climbing those stairs.