One of my favorite scenes in the Bob Fosse movie ‘All That Jazz’ is when the actor Roy Scheider, playing the Fosse stand-in who is killing himself with the dual use of alcohol and speed to keep up his directing schedule and life, walks into various bathrooms before various rehearsals or difficult confrontations, splashes his face with water, takes more drugs, slaps himself in the face and smiles at himself in the mirror with a kind of a grimace and says “It’s Show Time!”
I first saw that movie, as I recall, when I was still drinking and directing and directing and drinking, and even though I was only directing at university level, I felt I understood perfectly the sentiment.
I am on a train to do a show at Southend-on-sea feeling a degree of that now. I have done this before, shown up for performances in every known state of distress. However, the difference today is: I am – insanely – performing. And I am performing something where there is a degree of improvisation and openness, partially due to choice and partially due to circumstance. Life has barreled into my preparations for this show and I am feeling quite rattled.
Things between my husband and I are in an ambiguous place and while I talk a good game about living in the moment, etc., actually I fucking hate it and I really want to know what’s going on. I am not getting a five point plan and even as I know that’s not possible right now or even desirable really, I am craving it, mostly because there is fuck all that is solid in my life right now.
I am typing this post now before the show, as I think it will be interesting to see what I write afterwards. Right now, I am mostly full of dread. I felt OK about it, had an idea during yoga, but then showed some of it to my husband, who was there to help me with the show and so we could talk, and he made some suggestions, which were good but also rattled me somewhat, along with the intrinsically unstable nature of our relationship right now.
So, why did I accept his offer to come over and look at the show in process? Fuck if I know, except perhaps the fact that we have generally had a good connection vis-à-vis our working processes and it was something he offered to do. I felt when accepting that perhaps it was stupid, but went ahead and did it anyway. As you can see, any ambiguity I am feeling consequently is firmly in my court in terms of responsibility therefor.
But I could not sleep last night, so rattled was I, and now I am on my way unsure of a lot. However, I do have the visuals sorted and a text and an idea for others to make a group cut-up from these materials. It’s only supposed to be a 20 minute show and it’s 36 minutes. But still I feel underprepared, because – as with everything else – I don’t know precisely how it will go, how honest to be about certain things in my life right now or how guarded.
I am getting there four hours in advance in order to set up, try to run with certain ideas, get a bit to eat and be prepared for 8pm. I found myself laughing ruefully at a ‘tweet’ of comedienne Sarah Silverman’s today in which she wrote that when she is lonely she talks to herself, except she refers to herself as ‘you guys.’ That is why I love Sarah Silverman.
What am I doing on Twitter you ask? Good question again. Long story, involving the need to get news feeds, and I am on it pseudonymously. Thankfully I have a dumb phone so don’t look at it all the time, but the hypocrisy of being on Twitter and not Facebook has not gone unnoticed by me (my grammar check hates this triple negative…), don’t worry. I am not entirely sure it’s possible to live a human life without some level of hypocrisy, but this one is particularly glaring.
OK, I think I will stop writing now and let myself breathe into this show…as much as possible.
On the train back to London. It went as well as it could have done, meaning that in spite of my rattled self, a venue that was next to a rockabilly band doing a sound check, without a door that could shut in between and beginning the day in that room filled with day old beer and sausage husks, it went OK.
The reception to the performance was good, and there was a lot of enjoyment in doing the group cut-up, though if I were to do it again, I would organize it differently. Because of the need to use a microphone, due to sound competition, it was awkward getting the mic to people and also promoted an atmosphere wherein people felt they needed to speak, so it went from paying attention to video and photos while I was doing my cut up text to a group exercise that ignored the visuals. However, people did enjoy it, which is important and Michaela’s daughter Lili stole the show, which was charming.
Also, I did have the guts in the end to intervene with some personal stuff about what I’m going through now and the conversation with Hazel about our fathers’ deaths. I received good feedback from that decision that apparently this material grounded the cut ups and gave an emotional resonance to the whole thing, which was good to hear.
Again, if I was to do it again, I would pace it differently, but the energy in the room was positive and so, all rockabilly bands aside, I can’t complain. Also, Michaela’s husband said he saw Southend, where I think he has lived a while, from a different angle because of looking at it through my eyes, and that is always gratifying. So, perhaps, my goal was achieved in that sense. I also got to experience putting autobiography with cut ups, which is a weird-ass combination, and have that go over well.
Performing was not horrendous, which is an improvement. Usually I hate performing, because I can’t see the show, which as a director is the POV I’m most accustomed to having. But because I had time to show some of what I was doing to some artists who were helping out, I could work with their feedback to influence what I was doing.
Now, for the first time in a bit, I have no big thing hanging over my head. I have stuff I need to do like taxes and details about housing etc. but no big performance to do or a reason to hold it together. I am a little concerned this means I will fall apart completely, but I can only hope that this is not the case.
Back to the land of ambiguity and no easy answers, no rule books and no one to tell you how you are driving.
Weirdly enough next to me are two guys and a woman talking about psychedelia, Ken Kesey and Jimi Hendrix. Given the fact they are most likely in their 20s, this is pretty funny. I obviously don’t look very narc like as there is no attempt to edit the conversation even with my proximity. Nice to know I don’t look too ancient and respectable. Probably the dragon-designed yoga mat cover makes me seem ‘cool.’
OK, gonna stop writing just because I’m now resorting to eves-dropping for material, which means it’s time to give it a rest…
Oh, no wait a minute – meant to say – that the performance had this quality that was completely different than the scene from ‘All That Jazz’ – it did not feel somehow fake or put on for show. I felt instead somewhat naked and exposed, but in a good way. There was a connection with people because of it. I don’t know why on earth it has taken me until age 48 to have this shock revelation – share your real life and people can connect, because people also have real lives, real losses and real grief, and that is where people connect emotionally AND that doesn’t preclude cutting up text and hearing/seeing in different ways as well. Shock. The incredible obviousness of this is breathtaking.
OK, now the people who were talking drugs and rock and roll are talking about their high end careers as engineers and stuff. But they are dressed like Deadheads – those were people, in case you are too young to know, who followed around The Grateful Dead from concert to concert like a roving band of gypsies. As the 60s morphed into the 80s, many of these Deadheads did end up getting jobs, like these folks, and dressed this way to concerts, but then were in suits all week. But nowadays in 2011, you can dress this way to work as long as you are in a high-end technical enough job….the trenderatti.
There is now a definite smell of pot in the train and I imagine that smoking has occurred. I feel like such a grumpy middle aged lady but I do get kind of sick of all the alcohol and pot smells everywhere….but then I can just leave the urban areas, yes? Yes. Do I? No. So, put up with it I must.
Grumpy now signs off….