Not much to report over the last week. I’ve been hanging out in my house mainly, in my pj’s, watching movies, reading a bit, cooking a bit, sometimes cleaning things, but not doing anything particularly useful, or that you might reasonably call work, or something in anyway related to work, or that might get me work in the future. You may think this would be depressing. I certainly would have agreed with you a few weeks ago. But, I’ve kind of gotten into the swing of it now. In fact, if anything, its a little too comfortable. And, I would get worried about that, except that I’m too darn relaxed. Things feel like they are on an even keel for once. I’m not particularly excited or hopeful about anything, but, then again, I’m not particularly stressed or anxious about anything. I’m just kind of going through my days and enjoying whatever it is I happen to get done on that particular day. Its nice.
But, once again, it leaves me with very little to report. I hardly left the house last Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. I went into Cork last Thursday to get visa advice (my work visa expires in a week – can you believe I’ve been here a year??), and then headed off to a Creative Connections meeting. Things are starting to take shape with the book, but its still an intimidating amount of work that we need to have done by March. I’m not saying its not going to get done (it will), but its difficult to see exactly how its going to get done at this point.
Friday and Saturday I spent at the Theatre Development Centre in Cork. There were a series of talks on different topics around working in theatre, developing theatre, putting it on, getting paid for it etc. etc. All very interesting, and certainly addressed a lot of the issues that I’m struggling with at the moment. Like, in a world that defines you by your career, and defines your career by what you earn money from, how can someone like me justify calling myself an ‘artist’? And, where does an ’emerging’ or ‘early-career’ artist get their validity from? In other careers, that validity comes from training, or being paid for what you do, both of which are not particularly relevant in the arts. The first is irrelevant, as so many people can get trained these days through a variety of institutions (meaning the value of the training is diluted), and because so many successful artists haven’t been trained in what they do. (As an example, I haven’t given classes in acting since I did a diploma in it. I used to teach drama before I trained in it. I have, most recently, been teaching classes in writing, in which I have no formal qualification). The second is also a bit of a moot point, as there are plenty of high-profile artists who are not constantly being paid as an artist, and have to supplement their passion with teaching, or administration or however many other kinds of part-time jobs. Before you ‘make it’ (and even after, I imagine), you can get trapped in a cycle of looking for validation in other people. ‘If I’m programmed by x festival, that means I’m doing well,’ ‘If I’m given a grant to do x project, that means I’m a real artist.’ I think it comes from a combination of being in a hugely competitive industry, of not being able to follow a traditional career trajectory, and of constantly, constantly needing to apply, audition, beg, steal, borrow, from any number of people to get things you want to get done. You’re constantly looking outside yourself for validation. Before I studied acting, people warned me to get used to hearing ‘no’. They didn’t explain, however, or, maybe I just couldn’t imagine, how those constant rejections eat away, not only at your confidence, but at your sense of self. I went into ‘theatre-making’, because I thought that would solve the actor’s problem of always having to rely on someone else to cast you in something, to decide that you were good enough to be in a show. Turns out though, that producing your own work is just as hard, involves just as many rejections, and possibly involves putting more your self, your soul and your confidence on the line than it ever does to go into an audition and read someone else’s words out in front of a panel of people.
Anyway, the point of all this is not to be depressing or moan about how hard my life is (I mean, I have spent the last 4 weeks watching You Tube videos, whilst some people in the world have attempted to create peace in the Middle East, solve global warming, or find a cure for cancer). Its just things I’m trying to figure out how to deal with at the moment. What happened at the talks over the weekend, was that I (and many other artists) got to meet some of those people with the keys to validity – the festival curators, the arts council administrators etc. There were some heated debate around certain topics too, believe me. At points in the weekend, I felt totally brow-beaten (comments from curators such as, ‘some of the applications are just crap’), and at other times was very inspired (‘make the art you want to make, and it will find its place’). These sorts of events are also usually intended as a bit of a ‘meet-and-greet’, ie ‘networking’, ie ‘the-most-hideous-thing-in-the-world-that-I-couldn’t-do-even-if-you-paid-me-a-billion-gazillion-dollars’. On top of an already difficult weekend, filled with questions of validity and importance and significance and yada-yada-yada, what could be better than an opportunity to make a fool out of myself in front of the very people I am trying to impress (Bridget Jones once again, comes inexorably to mind)? I managed to talk to a few ‘important’ people, however, without spitting cheese at them or turning the colour of a beetroot, and I’ve at least figured out a way that makes networking work for me. I need to have a specific question for the person, preferably about what they were talking about, or what they do (therefore proving that you were paying attention and have a valid reason to talk to them), and this can be the start of a useful, interesting, and not-at-all-awkward exchange. There are people out there who can just go up to the artistic director of the Abbey Theatre, for example, and say, ‘Oh, hey, I’m an actor and my name’s Jenny, and I’m totally awesome, and why don’t we talk about me coming and auditioning for you.’ However, I am not one of those people.
Each night ended with a lovely, candle-lit dinner, with much wine, so that was certainly very lovely, and I made a few new friends, but I’m a bit piss-weak with staying up late at the moment (always have been, really), and my mood steadily deteriorated after about 10pm, which was not good, as by that time, the last bus home had left, and my only chance of getting back to my bed was waiting for a lift from a friend who was much happier staying up much later than me. New friends’ final verdict on me then was that I was an overly grumpy/miserable/moody young lady. Oh well.
Today has been very lazy. More so than even I intended. I blame lack of sleep. I did go and see ‘The Hypochondriac’ at the Kinsale Ampitheatre, which was quite fun. The venue is rather open, and the seats are hard wood, so you need to bring pillows and blankets and, according to my friend Yvonne, a flask full of hot mulled wine, otherwise you spend the performance being cold and uncomfortable, so it was a whole experience even aside from the play. It was the Irish equivalent of Shakespeare by the Sea, I suppose. Not a bad way to spend the afternoon.
Tomorrow I’m back off to Dublin, and am staying in the same hostel I stayed in the first time I was there, which is pretty much exactly a year ago now (Good God, where does the time go…). And, yes, I booked it deliberately, because I’m into that sort of thing. I’m off to the capital to get my visa extended – hoping there won’t be any trouble with it – and whilst I’m there, intend to do a good ol’ theatre binge. Shows every night, and possibly an extra one on the Tuesday afternoon. Apart from that, I’m also hoping to go on a day tour to the Wicklow Mountains and see the place they filmed Gerard Butler meeting Hilary Swank in ‘P.S. I Love You.’
But… ah… not that I care about that sort of thing.
I swear I never, ever, at any point, owned that film on DVD.
And if I did, I swear it was only in aid of researching Ireland before I moved.
IRONIC researching of Ireland.
Because, of course, its not at all realistic… and…
I may as well just go on the Unofficial U2 tour and be done with it.