The initial run of Survival Tips for the Plague Years is done, and I feel I’ve achieved some breakthrough as a performer—a degree of freedom and flow that’s been growing slowly, but hasn’t had such a full challenge as in this solo work. Successful? Yes, in the sense of very powerful responses from those who milled in the lobby. No box-office breakthrough: we made a bit of money, but my anticipated build in attendance over the four weeks didn’t materialize, hovering in the 30’s and 40’s. I think of an old Chicago artist I knew, exquisite painter of still-lifes, who was simply not recognized as relevant to the current art scene—out of his time. Maybe that’s what it is?
Last night we were at a ritual gathering for Samhain, the Celtic new year, very simple sitting, meditating, feasting, remembering the dead and envisioning the future. No, no mad dancing around a steaming cauldron or blood sacrifices—though I cut my finger opening a bottle of wine.
The focus of the circle’s talk moved to the subject of Prosperity for the coming year. Not on the level of deep spiritual soul-enrichment, but on a more mundane level. Diane had brought a cloak imprinted with a gigantic $1 million bill, and in turn wrapped it around each person, who stated some goal for the coming year that was in some way a strong challenge: to finish writing my book, to get my certification, to get rid of the piles of crap in the bedroom and the kitchen, to get my email working again, to get my songs on CD. For each stated intention, members of the group made promises: If you do that, I’ll cook you a meal … give you a massage … throw the party … read your book… Simple stuff, but there’s an elegance to it.
I had a hard time with it, though. The important projects in my life are all going to get completed: they have deadlines, I’ve made commitments to others, they have to be. Yes, there are a few optional manias lurking—continuing study of the Tarot, getting back to figure sculpture—but those aren’t really at my heart. But the three plays and the radio series: those are at the forefront, and they won’t be denied. They’ll happen.
The uncertainties, though, are huge, besides the obvious one of how the hell we can actually manage to pull off all that work. Will the work be any good? Will it make us any money? Will it have legs to allow longevity beyond its immediate audience? Is any of it, in a world clogged with the massive cholesterol of pop entertainment, actually worth doing? Magic can only operate to the degree the intention is crystal clear, so what the hell is it I’m asking for?
I couldn’t bring myself to ask for material success on these projects in any concrete form. That reluctance is a signal to me that I’m more wounded by old bruises at the box office, lack of recognition, all that, than I thought, and that I need to address that within me. But I’m also feeling that I need to let a lot of that go. The strength of the very young artist is that he/she still has the impression of invincibility, the foolhardiness that convinces the fighter pilot he’ll never be the one to get it.