Thursday, 14 June 2012

When do you give up?

Warning: This post contains self-pity and may also contain traces of hyperbole. This post was manufactured in a body that wasn't feeling very well at the time and may derive much of its substance from said indisposition.

When do you give up? When do you say, I'm 41 years old, I started trying to earn a living in theatre in my 30s divorced and with a small child, I have no agent, no producer, no ally, no commission,  no funding, no projects off the ground, no prospects, no hope. I'm lucky to be teaching youth theatre which is fun and rewarding, if emotionally exhausting. I'm lucky that my small town has two semi-professional companies who are talented and nice and a pleasure to work with so I can keep doing shows, and who knows, maybe someday they'll be in a position to pay me something against the costs of childcare. When do you say, I haven't been paid for acting since October (though I did get paid in May for presenting a pervasive game so that almost counts) and I'm tired of paying for casting websites, and I'm tired of  applying for festivals, and I'm tired of traveling to one-off gigs that don't even pay my expenses, and I'm tired of writing shows I don't know how to get produced, and I'm tired of talking to people I hope will help me, and I'm tired of busrsaries for the under-25s and free courses in London, and development support for emerging artists in other regions and other forms; and I'm going to give up. I'm going to hang on to the teaching and the semiprofessional gigs for which I only have to pay childcare and not travel as well, and I'm going to give up on anything more. When do you say that? More to the point, when do I say that? Not yet, but I think it may be soon.

Because I have no agent, because I'm 41 and foreign, my strategy for getting my needy ass on stage has involved writing or adapting shows for me to be in. Last year, I applied to six different festivals with three different short performances I'd written. I didn't get in to any. This year, I've written a full-length verbatim piece and translated a monologue. Both have received very encouraging feedback, the monologue even found itself a director. We had a Development Day. I didn't know what a Development Day was, but it clearly had capital letters. What it turned out to be was me reading the script out to people at a venue, who said, in a way that was difficult to dispute and impossible to resent, that it wasn't for them. Then we spent a few hours working on the text. Then I read it again, much better, to an invited audience of one friend and my mother, who both loved it. Then the director went back to the complex pending project that's taking up most of her time, and I took my script home and started tweeting questions that I hoped might lead me to another venue. They did, or at least to a meeting with another venue. I talked about the monologue to someone I really enjoyed talking to, I left her with a copy. She said she was too busy to read it now, but would get back to me in two weeks; that's tomorrow.

My distress may seem premature. Two weeks rarely means 'exactly 14 days', certainly it doesn't when I say it. And 14 days is tomorrow. And if they do say no, there are other venues, there must be other avenues. It's a great script, and I'd be very good in it. And the other one, the verbatim script, I know how to fix it now, and it's got legs... I just don't know how I'll ever get it to a racetrack. I'm just running out of hope, or faith, or energy, or stick-to-itivness or whatever. I'm tired of pushing boulders up foothills and having them roll down again, tired of hoping to someday try to push one up a mountain. Most of all, I'm tired of doing it alone. Every now and then, I find someone I think might be an ally for a project, who'll believe in it as I do, and we'll be a team. I'm tired of having these alliances fall apart, so tired that I'm not really leaning on either potential ally I have now. Because they have more urgent projects, because I can't promise either of us will get paid, because I don't have a producer's skills and I can't afford to hire someone who does. 

I think I'm assuming the venue will not want my monologue, the Mairoula I wax lyrical about in my previous post. And I still love it, believe in it, I'm still aching to perform it. Properly. With time, and direction, because it needs it, it's not the kind of script I can direct myself in. And I don't know where to take it to next, who to talk to how. I never even wanted to get my scripts produced. I'd have been perfectly happy performing other people's words forever. But if Mairoula doesn't find a home tomorrow, I'll keep trying, somehow, though I don't know how. I haven't given up, not yet. But I've started to wonder when I will.