It’s been a long week, but a good one. I’m getting closer to being healthy again, which is nice, and we just finished tech week for The Usual: A Musical Love Story, which is a lot of fun! (And despite the fact that I keep calling it a sweet, quirky little musical , it’s pretty BIG in a lot of ways, which meant that tech week was a busy, challenging, fun and rewarding process!)
It’s interesting though, I was asked a couple different versions of the question “You’re really doing a musical comedy about a romance between nerds?”… And my answer, of course, was YES! I think folks are thinking pocket-protector-wearing tape-on-glasses and pants-hiked-up-to-waist nerds, in a very typical “Revenge of the Nerds” fashion – and I can see where they’d get that, but it’s the 21st century! Nerds are in! Geek is chic! The old definition has gone out the window, and those nerds of the past have grown into adults with real world lives and problems! I mean, it’s a musical with songs about computers from the 80’s, sex toys, being a geek and Switzerland! What’s not to love about that?! But sometimes folks want to hear WHY? It sounds SILLY – Isn’t it theatre? Art? Where’s The Message?! (Capital M, trademark, glowy halo around the word, and a gentle rolling timpani playing as you say it – “The Message!?”)
So, I often find myself struggling to give a good explanation about the “Why” when it comes to “Why did you pick this play over that?” or “Why on Earth would you do THAT one?”. Often, the answer that I really want to give is simply “It spoke to me”.
I avoid that answer more often than I should, I think, and I think it’s because it’s a more “touchy feely” answer, and less quantifiable to many people, but the truth is that it’s often the biggest, simplest reason. I don’t often refer to myself as an “artist”, but I am one. The people I work with are artists, what we make is art, and there’s an art to doing it well. And, I think, one of the constant truths of art is that when it works it DOES speak to you, and often in ways that are hard to define. (One of the big challenges of what we do is to MAKE ourselves define it, through the process, as clearly as possible, so that we can excavate it off the page and breathe life into it on the stage. Sometimes, though, it’s just a gut feeling: “This moment works better like this” or “That moved me. The other way didn’t”.) And, of course, there’s no way of knowing if the fact that something spoke to ME is enough to make it speak to others, but you take the risk and you build it and share it because, well, that’s what artists do.
It’s late. I’m rambling, and I’m sleepy, but from a great week of working with great people on something I love. I never know if a show is going to please audiences as much as it pleases me, or if every experiment is going to turn out to be a giant success or an exercise in weathering public disapproval. What I do know, is that when I read something, if it speaks to me, I have to pursue it, and then I always hope to share both the creation of it AND the final product with people who I HOPE get as excited about it as me! On the way home tonight I was thinking about that, and realized that I needed some quotes about it!
Art is man’s expression of his joy in labor.
-Henry A. Kissinger
The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude.
Art is the unceasing effort to compete with the beauty of flowers – and never succeeding.
-Gian Carlo Menotti
The work of art may have a moral effect, but to demand moral purpose from the artist is to make him ruin his work.
-Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Art is what’s left over after you’ve defined everything else.